ERP 161: How to Soothe Anxiety in Relationship
In my last podcast episode, ERP 160: How to Deal with Anxiety in Relationship I addressed one listener’s question a little more than I did the other listener’s question. The information in the episode is relevant to what happens in the brain when we experience anxiety and how to work with it. Today, I want to talk a little more about anxiety as it relates to relationship security. If you listened to the last episode, you heard the second listener ask a question about how to deal with repetitive fears of her boyfriend cheating on her. By her report, she deems her boyfriend as a very trustworthy man and that he has given her no reason to doubt his fidelity. She also mentioned that she believes she would have this experience no matter who she is with. (Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear explanations, stories and examples.) HUMAN NEED FOR BONDING At the root of it all, we are all wired up for bonding and connection. One of our basic motivating systems is to have a connection with another person. Dr. Susan Johnson helps us understand that the most powerful threat in life is isolation. In Love Sense, she talks about various research studies to illustrate how detrimental and even deadly isolation can be to our well-being. Dr. Susan Johnson talks about the fact that we have to face dragons in life. And when we do, we usually reach for the hand of the person we love to gain reassurance and comfort, as it is easier to deal with the dragons together. Additionally, our relationships are stronger because of it. Having safety and connection in a bond with another person helps us deal with life’s threats and difficulties with more resource and resilience. Regulating emotions with another is the most effective (hand holding research). It is incredibly hard to self-sooth in isolation, especially if you do not have an internalized sense of a positive attachment figure. POSITIVE ATTACHMENT FIGURES What positive experiences have you had in your life where you have felt safe, understood, seen, accepted, loved, held, and comforted? If you can remember experiences of a secure bond with another, then you can use these memories and images to help you regulate your emotions and nervous system. Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear explanations, stories and examples.) WHAT HELPS CONTRIBUTE TO SAFE CONNECTION AND BONDING? 1. Dr. Susan Johnson emphasizes A.R.E.: Accessible. Responsive. Engaged. 2. EFT (emotionally focused therapy) is incredibly effective in helping couples establish and maintain a secure bond. 3. Mirroring, reflection, and deep understanding 4. Warmth, care, compassion and empathy. 5. Validation, feeling valued, “I am okay,” “I am not alone,” “I belong.” WHAT IF YOU DON’T FEEL SAFE? Coming back to the listener’s question…when people feel threatened, they typically go to two places: Blame: suspicion, detective mode (subtle or unsubtle), pursue. Shutdown: feel alone, scared, try to suppress the feelings. Third option (takes work): share pain and vulnerability in a clear and emotionally balanced way. For example: “Not sure if I have shared with you…you mean so much to me, and sometimes I feeling scared that I am going to lose you. I often have really bad thoughts about you cheating on me, and it is super painful.” OTHER WAYS TO FEEL CONNECTION: God. People feel a sense of holding, compassion, and support from Higher Power. A dear friend or family member. Music. Evokes emotion and validates experience. Nature. Therapeutic support or Group. In a safe secure relationship, the nervous system can relax and the brain can focus on other things rather than the hypervigilance of managing threats. In a more secure place, we can be more curious, playful, and exploratory. TRANSCRIPT: Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: If you have a topic you would like me to discuss, please reach out to me. Here is my contact information. Thank you so much for your interest in improving your relationship. Understanding the different stages of relationship development helps couples move forward positively with their lives and allows couples to feel a deeper connection.