How can what we know about attachment and the power of our emotions, create deeper intimacy and resolve conflicts with your partner? In today’s episode you’re going to learn about a particular kind of conversation that you can have with your partner that can change everything. This week, our guest is Sue Johnson, author of Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, and the founding director of the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy. In Hold Me Tight, Dr. Johnson shares her groundbreaking and remarkably successful program for creating stronger, more secure relationships and she’s going to share some of her wisdom on that topic with you today.
Click here to receive the Transcript for Sue Johnson
Also, please check out our first three episodes with Sue Johnson – Episode 100: Attraction – How to Sustain It and How to Revive It – with John Gottman and Sue Johnson, Episode 82: How Safety Leads to Better Sex – Sue Johnson, and Episode 27: Breaking Free from Your Patterns of Conflict with Sue Johnson.
As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Please join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it!
Along with our amazing listener supporters (you know who you are – thank you!), this week’s episode is being sponsored an amazing company with a special offer for you.
Our first sponsor today is Audible. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks on the planet and now, with Audible Originals, the selection has gotten even better with custom content made for members. As a special offer, Audible wants to give you a free 30 day trial and 1 free audiobook. Go to Audible.com/relationship or text RELATIONSHIP to 500500 to get started.
Our second sponsor is one of my wife Chloe’s favorite online clothing retailers, ModCloth. With the year wrapping up, it’s time to put a bow on 2018 and…think about new outfits, and the new you! Whether you’re still craving cozy sweaters or you’re ready to start stocking up for spring, ModCloth is your go-to. To get 15 percent off your purchase of $100 or more, go to modcloth.com and enter code ALIVE at checkout. This offer is valid for one time use only and expires on March 3rd, 2019.
Check out Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight Online course
Visit Sue Johnson’s website to learn more about her work.
Pick up your copy of Sue Johnson’s book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.
FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide – perfect help for handling conflict and shifting the codependent patterns in your relationship
Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner’s Needs) in Your Relationship (ALSO FREE)
Visit http://www.neilsattin.com/sue3 to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Julie Henderson.
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Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome, to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. We’ve spoken a lot on this show about attachment, and the way that attachment influences how we operate in our lives and in our relationships. And I wanted to bring back one of the masters of showing us how to use what we know about attachment in relationship to the show, to talk about her new online program, and also to answer some questions from you, because we had some people in the Facebook group chime in with questions for this illustrious guest, who has been with us several times before. Her name is Sue Johnson. You probably know her as the creator of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy or EFT, which is how we’ll refer to it in this episode. She was here in Episode 27, talking about how to break free from patterns of conflict. She was here in Episode 82, talking about how creating safety in your relationship leads to better sex. And we had the double hitter in Episode 100, with her and John Gotman, both talking about how to sustain and revive attraction in your relationship.
Neil Sattin: Today, we’re going to focus on Hold Me Tight, which is one of Sue’s breakthrough books that explains how couples can take this journey, these several conversations that they can have, that lead them into deeper intimacy both in terms of understanding themselves in relationship, also how to work through conflict, forgiveness, sex, you name it, it’s there in the book. And this has all been rolled out recently in an online program called Hold Me Tight Online, we’re going to talk more about that. Sue also has a book coming out right around the beginning of 2019, on attachment theory in practice. And this is using emotionally focused therapy with individuals and families as well as couples. So, we may touch on that a little bit, and hopefully we’ll also get to have Sue back to chat when that book comes out.
Neil Sattin: I think that’s enough from me. In the meantime, if you want to download a transcript of this episode, please visit neilsattin.com/sue3, so that’s S-U-E, and then the number three. Or as always, you can text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions to get the transcript for this episode and our other episodes.
Neil Sattin: Also, if you are interested in the online program that Sue is going to be talking about, you can visit neilsattin.com/holdmetight, and that will take you to a page where you can find out more about Sue Johnson’s Hold me Tight Online program. Sue, thank you so much for sitting through that long introduction and it’s such a pleasure to have you here again with us on Relationship Alive.
Sue Johnson: Oh, it’s always nice to be with you.
Neil Sattin: Well, we have a lot to talk about today, and we’ll do our best to be succinct. And I also want to encourage you listening that we’re not going to go over all the finer points of what we’ve already talked about, those other episodes are there for you to listen to. But Sue, maybe we could start by just talking about what is emotionally focused therapy, what makes it unique from other ways that people might be used to working with therapists or understanding themselves.
Sue Johnson: Emotionally Focused Therapy, as the title suggests, it basically works from the premise that the most powerful thing in a relationship is the emotional music that’s playing. The emotional music is what structures a relationship, it’s what organizes a relationship, defines, leads the partners to dance in a particular way with each other. So it’s sort of dedicated to the idea that, if you want to understand relationships, and if you want to shape your relationship intentionally, whether to repair it or whether to just simply keep it strong, it’s very important to understand the emotion that’s going on when you dance with your partner. It’s important to be able to deal with that emotion in a way that pulls your partner towards you. It’s important to understand the impact you have on your partner. So EFT, really has focused on making emotion the couple’s and the therapist’s friend, and shown therapists and couples how to understand that emotion, how to deal positively with emotion, and how to use emotion to feel more connected with your partner.
Sue Johnson: And I think the fact that we know how to use emotion, and we honor emotion in our work with couples, is one of the reasons why… The other special thing about EFT, is that we have a fantastic amount of research on outcome. We have over 20 studies, positive outcome studies, which makes us unique in the field of couple therapy. We’re the gold standard of research in couples therapy. We do not have a problem with relapse in our research, which is pretty amazing, really. It always surprises me every time we do a study and we find no evidence of relapse, because all the sort of elephant in the room in couples therapy is that even if you can create change with a couple, you see them in a month’s time or in six months time and they’ve kind of relapsed, they’ve gone back to being distressed. And that’s not the case in our therapy.
Sue Johnson: It’s unique in that it’s based on research, in terms of intervention. We’ve been doing this for 35 years now. It’s unique in the way it deals with the most potent thing in the room, which is emotion. But in the end, the real thing that I think makes EFT different is that it’s not based on somebody’s idea about what love is or what relationships are all about. It’s based on hundreds and hundreds of studies of adult bonding. It’s based on a science of love. And so we have a map to what matters in relationships, what goes wrong, and exactly what you have to do to put it right. And that means that the EFT therapist is on target. We expect to create change, we expect our partners to grow, we expect our couples relationships to look not only a little happier, but more secure and be more stable at the end of therapy.
Sue Johnson: Obviously I’m biased here, because I’m talking about my own work. I’m talking about 35 years of research and clinical work. But the truth is that we’re the only approach to couple and family therapy that’s based on a real science of relationships, and that science is attachment and bonding. And I think also, because of that science, in this model… The model suggests that together we’re much more powerful than we are individually, and it values and honors connection between people. And so EFT practitioners and ICEEFT, the International Center for Excellence in EFT, which is our not-for-profit organization; basically, the headquarters are here in Canada. We’ve created communities all over the world. I think we have about 66 right now, affiliated with us to support therapists and health professionals to learn EFT, to get together and support each other, to help each other grow, to help therapists in those communities contribute to relationship education.
Sue Johnson: We believe in creating community and I think that’s something special about EFT. We do that wherever we go. The latest community that looks like it’s going to take off is in Iran.
Neil Sattin: Wow.
Sue Johnson: And that’s fascinating. Because of course, attachment science is about who we are as human beings. Attachment science applies to all of us, regardless of tribe, religion, political persuasion, race, gender. Attachment science, basically, is based on biology, and it tells us who we are as human beings, what our most basic needs are. So that’s a bit of a mouthful, but that’s what’s special about EFT. [laughter]
Neil Sattin: Right. Sue, I asked you for the short version. Come on.
Sue Johnson: I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Sue Johnson: Okay, well, that’s very hard, Neil. You know how passionate I am about what I do and how successful we are, so how can I… I’m sorry, that’s the shortest I can manage, okay?
Neil Sattin: No, that’s great. And one thing that I really appreciate about the experience that you offer couples who are going through EFT, is that it literally does bring them along on an experience that allows them to feel each other in a different way. To feel each other’s emotions in a different context, and to have that experience of getting through situations that are really tender, or challenging, or triggering and get to the other side in a way that is really constructive for their relationship and for their bonding.
Sue Johnson: Yes. And we’re talking about therapy here, but I know that later in the program we’re going to talk about Hold Me Tight.
Neil Sattin: Yes.
Sue Johnson: The Hold Me Tight educational program is based on my book Hold Me Tight. And I put that relational program together. There’s groups all over the countries, and all these communities run by therapists, or even people who aren’t therapists. Pastors, anyone can actually buy the program and run the group, a Hold Me Tight group. And what always blows my mind when I go and do one of these groups, I think the biggest one I’ve ever done was with 100 couples at a time in San Francisco. And what always blows my mind is, people come up to you in the groups… Usually I do them over a weekend. And they go through the conversations that we teach them in the book. And people come up to you and they say things like, “Well, we just came cause we were curious. We don’t even have any real huge issues in our relationship. And I thought that our relationship was pretty good, but this group experience has taken our relationship into places I never even knew existed.”
Sue Johnson: I just had one of these beautiful ones last week. This person sent me an email: “We didn’t even know that we could have this kind of closeness and this kind of emotional connection. And we feel like it’s changed how we’ll be with each other in the future, so thank you.” And I think what they’re talking about is the profound, profound effect of being able to help people move into profound, bonding, conversations. They are the conversations… This is biologically prepared, powerful, experience. These are the conversations that our nervous system is wired to resonate to. These are the conversations that our brain says, “Yes, this is safe, and this is close, and this is what I want and need. This is what gives me the ability to stand up in the world and be strong.” And people resonate with them. They are powerful, powerful experiences. And that’s why we don’t get relapse. Because you’re brain… If you know how to have these bonding conversations, you remember them. They’re not just something you put aside and say, “Oh, that was interesting but I don’t think about it anymore.”
Sue Johnson: Your whole nervous system zings with the memory of them. And once you’ve had these experiences, your brain wants you to go back there. So bonding experiences are… We remember them all our lives. We remember the moments when we were vulnerable and our father turned and held us and said something to us. We remember that all our lives, we hold on to it. We go back to it when we’re unhappy and sad. We go back to it with a thrill of joy. These experiences are core to what we need as human beings. So when you help people move into them in therapy or in an educational group, or even online together in the privacy of their own home, there’s something very profound about that, and truly growth producing for individuals and for couples about that. And attachment science has shown us how to get there, how to… If we really understand who we are as human beings, of course we can craft powerful, transformative, experiences. Right? And that’s the thing that keeps me passionate about this work. I think it keeps… EFT is passionate in general.
Neil Sattin: And I want to take our listeners on this journey, a little bit, today. We’ll give them a taste of this kind of experience. But before we do, I’m curious about how do you get when someone isn’t along for the ride?
Neil Sattin: And this is often the case in a couple, right? Where one person hears Sue Johnson on Relationship Alive and says, “We gotta find an EFT therapist, or we gotta buy this book Hold Me Tight.” Or whatever it is, right? And the other person is maybe just like, “Yeah, I don’t buy that therapy stuff.” Or, “Sounds really like unhealthy co-dependence.” When people come at it with their negative bias about it, or maybe they’re just stonewalling and they’re shut down to the influence of their partner at this stage in their relationship. How do you help enlist the partner in actually wanting, or hopefully, inviting them to participate in something like this?
Sue Johnson: Oh, well that happens quite a lot. Even when people come for therapy sometimes, they’re kind of being dragged there.
Neil Sattin: Right.
Sue Johnson: You can tell they’re waiting… They’re in the room with their teeth gritted, and they’re… [chuckle] They’re just wanting to wait for you to stop talking so they can explain how they’ve got to leave now, that’s how you feel. What we do in EFT is what we always do. We start where people are. It’s an incredible mistake from an EFT point of view to start telling people to be different. You just become dangerous when you do that, and they’ll protect themselves against you. So, we start where we are. And I can give… For an example, I just did a session with an an Inuit couple, and we started with the fact that to sit and talk to somebody like me is definitely not part of Inuit male culture. And we talked about the fact that from his point of view the very best way of dealing with any problem was to go hunting. [chuckle]
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Sue Johnson: And I talked about that with him. I didn’t explain therapy. That’s the wrong channel. He’s not interested in getting information from me, he’s not even interested in it. So we talked about hunting, and we talked about what that did for him, and how when he hunted he felt competent. And he was out in a bitter environment but he was somehow in charge. And we talked about how strange it was for him to even think about sitting and talking about his emotions with someone like me, or reading the Hold Me Tight book. And as I joined with him, and listened to him, and had him teach me about how he dealt with his emotions, engaged other people, dealt with his needs for closeness, how he dealt with his vulnerability, which is… You can’t get out of those things, they are universal, right? Unless you’re a lizard or something, you have to be actively engaged with those three things. As we sat and talked about it he became more open. And I said, “Alright, well it sounds like your hunting has saved your life. It sounds like your hunting has really done a lot for you. And I think it’s wonderful that you’ve been able to do that. And you’re right, I can’t offer you that experience. So would you like to talk to… Are you curious at all? And maybe I can help you feel some of the same kind of sure… “
Sue Johnson: Cause he talked in words like “sureness” and “ground under his feet”. He used these images. So I said, “Well, maybe I could help you find some of that sense of sureness and ground under your feet, when you’re talking to your lady and you see that she’s disappointed with you, which I’m hearing is one of the moments where you decide to go hunting.”
Sue Johnson: And I’d listen to him, he’d listen to me. He experienced me as safe. I wasn’t telling him how to be. And so he said, “Yes that would be interesting.” And he starts to look me in the eye and he starts to look up at me more, and he starts to… He’s suddenly engaged. And we begin. We begin with what would he like to change in his relationship and what is happening to him in those moments in the relationship? We begin with his pain, we begin with the dilemmas that he would like a solution to, and we go slowly because in his culture that’s the way it works. You speak slowly and you deal with things at a slow pace. I’m sorry, I’m getting interruption here, I forgot to turn off my phone it’ll stop in a minute.
Neil Sattin: It’s okay.
Sue Johnson: So we go slowly. And gradually he comes, he becomes curious. So you start where people are, you validate their uncertainty, their reluctance. If you think about it just in very human terms, the last thing you want to do if you are uncertain and vulnerable, is to go to talk to some strange professional person about that. You’re worried about being shamed, you’re worried about them telling you that there is something wrong with you, you’re worried about what they are going to tell you about their relationship. You don’t feel safe.
Neil Sattin: Right. And of course what’s challenging about these conversations when they happen just between partners in a relationship, is that they are so often very quickly triggering conversations.
Sue Johnson: That’s right. That’s right. The partner hears, “Well, you don’t even care enough about our relationship to go and talk to somebody about it, so that just proves what a creep you are.” And people get stuck there. But what we are talking about is also another reason why I went to all the trouble to try and create the Hold Me Tight program, educational program. Because I assume that even though couple therapy is becoming a bit more normative, there are a huge number of people who would rather have their feet roasted in an oven than come to couple therapy, right? And they won’t come. So I said, “Okay, then maybe they’d come to a group put on by their pastor in their church. Or, maybe they’d come to a group put on in the local hall with 10 other couples.” And then it went to, “No, there’s a whole bunch of people who won’t come to that either.” [chuckle] Beause in our culture, we hide our vulnerability or our uncertainty. And so I went, “Okay, well then there is a whole bunch of people, maybe they’d do an online program that’s friendly and fun, and they do it in their own homes where they feel safe and private.” So then of course that leaves us putting all the energy into creating an online.
Sue Johnson: And I think what we are talking about here is the EFT commitment. Well, I’ll just make it personal, my commitment. The commitment in this model, and if you are an attachment theorist, is not just to create a very good model, research it, and teach people about it. Which is big enough. We’ve been doing that for 35 years. The commitment is that as a psychological approach, that we have something to offer society and that we can help society learn to honor and value relationships, shape better relationships. That’s what we’re trying to do. So therapy, education. I think the main issue here that we’re up against, where the person asked the question, is that our society, our culture, has not seen love relationships as something that are understandable, are shapeable, that you can shape, that you can learn to create, that you can nurture deliberately with intention. We don’t talk about love like that. We say you fall in, you fall out. And we’ve basically had a very narrow mistaken view of romantic love relationships, and I think who we are as human beings. So people, they really don’t see… They not only, “I’m not sure a therapist can help or a group can help.” They really don’t see love as something that you can craft and shape and understand. And we’re trying to change that. We’re trying to have an impact on that.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I think that’s one reason why we resonate, you and I, so much is that that’s definitely part of my mission and Relationship Alive’s mission in the world as well. To affect that transformation. Because that is definitely a big deal, that there are a lot of people who don’t quite understand that you can actually adjust things in ways that are actually helpful. Sadly, I think a lot of people have this story that they know of a couple that tried therapy and it just blew up their marriage or that sort of thing. It’s just one positive experience at a time, I think, and the way that that ripples out in to the world. That people get the sense of, “Oh actually we know a lot more about how to do this than we did 20 years ago.” And that’s why we are having this conversation.
Sue Johnson: Right. And that’s the message we keep trying to get out there. And you know it is so interesting, the news is always focused on bad news. That’s what the news wants to report. But I always say I don’t really understand, it’s beyond me why at some point, it hasn’t been all over the front of the New York Times, that we now have a science of romantic love, of love period. That we now understand it. We have an incredible theory and science about what it’s all about, that attachment started off with looking at the bonding between mother and child, and now it’s grown. In the last 15 years it’s been applied to adult relationships, and it really has so much to say about who we are and what we need to thrive and survive, and how we are relational beings, and how to create good loving relationships. And surely, this is revolutionary. Surely this is at least as important as understanding DNA, I think so.
Neil Sattin: It’s at least page two, if not the front page.
Sue Johnson: I think it’s the headline. I think it is much more important than us putting all this energy into going in rockets to the stars. Why don’t we learn to become powerful, bonded, connected, cooperating human beings on this planet? Maybe we wouldn’t need to go to the stars. [chuckle]
Neil Sattin: Yeah, I hear ya, I totally hear you there. And this makes me wonder too, because there needs… I want to befriend to that person or persons who decide what goes on the front page of the New York Times. And if I meet that person I’ll put in a good word for you, Sue.
Sue Johnson: For sure, okay.
Neil Sattin: And I am thinking that often what brings light on a particular subject is not how amazing it is, although sometimes that is true. But often it’s the controversy that accompanies it. And that makes me wonder for you, your own perspective on what I think some people do still perceive as a controversy between attachment theory in relationships and how important it is to understand the science of bonding, and differentiation, and people learning to stand on their own two feet, and taking responsibility for themselves. And the interplay of those things. Yeah. So go ahead.
Sue Johnson: Well, basically I think we in psychology have a huge responsibility here. Because we didn’t know enough and so we set those things up. We set up being a strong individual and acknowledging your need for others as dichotomies. We set them up like they’re on opposite sides of a long line. Like they’re opposites. And of course they’re not. That is a mistaken way of looking at it. All the research, and I’m talking about thousands of studies now. All the research since about 1960 points to the fact that the bottomline is the more securely connected to others you are, the more sure you are of yourself, the more… If you like, the more securely connected you are, the more articulated, coherent, and positive, your sense of self is. So, you find out who you are, you differentiate with others, not from others. If you look at the differentiation literature, it almost implies that there is a point in time where you just decide to look in the mirror and define yourself and tell yourself you’re great, and that you can self soothe and you can do all this for yourself. This is nonsense, this is not who we are. We never get to that point.
Sue Johnson: And the only people who look in the mirror, and totally define themselves and tell themselves they’re wonderful and don’t need other people, we call them psychopaths. And they are not particularly known for being wonderful members of society or particularly happy. It’s a mistake we made because we didn’t have the big picture. We just saw a little foot of the elephant that said that our needs, if they are expressed in negative ways, can get us into trouble. Our needs for others can get us into trouble, And indeed, that’s true. But that’s what we saw. So in family therapy for example, we focused on issues like enmeshment. And that’s so interesting because we don’t do that when we work with families in EFT. We focus on how people deal with their anxiety, and we help them move into that anxiety and hold it and regulate it, and be able to express that anxiety in ways that are not cohesive to other people, and not demeaning for themselves. And ways that pull the other people close. And they grow, and the relationships grow. That’s what we do and we do it all the time.
Sue Johnson: We don’t find enmeshment or co-dependency particularly useful concepts. We just see it that people are stuck being anxious about the safety of their relationships. And when you’re anxious, you either get all upset and try to yell and scream and demand and control things, or you tend to shut down and numb out. And neither of them are useful. They don’t get you what you need. I think what I’m saying is, it’s a much more integrated and rounded out and complete picture of differentiation and individuation and self soothing that you get from taking the whole picture of attachment and bonding in context. It’s the little child who knows the mother will come if he calls, who goes out and believes that he can run down the slide, and who manages his distress if he finds that maybe he falls off the slide. He knows that if he calls his mum will come, he’s in a safe universe where he feels loved and held, and his mother has come a number of times. So he’s learned that distress is manageable and that he can manage it, and that he can call for another. He’s internalized that sense of safety in the world. And he will grow up with a stronger sense of self and a stronger ability to go out into the world and take risks.
Sue Johnson: This isn’t a theory, there’s thousands of studies on this now, this isn’t a theory. Securely attached people who know how to trust others and reach for others, and who believe that others will be there for them, consistently have a better self-image, they are more able to take risks, they’re more able to face the world, they’re more resilient. They’re basically, if you like, more differentiated. So this dichotomy is a false one, and it’s really about the old theories of human functioning which are kind of in boxes. We’ve never had the whole picture coming up against the new approach to looking at human beings, which is attachment. And it’s really the conflict between the old and the new there, and there doesn’t have to be a conflict at all is what I’m saying.
Neil Sattin: Right. I appreciate that. That you’ve, I think, shown very clearly how they include each other. That one comes with the other. And as soon as you split them apart that’s when they start, either one, starts to become a little dysfunctional.
Sue Johnson: I think on emotional level it really isn’t about that. I think on an emotional level, it’s about the fact that we all know that if we need another, that introduces a level of vulnerability. And I think, and especially in our society, we don’t want to talk about that vulnerability. We want to believe that we’re invulnerable. And society says you’re supposed to be able to soothe yourself, deal with everything, live life at 50 miles an hour, have everything. So we want to believe we’re invulnerable. And what attachment really says is, “That’s not the way to real strength.” Real strength is to understand where you’re vulnerable. Understand the essence of your vulnerability, which is also a beautiful thing in human beings. Understand their need for closeness, the way they be able to tune into others, and you’re own need for closeness, and accept that vulnerability. And then know how to deal with it positively. That is really strength, not the denial of vulnerability.”
Neil Sattin: Yeah. And this makes me think of the Hold Me Tight conversation.
Sue Johnson: Yep.
Neil Sattin: And I love how in our very first conversation where we talked about changing your conflict patterns, we talked a lot about discovering your demon dialogues, and the first three conversations that are part of the overall Hold Me Tight sequence.
Sue Johnson: Yes.
Neil Sattin: But then I’m thinking of the fulcrum, really, of Hold Me Tight sitting in the middle. So could we talk for a moment about what is the, ‘the’, Hold Me Tight conversation that happens and why is that so important?
Sue Johnson: Well, what happens in a Hold Me Tight conversation is you have already… If you’re helping a couple create one, it doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it in therapy or in an educational group or in an online program. Before you ask people to go into a Hold Me Tight conversation, you have helped them create a certain safety and sense of trust in their relationship. Because you cannot do a Hold Me Tight conversation while you are vigilant for danger, waiting for a negative pattern, like some sort of… Waiting to deal with an attack from your partner, or just waiting for your partner to let you down. When you’re on guard, you can’t move into a Hold Me Tight conversation. So you have to have a certain sense of safety first, and we’ve learned to take you there in EFT, and all the various forms of EFT. But once you have that, really what a Hold Me Tight conversation does is it moves people gradually into the three elements that we know are key to a bonding conversation.
Sue Johnson: What defines the safety of a bond in a relationship is how emotionally accessible, responsive, and engaged you are. A-R-E; Accessible, Responsive, and Engaged. And I always relate it to, that the key question in a lot of relationships is, “Are you there for me?” A-R-E. Are you accessible? Are you open? Are you responsive to me? Will you tune into me? Will you move towards me when I call? Am I important enough that you’ll tune into me and pay attention to me? Do you care about my needs? Will you engage me? Will you come and meet me on the dance floor? Maybe struggle even if I’m struggling with me? Are you committed to really being with me in a dance, even we are caught in a negative dance? Hold Me Tight conversations really create that emotional openness, that ability to send messages to each other that evoke empathy and caring, help the other person respond, that help us see that vulnerability in our partner and respond with what they need. And help us stay engaged even when that engagement gets hard. And it’s really about being able to talk about… In the end, it’s a conversation about your fears. And we all have the same fears in relationships, we’re all terrified of rejection and abandonment.
Sue Johnson: Those things are wired in, it doesn’t say… It’s nothing to do with personality strength or anything, it’s to do with the fact that we’re bonding animals, and abandonment and rejection are danger cues to our mammalian brain. They’re life threatening, literally. We’re born so vulnerable, when our brain is being formed, we know how to take our next breath, that if we are totally rejected or abandoned and left, we die. We know we’re at risk. And we never lose that sense. So this vulnerability is wired in, and we’re all afraid of rejection and abandonment, so we have these fears. And how we deal with these fears really has a lot to do with how we end up engaging others. And then it’s not… But it’s not just about how we deal with our fears, it’s about whether we can actually know how, or have had the experience of being able to actually pinpoint our needs for connection, comfort, support, caring. Our needs… Just to share our reality to find out how valid it is. That’s such a human need.
Sue Johnson: To be able to share our needs, pinpoint them, and share them in a way that our partner can hear them and pulls our partner close to us. In the end, a bonding conversation is about sharing your vulnerabilities, your fears, and your needs in a way that helps your partner respond and come close. And helps you and them become accessible, responsive, and engaged on an emotional level. And that is the essence of bonding. And powerful conversations that can change the way you see yourself, the way you see other people, the way you experience your world.
Neil Sattin: So this conversation that’s about talking about your fears, sharing your needs and your vulnerabilities with your partner. And I love how you… The important thing comes at the end there, which is, in a way that invites your partner closer.
Sue Johnson: Yeah.
Neil Sattin: And I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about what allows that to happen versus… ‘Cause I think some people might hear that and think, “Oh god, my partner’s already so needy and vulnerable. They’re needy all the time. So I want them to be more needy? How’s that going to work?”
Sue Johnson: No, it’s not about being more needy. It’s about being able to hold on to your emotional balance and own your needs, and then ask for them to be met. And that is very different from what most of us see as the norm in relationships. Which is, “I expect my… ” For most of us it’s like, “I expect my partner… If my partner loves me, my partner already knows my needs.” That’s a huge myth in relationships. And what we want to do is we want our partner to respond to those needs without us having to actually show that we need. Because in our society we’ve been taught that showing that you need is somehow shameful or not okay, or it means you’re immature, or whatever it means. It means you’re not an independent adult, whatever that is. So most of us don’t want to show our needs, and we don’t quite know how to talk about them. And so then of course we’re massively surprised that the message doesn’t come across to our partner.
Sue Johnson: It’s quite humbling to write these books and do all these training tapes and do all these studies, and then talk to your own partner, or your own children, your own son, and hear yourself doing exactly the same things that we all do, and that couples do. You just hear yourself rather than turning and telling your partner that you are feeling upset by something and you would like to be reassured and comforted, you hear yourself turn and get accusatory or demanding or give advice or start telling your partner they should know better, having been married to you all these years, and read Hold Me Tight a few times.
Sue Johnson: They should know better and they should be more supportive right now. Which of course I’m asking for support in a way where I have a hammer in my hand and so my partner just looks at the hammer and backs off. We get stuck in these dances because we’re not tuning into our own emotional music or our partners. We don’t make it easy often for our partner to see what we really need, and then when we don’t get what we need, we’re not very good at keeping our emotional balance and dealing with that. We get very agitated and attack or criticize, or we shut down and numb out. And neither of those things work. It’s what a good science does, is it tells you how to look at basic phenomena in the world and understand them and how they work.
Sue Johnson: And attachment science tells us how we work emotionally, and how relationships work. And giving advice to your partner, telling your partner what to do, explaining to your partner that they’re somehow inadequate, [laughter] that doesn’t work. That might be more comfortable for us than pausing for a minute, taking a breath, getting our emotional balance and saying, “What is happening with me, why am I getting so agitated here?” Then realizing that we are off balance, we’re on our back foot, and we need someone to reassure us or just calm us for a moment. And being able to slow things down… And that’s a lot of it actually, that emotion is fast and sometimes it’s overwhelming for us and we either numb it out or we get carried away with it.
Sue Johnson: Being able to keep your balance and slow things down and say, “Oh, I’m finding that very difficult, getting this letter that is telling me that I’m maybe not going to be considered for this promotion. I was pretending it didn’t matter to me but in fact I’m finding it very difficult indeed. And what I really need is to be able to tell my partner somehow I feel kind of small right now because I expected to get an interview immediately, and I expected everyone to be delighted to interview me. And I’m feeling pretty small and I just need some support and reassurance.” That’s not what occurs to us. We get irritable or… So there’s lots of ways not to connect, unfortunately. There’s lots. And we do them anyway, even when we sort of know lots of information in our prefrontal cortex, we still get stuck.
Neil Sattin: Right, because that part of our brain is turned off when we’re in those moments of distress. And I’m wondering, for you, especially because you so graciously pointed out that you may have moments where you don’t act quite by the book, What are your…
Sue Johnson: Of course.
Neil Sattin: What are your best ways, what are your favorite go-tos in your relationship for regrouping when things have gone off the rails a little bit? And I’m looking for your specific ways you bring yourself back into balance, ways you take responsibility for what just happened and corral the interaction back into a more generative space?
Sue Johnson: It’s interesting because basically I tune into all the things I’ve learned in EFT, but I can’t… That takes a while. So if you ask me what my fast route out of that is, I’m usually able to see the few minutes of interaction, and I’m able to see the negative pattern, that I’m not actually asking for what I need. I’m usually able to see it. I should be able to do this after watching thousands of couples and all kinds of research studies. And so I’m able to see. My vision expands, if you like, from the little tiny piece of interaction that I just had or my feeling of frustration that I’m feeling. I listen to what I just said to my partner and I’m able to hear it in a broader context or see, ” Wait a minute, that doesn’t work, this is not the dance I want to be in.” So I somehow have to have a sense of that. That I’m somehow getting stuck in some sort of narrow place that isn’t going where I want to go, which is to feel safer, sounder, more connected, reassured. Somehow I know I’m going in the wrong direction.
Sue Johnson: And then one way of thinking about that I’ve been thinking about lately, and I’ve written about it in my new book that’s coming out in January, which is a professional book. Is I change channel. I change channel from just coping with the emotion and somehow putting it out to my partner in a way that I’m just putting it out and I’m not actually thinking about how to really connect with him with that emotion. But I change channel. And usually what that means is, I change into listening to my emotion differently, and being able to stay with the softer feelings. And I think that’s what people do in general when they can do these things. They move from somehow lecturing their partner or complaining or pointing out issues or just saying a few things and hoping their partner are going to guess.
Sue Johnson: They move into being able to name their emotions and to say… Or describe them in very simple ways. Like, “I feel small,” or, “I feel uncertain right now,” or. “for some reason I’m feeling really uncomfortable, maybe even a bit scared, and I don’t quite know why.” They trust themselves enough, they trust their partner enough, that they can go into those softer feelings. And when they do, when they move into that emotional space, emotion just… It’s like the picture evolves. It’s like what you’re scared of becomes clearer, what you need becomes clearer. And when you turn and change channel into that deeper more open emotion, you give different signals. It’s just natural if you stay there. Saying to someone, “For some reason that conversation I had with that person left me feeling really, really, frazzled and uncomfortable, and even a bit scared and I don’t know why.” That is an invitation to empathy and connection. That’s completely different from, “I’ve had a bad day and you’re not helping. I thought you were going to cook supper. And what I hope is underneath all my bad temper, you’re going to see that I really need some help and comfort. But unfortunately you don’t.” [chuckle] “You just see that I’m dangerous and you avoid me.” Right?
Neil Sattin: Right. Which is exactly what you don’t need in that moment.
Sue Johnson: Yeah. We are not wired to deal with our vulnerability by ourselves. We can do it if we have to, for short periods of time. But we’re not wired, and it’s not the most efficient and effective way of dealing with our human vulnerabilities. It’s not the strongest or best way to deal with our human vulnerabilities. We’re wired, we’re social bonding animals. We’re wired to connect with other people. We’re stronger together.
Neil Sattin: What I hear you saying too is that, by changing the channel, you’re basically going from the channel that’s all about, “I’m having this emotion and I’m expressing it on you.” To the channel of, “I’m realizing that I’m having this emotion. And if I wanted to connect with my partner in this moment, and around the fact that this is how I’m feeling, how would I do that?” Which invites maybe a totally different course of action in that moment.
Sue Johnson: Yeah. But I don’t think it’s as deliberate as you’re making it sound here. Usually in the first instance, people are being reactive. They’re actually coping with softer emotions by shutting down or being very… Just giving facts. Or getting angry and becoming demanding. They’re actually… Those are coping devices, really. The real core emotion underneath is not spoken, and so then the partner doesn’t see it and doesn’t see the need that that core emotion speaks to. There’s a lot of conversation about this too. There’s all kinds of conversations in our field about how empathy, and how empathy is a skill and you have to teach empathy skills, you have to train for it, I’m sorry, I don’t think so.
Sue Johnson: Empathy is right into us, it’s there. What we have to do is understand what blocks it. And the main thing that blocks it is, I can’t be empathic to my partner if I’m too busy dealing with my own overwhelming emotions. If most of the glucose going to my brain is dealing with my own discomfort, fear, uncertainty, I don’t have any room to tune into my partner’s emotions. I don’t think we teach empathy, we model empathy, I guess. In Hold Me Tight groups and in the online program, people will see models of couples interacting with empathy and connection, but in the end, it’s really about what blocks it, how you put out your message that blocks your partner’s natural empathy, or how you can talk to your partner in a way that evokes that empathy. People are naturally empathetic and responsive, so in the EFT we just understand the blocks. And we help people dance in a way that those blocks don’t come up or to see beyond those blocks. I guess that sounds a bit abstract but I think it’s clear.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and I think that’s getting at the heart of the question that I asked you a few minutes ago, around how do you have the Hold Me Tight conversation? A conversation where you’re able to tell your partner about your vulnerabilities and your fears and your needs, without it coming across as being a demand or being needy, that it comes out of that place of being aware of your feelings and seeking, I think you’ve said it a couple times now, the softer emotions that are underneath the things that are on the surface.
Sue Johnson: Yes. And I think the other thing about that is, a big part of EFT is it’s a lot easier to do that if you grasp those emotions, and you have the normalized and validated, and you don’t see those emotions as somehow proof that you are somehow not strong enough. Or that you’re somehow not mature enough or that there is something wrong with you. A lot of EFT is validating, honoring, and holding people’s emotions. Walking, setting up experiences where they walk into those emotions gradually, and at the same time are safe in that experience because they are given a framework where those emotions are understood, honored, validated. And our society hasn’t been very good at that. We don’t teach kids in schools about their own emotions or about the impact they have on other kids, and how to have safe conversations. We don’t teach that. It’s insane, we teach kids trigonometry but we don’t teach kids what I just said, and so that’s nutty. There are thousands of couples out there in the world.
Sue Johnson: I’m just going to give a talk, public talk, in a few weeks in Toronto in December, called “What Every Couple Needs To Know”, at the big Museum in Toronto. And I really believe that this stuff is what every couple needs to know. There are thousands of couples out there who have no way of understanding the dances they’re caught in. No way of understanding even their own needs. You say to people, “What do you need?” And they say, “I need her to stop nagging.” Or, “I need the conflicts to stop.” Or, “I need… ” These kinds of… “I need my partner to have more communication skills.” These are huge. They don’t know how to really go to the core of what they need and what they want. And we have taught people to be ashamed of them. So, a big part of EFT is we help people understand their own emotional lives, their own… The terrain of emotion. And who we are as bonding animals. And when you can accept those needs, when you can accept that we’re all human beings who need comfort and security, and life is so huge. We all need to put our hand out in the dark and call, “Are you there?” And have a reassuring hand come and meet ours. And when we can do that, we can deal with the dark. And that’s just the human condition.
Neil Sattin: That makes me think too that that must be how EFT approaches couples where one partner or another has a deeper trauma history.
Sue Johnson: Absolutely, that’s right. And I think EFT is particularly suited to helping traumatized couples, traumatized individuals. Well, in fact what’s interesting is we’re talking about Hold Me Tight educational groups, that’s only been around for a while. And this is what happens in EFT. Things have sprung up. There’s now a Hold Me Tight educational group called, “Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go”, for teens and their parents. There’s a Hold Me Tight educational group based on the Christian version of the book Hold Me Tight, which is called, “Created For Connection.” Which looks at how Christian beliefs fit in with attachment science and the link between those two. There’s a Hold Me Tight educational group for in medical settings, which is very interesting. The biggest one we’ve just done, which we’ve just got a huge grant for, in Canada, is the Big Heart Institute back in Ottawa has asked us to adapt the program, and I hope one day we’ll adapt the online program for this, too. Adapt the program for couples we’re dealing with where one person’s had a heart attack, because the research says that the best predictor of whether you’ll have another heart attack, is not the severity of the first heart attack or even the damage done to the heart, it’s the quality of your most intimate relationship.
Sue Johnson: And so the cardiologist actually read this research.
Sue Johnson: And said, “Oh, we’re a relational human beings.” “Ah, relationships really impact health.” “Ah, we better get this crazy lady in and she can adapt her educational program to cardiac patients.” So we did that. It’s called, “Healing Hearts Together”, and the preliminary data on it says it’s great, really works. I ran a few of those groups and they blew my mind, they were wonderful. So everybody needs to know this, and the uses of creating this knowledge about what matters in love and how love works and how to repair it and keep it, has infinite, infinite usefulness. Whether it’s in therapy, in educational groups, and for sure, we’ve got to take this stuff online. The Hold Me Tight Online was a huge project. Took us four years and oceans of grief and work. And there was a number of times when I really thought, “What on earth am I doing this for?” But you have to do it. If you feel that we all need this, and that we… This is sort of very basic information for us thriving and surviving. We have to make it accessible for people and so many things are online now.
Neil Sattin: Yeah. And having gone through the course online, I can say that it’s clear how much effort that you put in and how you tried to address different learning styles and give people lots of different examples, and make it entertaining at times.
Sue Johnson: Yes. [chuckle] We even have cartoons, which at first, when my colleague said, “We need a cartoon couple.” I said, “No, no, no, no, no.” But yeah, we’ve got cartoons and we’ve got music and we’ve got images, and we’ve got me giving chats and other experts giving chats, and we’ve got exercises that we tailor to you. It was a lot of work. But hopefully, the couples… The idea is that it’s accessible to everybody, then. What I would like, which is a complete silly dream, but… Oh no, it’s actually not a silly dream. What I would like is for our western governments, the government of Canada, for example, to say, “Okay, Sue, we’d like to make the Hold Me Tight Online educational program available to all couples in Canada, or everyone who’s just gotten married or something. We’ll make it incredibly cheap. Will you help us do that?” And I say, “Of course.” And I was just going to tell you that’s impossible, and I forgot that actually a much simpler version, not at all the online program we’ve got now, but a much, much simpler, pared-down version. The government of Finland, has actually just helped my Finnish colleagues make their version of Hold Me Tight Online, a very simple version of it, available to almost all Finnish couples, which blows my mind.
Neil Sattin: Wow.
Sue Johnson: But they’ve done that because they believe that stable loving relationships and stable loving families, create stable, caring, positive, thriving societies. And of course, they’re right about that. That’s the way to do it. So. Yeah. Why am I talking about this? I don’t know.
Sue Johnson: Hold Me Tight online was a lot of work, but at this point I’m quite proud of it. And I’m glad that you enjoyed it and that you found it very… We wanted to make it fun. We made it for the people who would never dream of coming for therapy or even reading my book or even going to a group. So we thought, “Well then, we better make it fun because these people are used to having fun online.” We did our best. I think it’s pretty good. It’s just like everything we do, we’re very pleased with it for about a year and then we find ways that we could have done it better. This is kind of classic. I know that I’m going to feel the same way about my book, my therapy book that is coming out in January, which is EFT For Individuals, Couples, and Families. But it’s really a book all about attachment. I know that I’ll be pleased for about a week, and then I’ll read it, and by next Summer I’ll have found all the ways that I could have done it better. [chuckle]
Neil Sattin: Well, fortunately, that ensures new editions or new books or new versions, and new conversations for the podcast. So I feel totally fine about that, that you’re…
Sue Johnson: Do you?
Neil Sattin: Yeah. That you’ll be constantly improving. Sue, you’ve been so generous with your time and wisdom. And I do want to ensure that everyone has the links so that… They will be, of course, available on the page for this episode which is Neilsattin.com/Sue3. And then you can also, if you’re interested in the Hold Me Tight online program, you can visit Neilsattin.com/holdmetight and that will take you to a page where you can find out more about the program. Sue, I’m wondering if we can… I have just two quick questions for you.
Sue Johnson: Sure.
Neil Sattin: They can be quick or not, it’s up to you, But if they’re quick it’s totally fine. The first was another take on when I asked you what are your favorite ways of coming back when your conversations have gone off the rails, and you brought up changing the channel. Often, because we’re such astute observers of our partners, it happens that we notice that our partner is totally triggered about something.
Sue Johnson: Yes.
Neil Sattin: And so I’m wondering, when you notice, “Oh, my husband is… He’s triggered right now.” What do you like to do in order to help bridge the gap in that moment?
Sue Johnson: That’s a nice question. I think the best guide to this is what we naturally do with beings where the vulnerability is not so hidden, I.e. Children and dogs.
Sue Johnson: If you watch people with little kids, or you watch people with dogs, which I find fascinating, okay? They naturally, if they see vulnerability, if you watch them they slow down, they lower their voice, they lean in, they give more attention, they give a focused kind of attention, they might ask a question or they might reach with their hand. You know? It’s fascinating to me… Let’s just take dogs, if you watch dogs. I remember sitting in a Starbucks, I can’t remember why I was doing this, years ago. And watching all the people look on their cellphones, and all the people completely avoid contact, and was thinking, “Goodness, me. This society, we’re becoming lonelier and lonelier.” And then I sat and watched and there was a line of dogs tied up outside the Starbucks on these posts, right? So they’re all sitting there, it’s a Saturday morning. So you watch all these people come out with their… They’ve looked to their phones the whole time, they’re carrying things, and they’re busy and distracted, and it’s a busy street so they’ve got to stop, right? And they look down, and it was so fascinating to me how many people looked down, and if the dog looked back, particularly if the dog was kind of small and didn’t look very happy.
Sue Johnson: These distracted, distant, disconnected people would… I couldn’t hear what they were saying, which I think helped actually, because… You would think. I remember watching this man who put his coffee down, and leaned down, and talked to this dog. He was obviously comforting the dog, you know? Like, “Oh you’re waiting for your master, you don’t want to be here.” Then he reached out and patted the dog on the head. He gave the dog more focused, soft, slow, connected attention than he’d given anyone in the Starbucks for whenever, right?
Neil Sattin: Right.
Sue Johnson: So we know how to do it. It’s a question of tuning in and giving it. Unfortunately, sometimes we’re not very balanced so we’ll turn and say, “What the hell’s wrong with you?” [chuckle]
Neil Sattin: Right, right. That’s why I love the way that you put it. Cause I’m so used to saying you see your partner and they’re triggered, but I love your articulation of when you see vulnerability. Because that is what you’re really seeing in that moment, is your partner in a vulnerable space. And if you know that your partner is the kind of person who, when they’re vulnerable, needs space, is there an adjustment that you make to how you would respond to that? Would you just give them space and then revisit? Or is there a way to bring it out that doesn’t…
Sue Johnson: No, I’d reach and then give them space.
Neil Sattin: Got it.
Sue Johnson: I’d reach to say, “I’m saying I am accessible, I am here, I see you. But I’m not demanding that you turn to me right now. I see you, and I see that sometimes you need time when you’re in this space. So I’m just seeing you and I’m here.” That’s a very powerful thing to do. Good parenting is that. Good parenting, parents know their kids style. And they do that. They say, I’ve seen people do it in therapy when they start to really mend their relationship. They say, “Well, I understand this is hard for you to talk about, and I see that and maybe when I was your age I couldn’t talk about these things at all, and I just want you to know that I’m going to be here. And I see how hard it is for you and I want to help you. And I’m right here when you want to turn around and talk.” This is amazing. This is an amazing invitation, right? And people can do that, they really can. They can offer each other that kind of space and that kind of empathy. I take account of your style of response. But for me to do that, I have to be feeling pretty safe. Otherwise, I’m busy dealing with my emotions about the fact that you don’t talk about anything and that leaves me alone. And if I’m stuck there, I’m not going to be able to accommodate you. I have to have my own balance, if I’m dancing, before I can accommodate to you in that way.
Neil Sattin: Right, right. Yeah. And so that brings us full circle to how we take care of ourselves when we recognize that we’re in distress and take responsibility for how we’re feeling in the moment.
Sue Johnson: Yes.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Sue Johnson: And I think a lot of it is, many of us are dealing with relationships which happen very fast in a busy world where there’s lots of demands on us. And I think the central issue is that many of us don’t even know what’s possible. We’ve never even seen the kind of relationships that we talk about in these programs, and in EFT and therapy, where people can diffuse conflicts, stand together against a negative pattern, find a way to be accessible, responsive and engaged. People haven’t even seen it. They’ve see a bit of it in Hollywood, which is usually infused with sexual infatuation. They’ve seen little moments of it, which I think is great. Okay? I think that’s great. Right? One of the ways movies and books have always civilized us, right? In some ways. But they don’t really know how to get there. So, lots of times we’re trying to create relationships where we really don’t have a model of what’s possible at all. And that’s why I hope therapists who like EFT will maybe think about running Hold Me Tight groups, will maybe try the online program themselves and tell their clients about it, or tell their communities about it. Because so many of us don’t even know what is possible in our relationships.
Sue Johnson: We haven’t even seen that these conversations can happen. And when we know that, the world changes. Our sense of what is possible with other people changes. This is a huge thing. Right?
Neil Sattin: It’s true. And I’ve definitely seen that in my own connection as well, as it’s evolved through our patterns of conflict and beyond, which has been nice. And your work has definitely been helpful for us as well, so I’m so appreciative of that. Sue, my last question… And you talk about dance a lot, and…
Sue Johnson: Yeah. Well, that’s because I dance Tango, that’s why.
Neil Sattin: Yes. And I think we’ve even talked about it on the show before cause my partner, Chloe, and I do dance as well. But I’m wondering, for someone who’s listening and they’re like, “This all sounds great and amazing and I want to try, and it also sounds a little heavy, a little intense.” What do you recommend for people in terms of keeping things light? And are there actual ways that you incorporate lightness and play and fun into how you work with people?
Sue Johnson: Well, sure.
Neil Sattin: Yeah.
Sue Johnson: Well, I do couples therapy because it’s more fun and more interesting than anything else, personally. And when I run Hold Me Tight groups, I think it’s fun. I certainly hope our online program’s fun or we’ve completely failed. It doesn’t have to be heavy all the time. Learning can be fun, it can be intriguing, fascinating, surprising…
Neil Sattin: But you know, when couples feel like, “Ah, we’re so stuck and it’s going to take all this work.” And there’s some truth to that, right? It’s going to take some work for them to shift their patterns. And yet, yeah, I think it’s more about…
Sue Johnson: Discovery. If you’re feeling… I think it all boils down to a sense of safety. My sense is couples come to see me and in the first few sessions it’s not fun at all, because they’re scared and they’re worried. When they start to relax with me and we can play, and we can look at the dances they have, and we can look at how normal they are, and we can play with them and share them, and we can look at how stuck they got, and see how silly it is in some ways. EFT is not always heavy at all. We have a lot of laughter. And people not launch themselves into these huge heavy conversations. They’re very gradual, and we make safety as they do it. So, yeah, it’s not all heavy. It’s you take it at your own speed. And for sure, people find it intriguing.
Sue Johnson: The dropout rate in EFT is really low. In our studies and clinically in practice, the way people report to us, people stay. Sure it’s heavy sometimes, but people stay because they’re learning so much. And it’s an amazing journey, they’re learning about themselves, they’re learning about their partner. And there’s a huge amount of fun in there.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, and you’re reminding me that some of… Honestly, some of the funniest moments, I think, in my relationship, are when we… After we’ve recognized a pattern, which is one of the early things that you suggest couples do, is how they identify what are the patterns that they typically end up in patterns of conflict. And then when you’re able to see it happening, and you’re able to have those moments of like, “Look at us, we’re doing that thing, that… “
Sue Johnson: Yes.
Neil Sattin: “We’re just doing it again.” And it can be hysterical. Chloe and I will be in the middle of it. And we’ll just break out laughing, from a place of pretty intense conflict when we have those moments of, “Oh yeah, that’s us just doing that thing again.”
Sue Johnson: That’s right. It’s like I can think of a dance analogy. You can be dancing with a partner who you trust a lot. And the partner tries a very tricky move. I can think of one where my teacher who’s a fantastic dancer tried a very tricky move. And I sort of got half way through the move, where he was going, and then I got my high heel caught in the hem of my pants.
Sue Johnson: And as we both nearly fell down flat. Okay, we nearly fell. And it was hilariously funny. It wasn’t, “Oh, how stupid of me to get my heel caught, or how stupid of you to ask me to do that move.” It was just funny, we both recognized, “Look, we were trying to do something where we felt very clever, very intricate.” And if we pulled it off, we would have thought, “Oh wow, aren’t we incredible?” And it didn’t work. And one of the reasons it didn’t work was you don’t account for thinks like high heels get stuck in pants.
Sue Johnson: And then we both laugh like hell. And it was good. It was funny. It was a shift in perspective.
Neil Sattin: Yeah, well, Sue, thank you so much again for your time with me today. And I know that everyone listening has gotten a lot out of this conversation. Again, neilsattin.com/sue3. If you want the transcript, text the word Passion to the number 33444, or visit neilsattin.com/holdmetight if you want more information on the course. Sue, I’m looking forward to your book coming out in January, and checking that out. And that will be a great resource for therapists.
Sue Johnson: Yes. It’s called Attachment Theory in Practice. I don’t think I said the name. I always forget to say the name.
Neil Sattin: That’s totally fine. I think I did say it at the very beginning.
Sue Johnson: Oh I’m sorry.
Neil Sattin: But here we are at the end. So it’s good to remind everyone. And I hope that we get a chance to talk to you again sometime soon.
Sue Johnson: Oh I’m sure you will. Nice to talk to you. It’s always fun to talk to you Neil.
Neil Sattin: Likewise, Sue.
Sue Johnson: Okay. Take care. Bye-bye.
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