One of my favorites parts of EFT is that it encourages us to work with the present emotion in the room. When we pause and ask a client, “What are you feeling just now as you say that?” or “Remember that fight last week, it seems like I just saw your face change, what are you feeling right now as you talk about that?” And it can bring the emotion alive in the room in a totally different way than when the client is talking about the feeling from a cognitive place. Karyn Bristol has a great blog post on using the "right now" you can read here.
In “Becoming an Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist, The Workbook,” the authors talk about this in the section about interventions for emotional engagement. They write, “ ‘As you say that, John, it seems like you are overwhelmed, by her anger, but also by not knowing how to respond …’” (p 55). I want to highlight the use of the word “overwhelmed” because to me it seems like that is the emotion the therapist is seeing/feeling in the room right now. The client could be saying something like, “It’s too much! I just have to shut down or leave, she just starts going off and it’s way too much!” And the therapist could ask what he/she is feeling in that moment, or conjecture in a validating way, “It seems even right now like you are feeling overwhelmed, am I getting that right?” and then add the attachment piece in like the example above. Validating the right now emotion can deflate some of that frustrated, “I’m not being heard!” emotion that can escalate in the room. Asking more about the emotion can connect the client to their in the moment, felt experience.
Ok, so great! This is great to know. But how do we remember to do that when we’re just starting out and have a thousand bees flying in our head trying to track the cycle, listen for the cue, catch and reframe the bullets, make sure one partner isn’t descending into shame, and more? When I work with my individual clients, I can tune in to the felt sense in the room all. day. long. There’s so much time and space in that room. But when I get in the room with couples it’s like trying to play the piano with oven mitts on. I’m concentrating so hard to get it right that I can easily lose the present emotional music.
With individuals, I watch their facial expressions and body language to tell me if they are having a sudden emotion come up, and I also use my own feelings and what is happening in my body as I sit with them. But with couples I can be so in my head trying to figure out what to do next that I lose my connection to my body and felt sense of my clients.
So for this week, my reminder to myself is to check in more with Joanne. Do you all watch Frankie and Grace, with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda? I love this show. Frankie occasionally has to check in with her subconscious, “Joanne” to know how she’s actually feeling about something versus what she's thinking about something. When I’m getting really up in my head this week, I want to remember to check in with Joanne, and check in with – what am I feeling right now? What's my stomach say about what I'm feeling in the room? So before I can say to my client, "What are you feeling as you say this, right now?" a half a step before that I am going to ask myself, "What is happening in the room right now?" and see if that can bring me a little more out of my head.