Distressed Couples need Connection
EFT's Perspective on Adult Love
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is the most researched based couple's therapy. From this model and from John Bolby's Attachment Theory, it is believed that we all are born to need someone who will be there for us through thick and thin. The security that a special someone will be there to meet our needs, soothe our fears and comfort our hurts makes all the difference in handling the pressures and demands of life. Dependence is an important part of childhood and adulthood. Most other models for couple's therapy believe that dependence is a weakness and should be extinguished. EFT says that it is an intrigal part of life from childhood through adulthood.
A secure attachment to a loved one is associated with a more coherent, articulated and positive sense of self. The more securely connected we are, the more independent we can be. This is true of adults as well as children. The presence of an attachment figure such as: parents, siblings, spouses, family, provides comfort and security. Distress is created by the perception that our attachment figure is inaccessible. Closeness to a loved one tranquilizes the nervous system and is the natural antidote to the inevitable anxieties and vulnerabilities of life. Attachment offers a secure base from which an individual can explore his/her universe and react and respond to the environment.
Emotional accessibility and responsiveness builds the secure bonds of a relationship. An attachment figure can be physically present but emotionally absent. Separation distress results from the appraisal that an attachment figure is inaccessible. It is the emotional engagement that is crucial and the trust that this engagement will be available when needed. In attachment terms, any response, even anger, is better than none at all. If there is no engagement, no emotional responsiveness, the message reads as "you do not matter, there is no connection between us.
Fear and uncertainty activate attachment needs. When an individual is threatened, attachment needs for comfort and connection become particularly compelling and important to the individual. Behaviors such as neediness, seeking closeness, or the need for constant reassurance become activated. Attachment to our loved one is the best protection against feelings of helplessness and meaninglessness. Anger in close relationships is often an attempt to make contact with an inassessable attachment figure and can become desperate and coercive. When the connection with an irreplaceable figure is threatened but not severed, the attachment system becomes hyper-activated and goes into overdrive. Anxious clinging, pursuit and even aggressive behavior become heightened and intense. These attempts to control or obtain a response from their loved one escalate. Most criticism, blaming and emotionally loaded demands are attempts to deal with and resolve attachment hurts and fears. As the relationship deteriorates, a typical process of angry protest, clinging, depression, and despair occurs, then finally detachment.
Children who grow up without a secure attachment base, struggle with trust and are at a loss for understanding secure loving connection and this affects most of their future relationships, especially their closest relationships. Children who are abused physically, sexually or emotionally, grow up without a secure connection to their loved ones and struggle to have a secure relationship with their future spouse. They need positive role models and someone to show them how secure trusting relationships work. This loss of a secure connection, I believe, is the cause of many mental health issues growing up and on into adulthood. It is so sad to hear the stories of so many men and women who have struggled so much in their life, with their intimate relationships, depression, anxiety and drug abuse. Proper loving, secure parenting would do much to solve the ills of our culture and our world. Ok, I'll get off my soap box...PJC