By Elene Johas Teener
Prologue: EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) is a new exciting and amazingly effective form of couple counseling based on years of research into both childhood and adult attachment, and that it has a documented 75-80% success rate and results in a 90% improvement in even very difficult situations. Attachment refers to the enduring tie that one person has with another who fulfills the needs for safety and comfort.
I was recently expounding on the benefits of EFT for couples to my dearest friend from graduate school days with my husband Michael listening in. Afterwards he told me that I need to tell people about a key aspect of the conversation. I was saying that I’ve learned that many men find couples therapy difficult — they often end up feeling wrong and deficient in emotional expressiveness and emotional literacy. Furthermore, in my experience men are most often the withdrawers in the relational cycles that typify EFT. Cycles are the amplifying interactions that are started when couple cannot reach each other.
Girls and women are usually rewarded for expressing emotions, while boys and men are not and are frequently dissuaded from showing many emotions. In fact, boys of previous generations (and, to a lesser extent, current generations) were rejected and embarrassed for showing softer feelings, those that center on the need for closeness — pain, hurt, and fear.
In previous articles I wrote that there are three options when survival is at stake (emotional attachments are a survival requirement for us humans): (1) Fight — demand connection to get attention, complain, communicate what is needed, (2) Flight — withdrawal, or (3) Freeze — become emotionally frozen.
Many men are not able to access their emotions; they often do not know to express feelings, or are reluctant to show them. Having access to our emotions is necessary for close relationships. Couples can learn how to make it safe for each other to learn the language of closeness. In EFT we learn that conflicts arise and distress is unavoidable unless we learn this together.
I encourage anyone interested in making an investment in the long-term health of your connection to read Sue Johnson’s book “Hold Me Tight.” You can also check out the website at ICEEFT.com where much of the research and other information can be found. If you want to take one more step, you could attend a Hold Me Tight weekend workshop. There are a few openings in our November 6, 7 & 8 workshop here in Santa Cruz; you can find out more at http://eft.works. The need for connection is how we are built and is our driving force. We are healthier, live longer, and feel infinitely better when we give and receive love.