You guys have often heard me express my admiration for Lorrie Brubacher, who is the trainer here in North Carolina and who trained me. I was lucky enough to have a supervision session with her the other day, and it always humbles me to experience her talent.
When you hear people talk about Lorrie, you often hear them talk about how efficiently she can get to what’s really happening in a cycle with a couple. It truly is remarkable to see how she can quickly cut a path of understanding in a place where I have been poking around aimlessly for months.
She does something pretty remarkable with the action tendency part of the cycle that I want to attempt to capture. I feel like I still bumber around with the action tendency – So you get defensive? So you get loud? So you fire up? So you give a little lecture? So you shut down?
Not that those are wrong, but when I see what Lorrie does, it makes sense how she’s constantly trimming away the confusion to get to how the cycle keeps the couple stuck. I think of that infinity loop of the cycle as static on a piece of paper, but it’s almost like Lorrie sees that loop as always in motion, so her words go with the current of the cycle all the time.
She helped me go from:
“It’s so frustrating when you see her get overwhelmed, you raise your voice, you share that frustration in the moment? Get kind of louder?”
“It’s so frustrating when you see her get overwhelmed, and you just want to fix this, so you push and push saying, ‘I just want to fix this and make those feelings go away,’ is that right? Can you share that with her?”
So with the first example, it’s a bit heavy and clunky. It gets to what is happening, but doesn’t have flow to it. The second example brings the cycle alive in just two sentences. It has action, movement to it.
With the first one, after the enactment, I imagine processing with the listening partner and hearing them say, “well, yeah, I know they get loud, and that’s really hard for me!” and that’s not an incorrect piece to process.
But with the second example, I can imagine they could say, “That’s how it feels! Like he just wants me to never feel upset or overwhelmed! Like I’m supposed to never struggle.” And then you could process with them, What is that like? What do you do then, if the message it sends is he doesn’t want you to struggle at all? And then we’re in it, we’re looking at what really prevents them from moving forward.
Lorrie is so good at seeing where someone may be having a hard time tolerating their partner’s emotional experience. For me, like I’ve said before, I can assume a lot – of course you want your partner to be less irritated! I don’t always see that it’s a moment where someone might be unable to sit with their partner’s emotions. Especially if it’s the Pursuer reacting to their partner’s irritation, since their motivation is moving towards for connection, and yet in that process they ARE sending the message to their partner: I want to connect with you but I don’t want you to have these uncomfortable secondary emotions, can’t you just be happy so we can connect?
It helped me so much to think of looking for moments when the partners can’t sit with the other’s emotions, and that “helping” and “fixing” – while good intentioned – is the opposite of sitting with emotion. Of course, helping/fixing is human nature and not wrong, but depending on how much anxiety we have, we can rush in with that and send the message to our loved ones: I need you to not be feeling this right now.
For more insights from Lorrie, these are two invaluable YouTube interviews she did with the wonderful Anabelle Bugatti:
Most recently on Affair Recovery
And on previously on Rebuilding Trust
* Sometimes before a session or day I feel anxious about I watch the Rebuilding Trust video. It just helps me have Lorrie’s voice with me and helps me remember to stay process (and what that looks like) and not get stuck in content.