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

©2016

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

Expressing Anger Constructively

Posted by: Denise Hall on March 2, 2016 4:31 pm

Expressing anger in a constructive way is challenging and in many situations almost impossible. First we need to locate the source of our anger then determine whether we actually are angry with others or ourselves. Is it righteous anger or displaced anger and is this a battle that is wise to wage? Is it way beyond the particulars of the situation?
Another question is are we using anger as a defense? For example, anger can keep you from dealing with:anger

* the source of your fear.

* the critical voices in your head.

* personal values that create guilt.

Anger can:

* prevent you from examining the losses in your life.

* stop you from communicating your hurt.

* keep you immobilized and not able to problem solve.

* keep you angry & not moving forward.
Let us discuss the wisdom of choosing our battles. Some of the questions that would be helpful to ask are:

* How important is this relationship?

* What are my personal costs if I keep quiet?

* Is there a power imbalance (e.g. Employer – Employee) and what are the costs of speaking up? (e.g. will I lose my job, will it be difficult in the long term if I speak up?)

* Will I put myself at risk physically if I speak up?

* Can I express myself clearly and constructively?

* Will this person understand if I speak up?

* Is this battle worth fighting?

* Would letting go and not taking the situation personally be a better strategy in this situation?

 

The point in asking these questions is that it makes us pause and better define the situation and decide whether to go ahead with expressing our feelings. Choosing not to proceed in any of these situations does not mean we stuff our feelings. There are other constructive ways of expressing feelings of anger without confronting the person directly (e.g. writing an “unsent letter” to them). Sometimes, knowing that we will not win with someone who is unapproachable and/or has more power than us and instead taking care of ourselves in the situation is a better route than confronting the person and being much worse off.

This does not mean we should accept bullying or sexual harassment. There are other better ways to deal with such problems rather than confronting the person directly. Analyzing the situation is rather tricky. Our feelings sometimes prevent us from perceiving the situation accurately and that is when I believe it is time to bring in a trusted friend, colleague, family member, or counsellor.

When using our feelings to help us direct our lives, we definitely need to give them more than a glance. They are there to guide us to more authentic and healthy ways of being. Strong feelings indicate that we have to take notice and that there could be underlying and long-term issues fighting for uncovering and expression.

Not expressing feelings constructively has the potential to really get people in trouble in their relationships, at work, and with the law. However, not giving them expression is destructive as well because they can erupt at any time in the most inopportune places or wreck havoc on our health. Road rage is a good example of this. Unexpressed feelings seek out opportunities to vent. It can happen on the road or with service personnel who have done some small thing to irritate you.

When you decide it is time to express your feelings, an anger script can be helpful. Write something like what follows before you talk to the person:

In making an assertive statement use the following:

“When you___________ I feel_______________ and the consequences are that I___________________.”

It is important that you are specific about the situation and your feelings and the consequences are realistic. An example:

“When I ask you to empty the dishwasher and you ignore my request, I feel angry and disrespected and as a consequence, I don’t want to make dinner for you or help you with anything”.

Another area where we can feel angry is when others cross our boundaries and/or we agree to things we don’t really want to do. We can then feel resentment, a real sign we need to set limits.

It is surprising how many people have a difficulty with saying a simple “no”. We really don’t have to justify a no answer. Making excuses is not being honest or authentic. Often, just a simple “No I am unable to pick you up this evening” is justifiable. Other times, we may have to give the person more information. The following guidelines are adapted from McKay, Rogers, and McKay (1989):

* Acknowledge the other person’s needs

* Advise them of your position, preference, feelings etc.

* Say “no”

“I know you were counting on me to have dinner with you this evening but I would prefer not to go and stay in instead. So I am unable to come to dinner”.

When setting limits, it is important to spend time thinking about the situation and the best way to go about it. Over apologizing and putting yourself down is not helpful; positive “Self-talk” is important!

Beware of guilt feelings getting you to agree to something you don’t want to (see my Blog on Guilt). Also, make sure your body language is assertive not passive or aggressive.

You can also negotiate with the person.

“I am unable to drive you home however I can drive you to the nearest bus station and provide you with bus fare if needed.”

The “broken record” is a good strategy when people are persistent. Repeat your assertive statement.

“No, I would not like another drink.”

Being specific is key. If you are vague and the person is trying to persuade you, it will give them an opening.

I have used two books as references and the title of one says it all: Don’t be Nice, Be Real. Most reasonable people appreciate your realness and willingness to be clear and assertive. Avoiding and making excuses tends to be disrespectful and leaves most people with an uncomfortable feeling. Being assertive takes some work. However, expressing your feelings, wants and needs is being honest, authentic and respectful to others even if they disagree with you. They likely will respect you for it.

 

References:

Bryson, K. (2004). Don’t Be Nice Be Real: Balancing passion for self with compassion for others, Santa Rosa CA: Elite books

McKay, M., Rogers, P. & McKay J., (1989). When Anger Hurts: Quieting the storm within, Oakland, CA: new Harbinger Publications, Inc




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

Schrodinger’s Cat in Couples Therapy

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on March 2, 2016 4:29 pm

Today I was working with a young couple who like most at a point in the early family and career-making stages of life, struggle to come to terms with the stress, pain and loss associated with transitions. It was the second session and the young, European couple, of mixed national backgrounds, began to reveal how their thinking was past and future orientated in so many ways.

My hunch about the couples therapy at that moment emerged – they were going to the past of who they were when they originally met to soothe themselves about the frustrations about where they were now (feeling stuck as individuals) and as result as a couple, feeling increasingly unhappy together. My hunch emerged further – their persons and personalities, to each other, had undergone extensive “flattening”, as the blame thrown to the other for what was going wrong for them and in their couple mounted.

I found myself in the session trying to reach out to feel the frustration of who they were as individuals and at the time, I felt this to be the ‘work’ of the moment. (note: it may be something of model reminder for work with individuals with a contemporary, western cultural background and experience, that the order to consider is individual frustration first, couple frustration second). As I started thinking of my couple as individuals needing to hear, feel and see each other again, it came to me – Shrodinger’s cat, the thought experiment in theoretical physics!

No expert on the matter, the idea that we never know the state (i.e. dead or alive) of cat in the box until we open it, and that we effectively have to imagine and consider the cat inside, as being anywhere in a continuum of alive to dead in the box, to really live the quantum reality, became an interesting metaphor. I didn’t explain it to them in the 54th minute of what was to be 1.5hr session, but, I suddenly knew what I felt could be useful – a little reminder that the other is wife/husband, woman/man, each a career professional, each a social being, each with a worldview, each with individual needs and a personal path (that is spiritual even if you let it be).   At the time we didn’t’ exactly do what I am proposing as a potentially fresh new couple’s therapy intervention. That is, each in the couple take turns viewing the other as the cat in Shrodinger’s box, observing the other in a continuum of themselves and all that they are or might want to be. The forgetting of this is problematic to the individual, man or woman, same sex etc. and the intervention designed to promote the summoning of the individual in more full view, may be restorative to a couple’s communication, fruitful to a compassionate understanding and accepting of the other’s needs, while it promotes a critical self-evaluation of how the man/woman has ‘othered’, ‘gendered’, ‘boxed-in’ the other as part of their couple narrative.




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

Working With Clients Affected by Divorce

Posted by: Amal Souraya on February 26, 2016 12:13 pm

A common population that many counsellors will inevitably work with is individuals coming from a divorced family household. It is projected that about 40% of newly wed couples will end in divorce by their 30th anniversary (Employment and Social Development Canada, 2016). Counsellors may work with the children, the mother or father, the couple, or the entire household of these divorced families. Each of these client scenarios brings about their own individual challenges.

RingFor instance, when counsellors are working with only one of the partners, then it is imperative to remain neutral and continue therapy in this manner. Therefore, regardless of the client-therapist relationship and the number of sessions held, counsellors need to be mindful of their own actions and the potential for countertransference in the therapeutic process; counsellors are not to take sides when working with divorced couples. Other times counsellors may be working with the children alone and access to one or both of the parents may be difficult, which can undermine treatment. I believe it is necessary to include any active guardians in the therapeutic treatment of these minors. Sometimes this may also call for the therapist to make out-of-the-office telephone calls to the other parent/guardian and fill him/her on the progress of therapy or what he/she can do to assist their child more readily.

Counsellors will encounter working with clients from divorced backgrounds. Sometimes these clients may pose some interesting challenges for the counsellor including remaining impartial, setting boundaries, being aware of oneself, and attempting to work with the entire family unit, especially when dealing with minors.




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

Where is the Father in Attachment Theory?

Posted by: Trudi Strasberg on October 1, 2015 7:00 am

 

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“Attachment theory” is very popular in the field of mental health. In the context of infants, it suggests that some are “secure,” certain that the primary attachment figure (usually conceptualized as the mother) will be there following exploration of the external environment, and that some are “insecure” (sometimes described as anxious, avoidant, resistant, disorganized, or disoriented), uncertain of this, and displaying unresponsive, clinging, or confused behaviours towards the primary caregiver.(1) Continue reading




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

Conscious Couples

Posted by: Lisa Shouldice on September 30, 2015 7:00 am

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The idea of “Conscious Couples” has been getting thrown around a lot lately. I even use the idea/concept in my work with couples now, including a quick article if I feel the couple I am working with may be receptive to it.

A Conscious Couple in a nutshell, is the idea that personal growth and healing are a part of coupling and even a goal that is important to the couple and their relationship. These are couples that recognize they came to the relationship with a history, including personal triggers and experiences. They recognize that they need to own these triggers and experiences to be in healthy relationship, and most importantly they are committed to both themselves and their partner thriving and contributing in the world beyond themselves. Continue reading




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