One of the most common things clients will say to me after an emotional session is: “This must be so hard for you, how do you do this all day?” As everyone does, I do of course have bad days and confusing moments; but what I do is more often than not very engaging and doesn’t feel like work at all. The difficulties aren’t the intense sessions or even the ones with lots of conflict. It’s when I see a couple parting ways when from my point of view the situation is very workout-able AND I see change right around the corner if only they could stick with it for awhile longer. Sometimes it is right for a couple to separate, but that’s a different conversation for another time.
Change takes repetition. A recent study conducted by Phillippa Lally, health psychology researcher at University College London and published in the European Journal of Social Psychology has found that on AVERAGE a new behavior takes about 66 repetitions before it becomes automatic. That means IN REALITY it can take anywhere between 18-254 repetitions before you can form a better habit. Patience works; and like Lally’s research shows it doesn’t matter if you back track, just that you keep trying something besides the hamster wheel. You know that new way of talking you’ve just learned about? I’d like each of you to feel it’s a success at least 66 times.
This Alexandr Milov sculpture from Burning Man 2015 has an answer. You can’t quite see it in this picture, but the babies are holding hands. Enough said, art speaks for itself!
Ever notice your fights have patterns? Here’s an example of one: “He just clams up when we talk about hard stuff. It drives me crazy! I get so mad and end up slamming the door to the bedroom and stewing until he apologizes.” Most couples fall into some kind of pattern no matter what they happen to be fighting about (from toothpaste to an affair). Each of you likely has an underlying fear when conflict arises. That fear triggers the brain’s emergency response leading to a fight, flight, freeze or fright behavior. Think of a recent fight with your partner; how do you handle the conflict?
Fight? Attack with anger and aggression in order to subdue. “I was just trying to get my point across!”
Freeze? Get alert, stop look listen to what’s around you. “I just shut off.”
Flight? You move away from threat. “I need my space!”
Fright? Surrender and placate to open up escape for later. “Yes, honey.”
Now, go back and do the same exercise and speculate on what your partner does. Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy helps create more safety to help process these emotions and behaviors. And, with or without therapy, awareness is key.
Different acts make each of us feel loved. You might be killing yourself cleaning up around the house, when what actually makes him/her feel loved is a long hug. Take the test and find out if words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, or physical touch work best for you. Perhaps have your partner the take test too and discuss how you show and receive love.
Perhaps have your partner the take test too and discuss how you show and receive love. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/
It IS a fictional Pixar character…but they are showing us a picture of a healthy psyche. The characters in the movie are the family and the emotions inside their minds. Riley (11 y/o) is the heroine and the one who must balance and mediate her emotions. Notice she is not fighting fear or vanquishing anger.
In the clip there is mostly just the emotion feeling then pushing a button for the human character to act. But even seeing the visual panel of emotions implies that we have the ability to mediate our emotions before acting. Some of us suppress our emotions with reason by habit. I think this is very engrained in our collective cultural minds; this old disney movie from 1940 really shows this.
According to the June 2015 Atlantic article by Denis Smith, the director was aware of updating this emotional model. Do you see parts of yourself, your anger for example in either of these clips? What about desire? How about your partner?
Together is almost always better than not, no matter the age or circumstance. Our bonds make us stronger. Here is a couples meditation I do with clients. Try this with your partner when you are starting to get disconnected or when you want to remember closeness. Sometimes this can be the first step in de-escalating an argument.
Ok ok watching these hallmark love stories is like watching cute cat videos for me. But isn’t this feeling of support and partnership what so many of us long for? And the loss of this togetherness, isn’t it what drives us to say and do crazy things to each other?
In therapy people learn to express vulnerability, which let’s face it, can be uncomfortable work whether you are in therapy on your own or with your partner. As Brene Brown says we numb vulnerability with our partners or others in our lives and that has a cost. In this video she honestly talks about her journey and research with vulnerability, and why it’s so important if we seek more connection and love.