“We are never so vulnerable as when we love”
I recently picked up a book called ” Hold Me Tight” by Dr Sue Johnson – I am an attachment based therapist who works with individuals and couples and found Dr Sue Johnson’s book to be probably the best book I have read on couples counselling. To me, it made total sense so I have quoted directly from the book to share the magic.
Attachment theory teaches us that our loved one is our shelter in life. When that person is emotionally unavailable or unresponsive, we face being out in the cold, alone and helpless. We are assailed by emotions-anger, hurt and above all, fear. This is not surprising when we remember that fear is our built in alarm system: it turns on when our survival is threatened. Losing connection with our loved one jeopardizes our sense of security. The alarm goes off in the brain’s amygdala. This almond-shaped area in the midbrain triggers and automatic response. We don’t think; we feel, we act.
We all experience some fear when we have disagreements or arguments with our partners. But for those of us with secure bonds, it is a momentary blip. The fear is quickly and easily tamped down as we realize that here is no real threat or that our partner will assure us if we ask. For those of us with weaker or fraying bonds, however, the fear can be overwhelming. We are swamped by intense primal panic. We generally do one of two things: we either become demanding and clinging to draw comfort and reassurance from our partner, or we withdraw and detach in an attempt to soothe and protect ourselves. No matter the exact words, what we’re actually saying in these reactions is: “Notice me. Be with me. I need you,” Or, “ I won’t let you hurt me I will chill out, try to stay in control,”
These strategies for dealing with the fear of losing connection are unconscious, and they work, at least in beginning. But as distressed partners resort to them more and more, they set up vicious spirals of insecurity that only push them further apart. More and more interactions occur in which neither partner feels safe, both become defensive, and each is left assuming the very worst about each other and their relationship.
If we love our partners, why do we not just hear each others calls for attention and connection and respond with caring? Because much of the time we are not tuned into our partners. We are distracted or caught up in our own agendas We do not know how to speak the language of attachment, we do not give clear messages about what we need or how much we care. Often we talk tentatively because we feel ambivalent about our own needs. Or we send out calls for connection tinged with anger and frustration because we do not feel confident and safe in our relationships. We wind up demanding rather than requesting, which often leads to power struggles rather than embraces. Some of us try to minimize our natural longing to be emotionally close and focus instead on actions that give only limited expression to our need. The most common: focusing on sex. Disguised and distorted messages keep us from being exposed in all our naked longing, but they also make it harder for our lovers to respond.
My practice is based in Clapham, nearest stations are Clapham North, Clapham Park, Clapham South. I offer individual and couples counseling. If you are having issues in your relationship and would like to engage in couples counselling I look forward to hearing from you.