Love can seem to many a mystery.
What if we could understand it and sustain it?
Love is unruly, powerful and yet necessary to our survival. We know we need it.
Yet we remain unsure of:
- How it happens
- Why it happens
- And how to sustain it when it hits us!
Many people even give up on love as a “pie in the sky” romantic notion that “just happens”… and then just as mysteriously disappears. They may stay in broken relationships, or move from one failed relationship to the next finding the same patterns happening again and again.
But Sue Johnson offers hope in her new book – Love Sense.
The Secret to Happiness Is Right Here
Not only is a committed relationship possible, it is the one factor that can assure your happiness and continued well-being throughout your lifetime.
Grounded in science, Love Sense and Sue Johnson assure us that love is vital to our existence. Far from being unfathomable – love is exquisitely logical once we understand the science of attachment and brain theory behind it.
What’s more, love is adaptive and functional. It is malleable, repairable and durable. That is good news for a society that is obsessed with being loved yet doesn’t have the first clue about how to really successfully love someone back!
Sue Johnson asserts that a stable loving relationship is the absolute cornerstone of human happiness and general well-being.
“Being the ‘best you can be’ is really only possible when you are deeply connected to another. Splendid isolation is for planets, not people.”
A good relationship is better health insurance than a careful diet and a better anti-aging strategy than taking vitamins.
Yes, you heard that right.
Love really is all you need… well, almost…
Not only that but a loving relationship fosters healthy and successful offspring. The single most important determinant to a child’s success – socially, academically and emotionally (according to the American Psychological Association) is a loving relationship.
“Our closest love relationships shape who we are and, more than perhaps any other single factor, shape our life story… Positive relationships also make us more resilient, advance our personal growth, and improve our physical health.”
Attachment is not a Dirty Word, it Opens the Door When Done Right
Love Sense outlines how attachment (what she calls the primary mechanism of survival) opens the door to the revolutionary new science of emotional bonding.
In it she boldly states that our need for connection is our first and most basic instinct.
A positive relationship, it turns out, can not only buffer us from stress and illness, but it is the best recipe for happiness and a powerful antidote to the negative affects of aging.
These emotional bonds:
- Help our brains grow stronger
- Helps our neurons increase in size and connectivity
- And supports our urge to explore and create!
Who knew a happy marriage could promote so many powerful outcomes!
Sue Johnson draws on research on attachment as well as the new neuroscience of brain chemistry. She developed a model of therapeutic intervention for unhappy partners and a recipe for creating bonding moments.
In this model, she lays out a process for forgiveness of what she calls “attachment wounds.” These are those times when we reach for our partner and they aren’t there, occurring in all long term relationships.
Emotions have emerged as a legitimate field of study. The social science of emotional intelligence and the recognition of it’s significance for our successful interactions is a rapidly growing field.
With the arrival of brain imaging technology, we can now study emotions and their affect on the brain. We can literally see the myriad of ways we interact with one another. Through the capacities of MRI’s we now have actual images of “your brain in love”!
The result of this new science is revolutionary- as Johnson states:
“The first and foremost instinct of humans is neither sex nor aggression. It is to seek contact and comforting connection. It is natures plan for the survival of the species…sex may impel us to mate, but it is love that assures our existence. “
The New Science of Love has Given us a Better Awareness of What Makes a Healthy Relationship
As Johnson states:
She asserts that the “fixes” we have tried in the past to help troubled relationships have been unsuccessful because we didn’t understand what makes love work in the first place. Just digging into the past to find a solution for the here and now wasn’t enough. Neither was teaching people skills for positive communication.
Both techniques provide some insight but not enough to propel people to sustainable change on their own.
Here’s the problem:
These remedies often fail because they don’t address the root cause of the relationship distress – the fear that your emotional connection (our primal need) is eroding or absent. To really help couples find security and happiness in their relationships, according to Johnson, we must help them rebuild their emotional connection, which is the foundation of a good relationship.
What Johnson and her colleagues have found is that couples fall into familiar patterns of disconnection and interaction. One partner blames and complains as a way to signal their distress. The other partner defends or withdraws as a method to “cool off” or minimize the distress.
This fuels each partner’s sense of panic and disconnection.
As a result, the pattern recycles in an infinite loop with no one being heard or understood. The key to restoring these relationship connections?
It is in identifying and then exploring these cycles of interaction for the underlying needs and wants that each partner is attempting to communicate. Only then can each partner begin to see and hear and understand each other.
They can then become more open and receptive so that both partner’s needs can be met.
(We go over this entire downward spiral and how to get out of it in our earlier article – Escaping the Spin Cycle here » )
Healing Relationships with Science… with Over 70% Success
The results of this new method of Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) have been astoundingly positive. Even more importantly, these new methods are sustainable long after therapy has ended.
According to scientific research, over 70% of couples report significant improvement in their marriages after a course of EFT Couples Therapy.
Why is EFT so effective?
According to Johnson it’s because it goes deep into the heart of the matter where couples greatest longings lie- “the megawatt power of the wired-in longing for contact and care that defines our species.”
As a practitioner, I hear it from clients all the time….
“I don’t know what it is- but everything is different now- the way she looks at me, the tone of her voice when she talks to me, even the things she shares with me. I feel important to her for the first time in our 20 yr marriage.”
What now? How do you apply it to your life? Check out the resources on our blog, work with an EFT therapist, or consider getting the transformation only first hand experience can create in your relationship with our Hold Me Tight® PNW couples workshops.
These immersive, small-group experiences give you a safe place with expert guidance to really internalize and make significant leaps in your bond and connection.
Renew Your Love and Connection Stronger than Ever with Hold Me Tight® Seattle or Portland
Get the tools to rebuild your own love bonds in a deeply experiential process that will leave you feeling immediate effects.
For more information or to find an EFT practitioner in your area contact www.ICEEFT.org– The International Center For Excellence in Emotion Focused Therapy.
By Cynthia Benge MSW- LMHC,
Emotion Focused Therapist