- At October 23, 2014
- By Allan
- In Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT) in Marriage counseling & couples therapy, Conflict, Dialectical behavior therapy in couples counseling and marriage therapy, Difficult Emotions, Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) with Couples, Empathy and Vulnerability, Healing after an Affair, NEW BABY - NEW PARENTS, Relationship physiology
Some interesting thoughts on making a relationship and marriage last in this article in Men’s Health magazine
Worth a look…
We’re increasingly swamped with screens, information, technology and busyness. And with more speed and busyness, its all too easy to lose touch with ourselves and each other. In a very real sense, we were given all this technology without a manual on how to manage the impact on our lives.
Sometimes deep joy and contentment is found more in quiet and still places. The kind of settling down that happens away from screens and technology.
This is a wonderful article and well worth a look….
About 4000 years ago, Lao Tzu spoke about the Law of Reversed Effort. The more we try to push something away, the bigger and more threatening it becomes. This speaks loudly to the experience of Anxiety. The more we try to avoid, duck and push away, the bigger it grows.
This is where Acceptance comes in – Mindful Acceptance is central to Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT)
- At July 08, 2013
- By Allan
- In Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT) in Marriage counseling & couples therapy, Conflict, Dialectical behavior therapy in couples counseling and marriage therapy, Difficult Emotions, Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) with Couples, Empathy and Vulnerability, NEW BABY - NEW PARENTS
Our brains love and crave the familiar.
We so easily slip into automatic pilot, habitual ways of looking and making sense and reacting to our experience. Once in a while, we actually show up to the present … And before we know it, we’ve lived a life and barely shown up for it at all.
- At July 08, 2013
- By Allan
- In Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT) in Marriage counseling & couples therapy, Dialectical behavior therapy in couples counseling and marriage therapy, Difficult Emotions, Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) with Couples, Empathy and Vulnerability, Relationship physiology
Dan Siegel speaks about the value of Mindfulness practice. A bit like flossing the brain.
Some couples experience high levels of conflict. Reactions are triggered, sometimes in an instant. They seem to move quickly to anger, harshness, blame, criticism and hostility. Flare ups are common. Out-of-control emotions appear all too frequently, dominating the relationship.
How I respond to my partner, how my partner responds to me shapes my emotions in very important ways. When I experience my partner understanding and validating what’s going on for me, I feel valued, cared for, even soothed. When I experience harshness, criticism and invalidation, its like salt on an open wound. Over time the pain and suffering which partners endure creates distance, isolation and loneliness. What was once a haven of caring and warmth now feels cold and toxic. No question about it, these hurtful and painful ways of relating are stressful and exhausting.
Reactive couples very much want to move out of what seems to be these inevitable cycles of painful escalation, yet seem really unable to do so. These couples need more than intimacy-building or communication techniques on how to improve their love relationships.
They need to get control of emotions first , to stop making things worse.
Only then building a better relationship becomes possible.
The good news is that marriage and couples counseling and therapy teaching dialectical behavior therapy skills can transform relationships in powerful ways.
Over the past years, I’ve been using “The High Conflict Couple – a Dialectical Behavior Therapy guide to finding Peace, Intimacy and Validation” by Alan Fruzetti in my couples counseling and marriage therapy with couples struggling with high levels of painful and unproductive conflict. This approach provides an outstanding set of strategies and approaches, drawing on dialectical behavioral therapy-based approaches which are taught in the couples and marriage counseling sessions.
The starting point is getting a better handle on what we call “emotions”. From here the Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) derived skills of Mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, effective communication can be learned and practiced.
Our emotional system is complex… involving many components.
Lets look at the following scene. When Susan, tired and hungry following a day’s work, notices that Bob hasn’t changed the toilet roll – again, she experiences a tightness in her stomach, tension in her throat and clenching of her jaw muscles. She labels this flow of sensations, this experience “anger”.
The experience also includes her thoughts about Bob. Her thoughts produce a story which goes like this: “ I can’t stand how selfish he is… what a jerk… and really just like his useless brother”. As the emotions get bigger, her thoughts unfold, all this while she is looking at the empty toilet roll. Her stomach tightens, tension in her throat intensifies. “ I don’t know why I married him “ she continues to herself, “and when we made love last night, he didn’t really care about me. Why do I even bother to talk to him…It’s useless’” More “anger”.
Bob comes into the living room excited about the vacation he is planning. He reaches out to Susan, eager to give her a hug and share travel details with her. She pushes him away with her expression and he blurts out “What the hell is the matter with you .. I mean you really need to chill” and she retorts with an insulting name and he retorts with a slightly more complex insulting name and the volume increases by about ten decibels and their heart rates, blood pressure and adrenaline increase culminating in Susan storming out of the room crying and Bob clenching his jaw, frozen and unable to talk and both in great pain. Whew! And most amazing of all, this all happens in a couple of seconds sometimes even less.
Emotional Arousal affects what we do and how we think
It is well established that emotional arousal affects what one does and how one thinks. Research from about one hundred years ago points out that while low or moderate amounts of stress and arousal help keep one focused, alert and on task for example, a job interview or making a presentation – however, when the arousal increases beyond a moderate level, reactions change dramatically.
With higher levels of arousal generally, attention is focused on escaping or getting away from the high level of emotion.
Alan Fruzetti in “The High Conflict Couple” has researched high-conflict couples extensively and makes the point that when a partner’s attention is reoriented to escape, that may be considered the moment at which what is called “emotional dysregulation” begins.
Emotional dysregulation gets in the way
When the emotional system becomes dysregulated, it gets in the way of being able to respond effectively to the situation.
This is simply because parts of the brain are activated which interfere with effective problem solving and strategic thinking. What happens typically, is that one’s perspective becomes more narrow and tunnel-like with an emphasis again on escaping or getting away from the uncomfortable or painful situation. It becomes almost impossible to see things from the point of view of one’s partner. In this state of emotional arousal, validation of one’s partner, essential to communicating effectively, becomes impossible.
Skills which support emotional regulation..
Skill-based approaches such as Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) can support effective communication, especially under stressful conditions. These skills can be learned and practiced and can transform the way in which you and your partner deal with emotional intensity in powerful ways.