Welcome to the blog of Sojourn Counselling and Neurofeedback. Articles posted here relate to services we offer or conditions we address. We hope they will be helpful to you in some way, whether you're considering counselling for yourself or someone else, gathering information on a mental health related issue, or just want to find out more about who we are and what we do.
The Relationship Tango
posted: Jun. 21, 2019.
How is it that we sometimes feel so out of sync with our loved ones? It is particularly confusing when finding ourselves often hurting or hurt by those closest to us. Fights and arguments seem to arise out of irrelevant, innocuous events and suddenly we’re at odds with one another. How did this happen and why does it seem to happen so often?
If we really care about each other, why are we set off so easily and find ourselves so irritated and angry?
The confusing nature of these questions and the desire to find a way through or back to an earlier time in the relationship when love, affection, joy, and fun came so easily is what brings people into our counselling office. You’ve read about and tried strategies to improve relations. You’ve given each other space, hoping that time, 20 minutes, a couple hours, or days, would be enough to heal. You’ve counted to ten before speaking, changed the words you use when responding, tried to find aspects in your partner that you respect, admire, or for which you are grateful. Perhaps you’ve seen some improvement but somehow you keep finding ways to hurt one another.
Interacting can be like a dance. Partners who do it well, are in sync and can anticipate the other’s moves.
However, while no pair performs the steps perfectly, those dancers who make it look so easy are repairing subtle mistakes quickly, smoothly, and together. Onlookers don’t see the years of practice in getting it wrong, stepping on each other’s toes, and finding their way back to the steps.
This can be demoralizing to watch these “dancers” when it seems as though you just can’t seem to find the flow with your partner. Somehow you or your partner continue to misstep and you’re getting increasingly agitated by one another. Perhaps, at times, you wonder whether you’re just not suited to be partnered together.
Working with a counsellor trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) can be like working with a dance instructor who is trained in observing the subtle and cascading moves you may not be able to detect that are leading to repeated mistakes.
Such a therapist will help by examining with you the way you and your partner have been dancing, defined by what you and your partner say and do in the midst of an argument. One action elicits a partner’s reaction, to which you then react, and so on until you’re both hurt and angry.
You will be led to discover the emotions that fuel these arguments. Often the emotions on the surface are obvious: anger, disgust, contempt, resentment, hurt, etc. These are reactive emotions that keep you distant and are so easily triggered. Some people may not know what they’re feeling and may actually experience themselves as emotionally numb. This state, too, prevents intimacy and connection.
While reactive emotions are understandable in terms of their mechanism of self-protection, they are barriers to intimacy.
They tend to cover over the core emotions that are risky to reveal. The couples therapist will work together with you to develop an atmosphere of safety within which it may become easier to try new dance steps. Within the context of safety the EFT therapist will help you understand how the emotions that fuel your dance are triggered and choreograph new encounters with you and your partner by which you can share these more vulnerable emotions.
Over time, as you practice the new moves, at first together with your therapist, then later on your own, you will find yourselves become increasingly emotionally attuned.
You will learn to develop the emotional safety necessary for you and your partner to be open with one another. You will find yourselves dancing more smoothly together, more quickly repairing subtle missteps and attempting never-tried-before moves.
Emotionally Focused Therapy has a robust body of research indicating that this model helps couples express newly formulated emotions “in an engaged, open way that captures the essence of these emotions, without the need for avoidance, reactive blaming, or clinging” (Johnson, 2019, p. 40).
If you would like to work with one of our counsellors trained in EFT, you can view their profiles, and make an appointment online. If you have further questions, give us a call or email and we’d be happy to help.
Sojourn Counselling and Neurofeedback has offices in Surrey and North Vancouver from which we serve clients the Greater Vancouver area.