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27: Breaking Free from Your Patterns of Conflict with Sue Johnson

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Published on Aug 17, 2016

Have you ever had the feeling that you get into the same kind of conflict, over and over again, in your relationship? And when you recognize that, do you feel more free- like you are able to stop the pattern in its tracks and do something better? Or, are you left feeling powerless once the train has left the station? Well, it turns out there is one major source of all conflicts within a couple, and today we are going to talk about what that source is, and in very practical terms how to recognize it and break free of those repetitive patterns when they are happening. And, we will also have a helpful hint or two for those of us in relationships with children from past relationships. Today’s guest is Dr. Sue Johnson, renowned psychologist, researcher, teacher, and author of the book “Hold Me Tight- Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love”. She is a leading innovator in the field of couple’s therapy, and the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Couple’s Therapy (EFT), which has demonstrated effectiveness in over 25 years of peer reviewed clinical research.
Get ready to learn even more how to apply attachment theory to your life in a way that will help you feel more grounded and secure in your relationship, and better able to take on the world!
In this episode, Dr. Sue Johnson and I explore the following:
Romantic love is an ancient wired in survival code- More and more research, and more and more couples, are helping to crack the code of love! We now know that you must go towards the emotions in order to understand the who, whys, hows, and whats of romantic love. Adult bonding and all the emotions involved in this is the key. So much of previous couple’s therapy and relationship advice has focused on skill acquisition and controlling cognitive thinking, but as most of us have experienced, skills usually go out the window in the face of enormously powerful emotions. Emotions are not byproducts of interactions, rather they are the music of the dance. Emotions organize our interactions. When you are lost, confused, stuck, remember Sue Johnson’s exclamation as she really looked into the research: “Oh my! This is ALL about attachment bonds!” And it is. Your mammalian brain is wired to perceive relationship threats as a matter of life or death, because in many ways they are. They key question in love from an attachment point of you is: Are you there for me? Can I rely on you to be there? Will you come when I call?
A.R.E: Is there someone on this planet that you matter to so much to that they will be available, responsive, and engaged? Aka, A.R.E. If you have ever been surprised by the intensity of your emotional reactions in your relationship (sadness,  anger, devastation, the list goes on), think about it in relation to attachment and the core need we each have to trust that your partner will be there.
A vision for what is actually possible in your relationship:
From last 25 years of research, and from what couples share, we know that you CAN learn to understand this dance called love. Even if you have had negative relationships, and even if you are in a distressed relationship right now where you are actively hurting each other, you CAN learn to see patterns, the way you move with your partner, the way you trigger each other, step on each others feet, and push each other off balance. You can learn to help each other in moments of emotional disconnection when your brain freaks out because it says “I am all alone”. You can help learn to balance each other and create a secure base. You can look and say “Hey! We are caught in that thing again, where I can’t seem to connect with you and I get upset and so I start poking you so that you will turn towards me, but you feel that I am just trying to hurt you and that makes you run away, so...shall we not do that thing and sit and have tea instead?!” Every relationship has that thing, that pattern, argument, stuckness that you find yourself up against over and over again. Get creative and make names for it! Our spiral, the nothing, the tornado… Make it so that you you guys can recognize ways emotional disconnection manifests in your relationship (so you can help each other out of it!).
A secure bond is the way we are meant to be! A secure bond is predictive of every kind of mental health, growth, and good mental processing you can imagine. We are born longing for this connection with a few loving others, and when you are in a secure place it is as if your whole system becomes available for collaboration. Without it our system becomes compromised. If you are spending 75% of your energy trying to prove to others that you're okay, worrying if other people will accept you, feeling alone, trying to persuade yourself that you don't need other people, or actually trying to please other people, then obviously it will cripple your growth and your ability to deal with...

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