Hi all! Here on the East Coast of the US, it is officially summer (hooray!). The sun is ever-present—shimmering and hot—causing people everywhere to strip off layers of winter protection and (at least physically) make themselves vulnerable.
The heat outside dovetails what I’ve been thinking about inside my office— the power of warmth. This elemental and rich piece of ourselves, this gift of our warmth, is an essential ingredient in Sue Johnson’s EFT, just as essential as The Steps, The Stages, The Tango, and The 4P’s. Our warmth is the kindling to all our interventions; it sets the temperature in the room, providing safety, support, and encouragement for the vulnerable risk-taking of EFT. Just like the sun, the heat of our warmth has the power to help clients strip away layers of protection.
We tend to think of warmth as something that ebbs and flows naturally, without much awareness, like a smile that breaks out without actually thinking “I need to smile now”. But because in EFT warmth is an implicit foundation to all our explicit interventions, it is a good idea to be more aware of, and then more intentional with, our warmth. Consider for a moment EFT without warmth. Really, think about any intervention in the model, from Stage 1/Step 1: Alliance Building all the way to Stage 3/Step 9: Consolidation—think about Validation, Inviting Enactments, Heightening—and try to imagine doing them, and having our clients respond, without an infusion of our warmth. To be fair, because EFT is such a powerful model you may be able to get some cognitive traction without warmth, but it would be impossible to get the depth and richness and vulnerability needed to help couples restructure their bond without using this key component of ourselves.
There are many times the flame of our warmth can falter, and by becoming more aware, we can notice and work to light it back up again. Certainly our warmth can waver if we become EFT “technicians” and we are too cognitive, too “in our heads”, or when we are anxious or disregulated as we all get in the face of this very challenging work. Our flame can flicker when we are frustrated or having a hard time understanding a client or their reactive, protective behavior. In a recent ICEEFT EFT Listserv* post, Bret Lyon, who runs wonderful workshops on Shame with his wife Sheila Rubin (I haven’t been to one yet, but hope to attend soon. Find them here: http://www.healingshame.com) reminded us that many of our clients hear judgment and criticism from us even when it isn’t there, and so imagine how loud it sneers at them if there is even a tiny part of us that is judgmental or critical in the moment. These are important moments to tune into, become more aware of, and if possible, to intentionally fire up our warmth.
No doubt, there is a lot to learn in EFT. It is simple and complicated and messy and beautiful, just like life, just like relationships. And when we are first learning the model, it can be overwhelming. There are so many things to keep track of, so many notes in our heads when we are facing a couple, (Ask them what they do with that emotion! Catch that bullet! Do an Enactment!) and it is so easy to get tangled up in our left-brain and not pay as much attention to our right, to that most important warm flame of connection and alliance.
I would argue that when we get stuck, check in first with our warmth and dial it up. (You may find that not only does it feel good to your couple, but it may help your own anxiety in the moment).
Everyone’s “warmth” style is different— we radiate warmth in our tone, in our words, in our facial expressions, in our eye contact, in our body language. It glows in our gentle curiosity, in our validation, in our coo’s and hmmm’s. It comes from the heart, it comes from genuineness, it comes from a real desire to come alongside. This month, think about your style. How do you show warmth? Can you show it in other ways too? i.e. if you know your warmth shines through your eyes, can you try letting it come through body language too, maybe through leaning in? Whatever your way is, tune into it, pay attention to how you use it, when you lose it, how it affects your clients, your work, yourself. Do some internal check-ins this month and ask yourself at different points in your work: Is my warmth coming through right now? Can I turn it up somehow? Maybe play with it outside the office, and practice turning up your warmth on the grumpy cashier or that frazzled parent in the supermarket and see what happens.
I hope this is helpful! Let me know what you think. 🙂
*To join the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT) and the Listserv, go to www.iceeft.com. General membership (including access to the listserv) is open to anyone who has undertaken an approved EFT Externship. For more information on ICEEFT and EFT go to http://www.iceeft.com.