Author Archives: Danielle Lambrecht

The Freeze and Flee Dance- Demon Dialogue 3

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on August 24, 2017 12:32 pm

Sue Johnson (2008) well-known emotionally focused couples therapist advised that the Freeze and Flee “tango” between a couple, can follow the Protest Polka [see previous article]. As a couple’s therapist, noticing this “tango” usually indicates the couple has shut down on all levels. Most likely this couple has been struggling for years to reconnect and has given up. Johnson states this dance is seen when the couple has both shut down and are frozen in either a defense or denial state (2008). The couple is encapsulated in a self-protection mode denying they want or feel anything for each other (2008). For couples’ therapists, this will be challenging energy to slowly and gently peel through.

The couple may not be fighting as before, but show a politeness that screams coldness. This awkward kindness towards each other is actually an evolving detachment and withdrawal state. The default button for this couple is to deny, detach, and withdraw at all costs. If this maladaptive coping behavior continues this couple can come to believe the problem lies within themselves. The couple can get into a cycle of self-loathing and a rumination of negative core self beliefs. Johnson also points out this cycle of self-hatred is different than the other two demon dialogues (2008).

Fleeing the emotional aspects of the relationship is also a behavior that causes disconnection and distance. When a partner moves from feeling emotions to fleeing into reasoning and logical analysis or distractions it becomes a mechanism of denial. Couples who are distressed can revert to old maladaptive behaviors as a child who is holding on to a parent. Fears of loosing the attachment to a mate can conjure up the same feelings as when a child.

The “dance of distance” is surmised with avoidance of feelings, a sense of giving up, rejection and self-loathing (Johnson, 2008). An Emotionally Focused therapist can break through this “dance of distance” by helping couples understanding their behaviors and uncover how they impact relationships. Behavioral patterns (flee and freeze) need to be broken and a sense of hope instilled, as this couple journey back to re-establishing a bond. The therapist must also uncover negative self-talk, challenge the negative thinking by refuting and assisting the replacement of positive thoughts. The couples need to continue this work of refuting and reinforcing positive statements so the negative cycles do not restart.

The freeze and flee behaviors will stop over time as it is replaced by an emotional bond. The couple will need to continue to work together to be responsive, emotionally attuned, and safely connected. The therapist needs to carefully monitor signs of the freeze and flee pattern and if noticed immediately help the couple engage in exercises of emotionally connected dialogues. As an emotionally focused therapist there is always hope for every relationship as long as the couple is willing to do the work and want the emotional bond back.

I would be happy to engage in comments with you following this article. Thank you kindly.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Why The Protest Polka Dance?- Part 2 of Demon Dialogues

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on March 21, 2017 11:33 am

The protest polka is a unique pattern between partners that assures emotional detachment and distancing. The repetitive nature of this polka dance reassures partners that their emotional needs will go unmet. Why would this couple continue with this type of communication style when the outcome leaves them empty? Often, it is because the couple is unaware of this pattern and it has become second nature.

Sue Johnson, author of Emotional Focused Couple Therapy (2008), described the Protest Polka Dance as a maladaptive communication pattern that has one partner denying that emotional detachment exists, while the other person withdraws and protests their sense of disconnection. Johnson used the analogy of a partner banging on the door to get their partners attention, as the other person pushes the door shut. Johnson states this is a common snapshot of a couple engaged in the Protest Polka Dance.

When partners do not respond or get their needs met each person can feel humiliated, lonely, and unsafe within the relationship. The constant reaching of a partner towards one that is emotionally unaware, unavailable or denies this dance is even happening will eventually lead to a sense of emotional separation. This couple then becomes desperate and may resort to pushing each other’s emotional buttons and triggering unfavorable emotional reactions. Unfortunately, the emotional distance grows becoming reinforced and cemented.

As a couple’s therapist, the most important place to start is to increase the couple’s awareness not only of the content of their communication, but also the dance itself. The couple needs to understand how their responses or the lack there of, maintains habitual patterns and keeps them trapped. The Polka Protest Dance must stop and focus needs to be on building a bridge of emotional connection. The couple works hard to engage in early response and learn attachment language that generates safety and comfort. The therapist helps slow down these new interactional moments, to assist the couple in noticing their emotional reactions and windows of opportunity for strengthening connections. This is an ongoing process of practice for the couple in sessions and between to reinforce new skills and build confidence in each other.

Will the Polka Dance come up again? Of course it will, but with this emotional formula the Polka Dance looses its dance patterns as the couples emotional attachment gets stronger and stronger. No one is perfect and couples can resort to old behaviors. When that happens couples come in for one or two refresher sessions and any small gap between them is often easily closed and their back to feel emotionally connected again.

Danielle Lambrecht Counseling © 2017 Please engage in any comments.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Why Blame? – Part 1 of Demon Dialogues

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on October 27, 2016 1:56 pm

manandwomanDr. Sue Johnson, developer of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (2008), explains that couples get stuck in three different demon dialogue patterns, one she named   the “Find the Bad Guy” pattern that she states leads to a dead end for couples. Johnson describes the Find the Bad Guy as a “blame game” that leads nowhere but to more conflict, disengagement behaviors, and eventually creates a lack of security and trust in the couple’s relationship.

Why do couples engage in this type of behavior? Johnson purports that couples engage in this type of behavior as a way to be in a mutual attack mode, a win-lose dialogue and for self-protection from the real issue(s). Couples can for the moment feel less vulnerable and more in control when taking the stance or role of the “blamer”. This way the blamer(s) does not have to take responsibility for his or her behaviors, thoughts or emotions by pointing fingers at their partner as if to say,  “you are at fault, not me!”

Blaming behaviors can also escalate the other partner to engage in the same role and behaviors. Each person can both emotionally and verbally attack each other until one backs down. The one that emotionally disengages or shuts down usually does so for self-preservation. It is a natural response for the blamed partner to divert negative attention away from himself or herself as a way to cope the ongoing relationship distress. Over time, couples can become entrenched in Find the Bad Guy dialogue and it becomes an automatic interaction that leads to insecure bonding in couples.

The way couples can work on stopping the Find the Bad Guy pattern is to find a trained couples therapist who will point out this demon dialogue to the couple. The therapist needs to explain how this dialogue only detracts from the actual issue(s) and creates ongoing emotional distress. The therapist teaches the couple to come from a new level of communication that encourages language that creates safety, trust, and a willingness to take ownership of past behaviors. The therapist also facilitates couples’ dialogues assisting them to show their vulnerable emotions to their partner demonstrating their ability to express a “softer exchange”. Overtime, and with ongoing practice the Find the Bad Guy dialogue is replaced with an emotionally bonded couple that is able to deal with and find solutions to relationship issues.

Danielle Lambrecht, RSW, M.C., CCC.,Trained in Emotional Focused Therapy at Danielle Lambrecht Counselling

Please feel free to reply, it would be great to hear from you!

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Proximity- How Close Are You?

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on August 26, 2016 11:55 am

Proximity is a felt sense of connection to another and is not just within the physical realm, but is also emotional and spiritual. According to Sue Johnson, proximity is one of the laws of attachment. It is not an idea, but a primal need that is built within each of us. We all need a solid attachment to at least one main figure and if we had that in our childhoods, most likely we would have a secure attachment to others as we grow up.sistersclose

When we have safety in connection with others we can grow and develop and live healthy lives. We grow up to be adults who are flexible, creative, balanced and trust those who are either in our lives or entering in. We can develop solid attachments with others without loosing our sense of personal power. We give ourselves permission to live from an authentic place without worry of disapproval and loss of self.

The opposite is true if we did not experience proximity that felt sense of connection, we may fear people and see love as dangerous. We may fear rejection and have difficulty getting close to other people even when we want or need to. We may not be able to calm ourselves from fear of loss and struggle with feeling emotional imbalanced when what we really want is to feel safe and loved.

As a couple’s counselor, it is important to help clients see their relationship through the attachment lens. This attachment point of view allows couples to be encouraged to talk about their longing for attachment with their partner without their own fears of abandonment or rejection getting in their way. Couples learn strategies on how to seek proximity and deal with triggers as they arise. Couples can also develop secure attachments to one another by learning how to be emotional available, responsive to another, and practice ways that encourage continued emotional engagement.

Danielle Lambrecht, RSW, MCC.CCC

Danielle Lambrecht Counselling


Please submit any comments and I will gladly respond. Thank you.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Emotional Disconnections – Why Does My Partner Keep Shutting Down?

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on July 6, 2016 1:09 pm

Relationships have the power to heal trauma! A secure bond between a couple that is nourished and maintained has the ability to heal old wounds. When one or more partners struggle with insecure attachment, couples therapy requires a strong focus on adult bonding. It is through this re-attachment process that couples can survive relationship issues.CoupleHugging

Some couples may have had difficult childhoods and had insecure attachments with their main caregivers. Others may have had traumatic events in their early years that have left emotional wounds. Shutting down or withdrawing has been their only source of coping with their emotional pain. If a partner tries to reach out and comfort the other and receives an opposite reaction of withdrawal; this can leave the couple in an emotionally disconnected cycle.

Childhood traumatic events that have led to insecure attachments or fear of getting close to others needs to be addressed in couples therapy. Often it is the fear-based thoughts of the partner that prevent adult bonding. A situation within the relationship can cause one partner to relive “past” thoughts such as “He’s going to leave me like my mom”, “I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve her”, and “I’m not lovable”. These locked up thoughts can be followed by “knee jerk reactions” and withdrawal and shutting down can occur. The emotional disconnections manifest, and the couple do not feel safe or comforted and can find it very difficult to reconnect.

To be able to break the cycle of emotional disconnection is to be able to turn to your partner and notice their emotional pain and reach out and give comfort. There has been multiple studies showing that physical and emotional closeness can relax the nervous system and slow down and eventually stop the “fight or flight response”. However, Sue Johnson (2008) advises reaching out and comforting your partner does not guarantee 100% response back as  “mis-attunements” can still happen. She encourages couples to keep turning towards each other, reach out over and over again, and find the emotional connection.

There is hope, when the couple is able to move through their fears, “mis-attunements”, and old thought patterns. It takes courage to be vulnerable and to work together to heal old wounds and traumas. The reward though is a couple that finds solace, comfort, and safety within the other and an attachment that may have never been experienced before.

Danielle Lambrecht Counselling

Danielle Lambrecht, RSW., MC. CCC ©2016

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Emotional Disconnection is like Inflammation of the Body—It Hurts!

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on June 3, 2016 12:02 pm

When couples experience emotional disconnection it is like a virus that invades the body and spreads. It is painful and sometimes long lasting and chronic. It is more difficult to clear up after it has invaded the entire body, but it is possible! Like any unwanted invader, it must be noticed, and dealt with, and have the proper antidote. The antidote is creating continuous “moments of connection and bonding” between the couple; keeping them immune.

Over thousands and thousands of years relationship bonding has been known as an ancient primal need. It carries within it a fundamental system built to assist human survival. It has been attachment science that has demonstrated that infants who do not receive human touch do not thrive. Throughout the human lifespan and even into the last stages of life, studies have shown men have shorter life spans without a mate. The evidence is closenessthere, that attachment is not only essential for human survival, but integral to optimal health and wellness. Therefore, why it is very important to understand how emotional disconnection between two people can be harmful.

Two people that are bonded are a system of attachment. Each person integrates “self” into the system and it becomes “one”, but interdependent on the other. Secure-based relationships have this well-established attachment system that allow for hardwiring, or fixed connection to each other. It makes for a strong emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual connection and a strong knowing that each one can depend and trust the other.

Emotional disconnected partners have less of secure base or attachment to the other due to ongoing “bond ruptures”. These bond ruptures create emotional and physical distance, insecurities, self-doubts, emotional pain, and continue to erode the couples system of attachment. The couples’ primal need is not met and the relationship becomes an insecure-base of indifferences.

One of the main strategies to create a secure-based relationship is to stop bond ruptures that create gaps and distance between the couple. How to do this, is by doing the exact opposite. By using proximity and reaching out to your partner you have them notice that felt sense of connection and safety. Partners long for attachment and a simple turning and reaching for your partner whether that be in loving words or a physical gesture, the positive, connective energy is the same. When you seek closeness with your partner you stop the “inflammation invasion” and create a safe haven again. It does take time.

Danielle Lambrecht Counselling 2016 ©

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Why is it so hard to communicate with my partner?

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on May 19, 2016 10:44 am

communication2This is one of the main questions I hear in relationship counselling. It is not an easy one to answer at first. The reason for this is that each person’s style of communicating can be different from the other. When this is the truth, it needs to be recognized during the beginning of therapy and then addressed with the couple.

If one person has a passive style, it means this person will not be direct with what they really think or how they feel. Their behavior may be incongruent with what they are saying to their partner and this can lead to confusion within the couple.

If the other person is aggressive, they may show frustration, be irritable, and could be verbally abusive. This person may have learned this style growing up and not know any other way to get their needs met. However, this style can and will erode a relationship. In addition, when met with this aggressive style, their partner could retreat, withdraw, and shut down.

I would eventually see this couple in my office. They would both be at their wits end and know that they cannot communicate effectively, but are stuck in old reinforced communication styles. There are power struggles, ongoing unresolved conflicts, silent treatments, and one-up-man ships behaviors because each wants the other to meet their “needs”. This couple can walk into my office at a stalemate in their relationship, both unhappy, worn out, and want their relationship to change.

When both walk in to see me…their communication style is the very first and most important subject to tackle in order to see changes.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA