Wow, say that three times as fast as you can. 🙂 And just like that and just as fast, the cycle can erupt in the room and tangle us all up like the very best of the tongue twisters.
As EFT therapists we need to keep a handle on that destructive cycle at all times, so that it doesn’t blindside us, blindside our couple. I think that sometimes in our work (especially, but not limited to, when we are beginning to learn EFT) we can focus so much on getting to that golden primary emotion that we relax our grip on the cycle in session. I’m not saying that we completely let go of it, but if we are many sessions in and as we are working in the cycle, we might ease away from being explicit about it. Or because the cycle is so clear to us, and perhaps to our clients (we think), we might feel repetitve using the word “cycle” over and over, so we, well, don’t. Or to be honest, we might have checked off the “Stage 1, Step 2: Identify the Cycle” box and moved on, thinking that once we’ve identified it and held a mirror up to it one or two times, our clients have a solid, felt understanding of their cycle and we don’t need to keep talking about it anymore.
But just like in everything EFT, one and done just doesn’t do it, especially when it comes to the all-powerful negative cycle. This is the enemy, the villan that keeps your couples from being connected, and the only way to make that crystal clear is to keep that enemy close and in the spotlight. So even after you have identified and worked with the cycle, even after your couples have had that Aha! moment when they see their cycle and it fits for them, even after they have felt it explode in the room, we still need to keep the cycle in the forefront of the work, continuing to name it, (and name it again, and again), hold it up the light, and catch it and label it when it shows up.
Think of it like holding the reins while riding a horse. We have two reins that we hold and control; if we tighten one and ease up on the other, the horse turns. If we continue to do this, the horse keeps turning and we end up going in circles. We need to hold both, have control of both, if we want to direct the course. The same is true in EFT. We want to hold onto and use the cycle while we are working in all the other important steps of EFT.
I will talk more about catching the cycle in the room in my next post, but for now an easy and impactful way to keep the cycle in the room could be just a small change to what you are already doing—simply insert the words “in your cycle” (or pattern or dance or tornado) into the intervention you were already going to use. So instead of: “Oh, so when you walk away, underneath you are feeling defeated?” You might say, “Oh, so in your cycle, when you walk away, underneath you are feeling defeated?”
Or instead of “So what is it like for you when your partner looks at you with anger in her eyes?” You might say, “So what is it like for you in your cycle when your partner looks at you with anger in her eyes?”
Or Instead of “Yes, that is such a painful place for you”, you might say, “Yes, in your cycle, that is such a painful place for you.”
By simply adding those words you keep the cycle up and running for all of you, clearly highlighting that that is what you are all working on. It also makes explicit that these are the reactions and feelings that happen when they are in the cycle; this is so important because you are reminding them, over and over, that this isn’t just “how it is”, it is how it is when they are in the cycle. A small distinction that can provide a lot of hope.
Finally, each time you use the words, you are emphasizing that this is a dynamic. This is a crucial reminder and for most couples, needs continual underlining. This cycle is not one person’s fault; the same partner doesn’t always start this dynamic. The word alone simply reinforces that concept. Additionally, by naming it as a dynamic when working with one partner, you subtly and intentionally loop the other partner into the work in the moment. And again, by just highlighting it more often, you provide hope. Because if this is negative dance they both create, it is a dance they can change together.
So this month, notice how often you refer to the cycle in session—how many times do you actually use the word—and perhaps practice using it more.
Let me know how what you think! And Happy, Happy New Year! 🙂
For more on EFT and the negative cycle, read any of Dr. Sue Johnson’s books, including but not limited to:
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love (Johnson, Susan, M. Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008. Print.)
The Practice of Emotionally Focused Marital Therapy: Creating Connection (Johnson, Susan M. The Practice of Emotionally Focused Marital Therapy: Creating Connection. New York: Bruner/Routledge, 2004. Print.)