Do My Couples Know Their Cycle?

I had the privilege of assisting at a Core Skills this weekend with Lorrie Brubacher, Patron Saint of EFT. I’ll try to get to the point of this post and not spend three paragraphs going on about how miraculous she is, (but her Live Session, you guys, unreal how good she is …) but just know that’s what I really want to be doing. I’m restraining myself!

Something that always stands out to me, whether it’s in Core Skills or in my own supervision, is how easy it is for me to lose sight of helping my clients really understand their cycle. But this weekend brought me back yet again – do my couples really know their cycle?

Since the cycle is so paramount to what we do in EFT, I had to ask myself, how do I lose the thread of the cycle so easily? I notice especially with my long-term clients and my more escalated clients, I don’t think we could tell you clearly what their cycle is.  Even though I’ll use the term “the cycle” in session, I think we’re all just generally assuming internally that I’m referring to “the argument”. I don’t know that I’m truly helping my clients clearly link their trigger, their feelings, and their action tendency.

Ok, so why? Why is it so easy for this to turn to mush when I know how essential it is? Here are my thoughts:

1)   Content. Watching Lorrie highlighted even more for me how she focuses on the process and not the content. In her hands, the content almost seems irrelevant, a ghost of something in the room. But I can really get sucked into that content without realizing I’m doing it. And some content feels so important to unpack – sex, addiction, parenting, huge life decisions.

2)   Getting through the argument (content again). I sometimes have couples come in the middle of an argument, or save an argument for couples therapy because it didn’t feel contained enough at home. Instead of seeing this as, “ok, the cycle is alive here and now, let’s look at that,” it’s easy for me to get sucked into trying to validate and contain the emotions and go for a resolution so I feel like I “helped” them.

3)   Containing/Validating/reflecting emotions. With an escalated couple, so much of what I’m trying to do is validate and de-escalate their huge emotions in the room, and maybe help them understand their trigger. But in a place of huge feelings, I find it really difficult to ask them to step outside of themselves even a little to notice and observe what’s going on. Even in de-escalated couples, I find I’m spending more time trying to understand someone’s experience than I am feeding it all back into the cycle.

There are two tools I notice help me come back to the cycle. One is to make sure I’m book-ending my validation and reflection with repeating the CUE and the ACTION TENDENCY over and over. That link has to be put in neon letters in Step 2. And then in Step 3, when we harness that primal fear underneath, to link again to the Action Tendency. “What you see on the outside is me get loud like a bear, but on the inside I’m so afraid I’m failing you.”

Two is to always, always, always, always, ALWAYS, be threading the attachment message. Watching at this Core Skills helped really highlight the difference between just unpacking someone’s emotions and unpacking them within the attachment frame. There is such a difference between:

 

“You feel so lonely, you feel so alone, you don’t know what to do with that feeling. How terrible. That feeling is so terrible, isn’t it?” and just leaving all that difficult emotion hanging there.

And

“You feel so lonely, longing for Jeff come in and be next to you. You feel so alone, watching him leave the room and longing for this man you love to come comfort you. So in that moment, when the loneliness is too much, you lash out? You send a parting shot, not sure he really even wants to be close to you?”

 

So I’m feeling inspired to get in there with my couples this week and really make sure we’re tracking their cycle, and not solely getting hooked into the content or the emotions.