If you love me, why do you still-face me?
By Jill Smith
Last week I was invited to assist at an EFT training in UNC Greensboro. This four day introductory training spends an entire day reviewing the literature on attachment bonds and the role they play in the way we understand ourselves, our world and our life partners. As a child, If we are securely attached to our parents or a loved one, we can consider ourselves lucky. A healthy attachment sets a stage for us to explore our world, knowing safety and predictability waits for us at home. We begin to believe in our ability to interact with others and function successfully in relationships. If we have a need, we can express it and we will be heard and understood. We can hear and understand others successfully–even when things get complicated emotionally.
But when we are raised by parents or caregivers who do not come when we call, things can be different. Then, many times, don’t feel securely attached to a primary person. We might not explore our world because we aren’t sure if safety and predictability awaits at home. So..as an adult, our attachment style might be fearful. Or avoidant. We are not sure if we will be understood by the world, so we keep emotions hidden away, burying them deep inside, even denying them. Sometimes our emotions then explode after being hidden for so long. Typically, we don’t ever understanding what is behind this pattern that leads to loneliness or difficult, conflict laden relationships
At EFT trainings, clinicians are shown a classic psychological experiment video called The Still Face Experiment.
Although hard to watch, The Still Face Experiment demonstrates with crystal clarity what is outlined above. When Mom responds predictably and loving the baby is delighted, calm and engaged. But when Mom ignores the baby with “still face,” the baby reaches, screeches, squirms. The world is no longer responsive safe and predictable. Maybe crying and protesting will make it so.
We do the same in our adult love relationships. We reach, we screech and we squirm when we aren’t sure if we are understood by our partners. We want them to respond to our needs and when they don’t, it is unbearable. We protest. We criticize. We cry. We yell. We sulk. We turn away.
Emotionally Focused Therapy, the couples therapy protocol used in our office, makes sense of this attachment stuff so you and your partner can feel securely attached. Again.