A.R.E You There For Yourself?
Great overall progress can be made when we draw on other areas of research. For example, by drawing on knowledge of child development and a child’s attachment needs, couples therapy was made much more effective.
Many of us know that our external struggles are mere representations of our internal struggles and that the relationship we have with ourselves is the foundation for our relationship with others. However, this is something often forgotten and disregarded because we live in a world of external solutions to internal problems.
Lessons From Couples Therapy
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is currently the most researched couples therapy model and based on the work of Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg. It is based on an understanding of human attachment needs through the lifespan and helps couples connect to themselves and with each other. By focusing on emotional attunement, responsiveness and engagement couples are able to create a much deeper and more fulfilling relationship. In contrast to other couples-therapy approaches, EFT has the lowest relapse rate by creating lasting healthy relationship dynamics.
EFT sees emotional responsiveness as the secret ingredient to successful, long-term romantic relationships, which is summarised in the question, ‘A.R.E. you there?’. ‘A’ stands for accessibility and refers to being open and paying attention to each other. ‘R’ stands for responsiveness and is about being emotionally attuned and responsive to each other’s needs. Responsiveness provides a sense of secure connection with our partners and has calming effects on our nervous system. ‘E’ stands for engagement is has to do with being valued within the relationship, which has a soothing effect on us.
What About The Individual?
Drawing on Feeney’s Dependency Paradox, the more we can depend on a significant other, the more independent we become. We internalise someone else’s being there for us and learn how to be there for ourselves. We increase our ability to regulate our emotions, self-soothe and develop inner strength and resilience.
While it is helpful to have someone else support us, there is an awful lot of support we can provide for ourselves by learning how to treat ourselves differently. Let’s look at how we can develop a more secure and loving relationship with ourselves based on EFT findings.
When we are open to our experience and willing to connect to what we want and need, we start to pay attention to ourselves. This is an act of caring and loving.
Unfortunately, many of us are used to focusing on others. We have become used to neglecting ourselves and our needs so we can be there for others. The problem with this is that it leaves us feeling depleted and neglected. Self-neglect has serious implications as it impacts negatively upon our experience of life and our relationships with others.
“You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” Eleanor Brownn
When we are left feeling depleted and neglected, we have to take responsibility by looking at the source of our problem. Are we connected to ourselves? Are we accessible to meeting our own needs? Or are we running around after others trying to prove something or hustling for self-worth?
When we are loved, those who love us do not want to see us depleted and neglected.
“When did it become acceptable for you to treat yourself this way?”
- Identify how you feel. Name the emotions.
- Pay attention to your bodily sensations. What do you feel and where?
- Be honest with yourself and open up to your experience.
“Attention is the most concrete expression of love. What we pay attention to thrives. What we do not pay attention to withers and dies.” Karen Maezen Miller
Let’s assume we are connected to ourselves and know what it is that we want or need, do we then respond to this appropriately? Do we take the time to make it happen for us? Or do we minimise our desires or even worse dismiss them? Do we tell ourselves that we don’t matter or that we can wait?
When we experience distressing feelings, do we self-soothe appropriately and compassionately or do we dismiss our feelings, are hard on ourselves and lack self-compassion? How much do we trust anyone that treats us this way? How much can we possibly like someone who treats us that way?
In order to create a better relationship with ourselves we need to be willing to be more responsive with ourselves. We need to stop putting ourselves second or even last. We need to learn to treat ourselves like we would a loved one so that we can experience our true nature fully and experience fulfilment and joy.
- Connect to yourself.
- Validate your feelings.
- Practice self-compassion .
- Don’t invalidate your experience by making yourself, your feelings or your needs wrong.
- Learn to reassure and soothe yourself.
- Stay connected to yourself and present for yourself.
When we are open to connecting with ourselves, we are willing to pay attention to ourselves. We value what we pay attention to. Engagement is all about valuing and loving. We naturally feel soothed and calm when we feel that someone cares for us, that someone values us.
We are not at the mercy of others and have to passively wait around for someone to value us. In fact, when we don’t value ourselves, we cannot let it in from others either as we would not recognise it and therefore reject it. Not knowing how to value ourselves also makes it very difficult if not near impossible to truly value another with pure intentions.
- Express yourself with honesty and compassion for yourself and others.
- Meet your own needs.
- Move towards what you value and love.
- Represent yourself in your life.
With EFT achieving outstanding results for couples therapy, how effective could it be when we apply it to ourselves? When we read parenting books that tell us how to raise happy children, we read about emotional attunement, responsiveness and connection. So why not give ourselves what we might have missed out on? Why wait around for another adult to do what we could be doing for ourselves? Why keep depriving ourselves of the healthy relationship we have been craving for so long? It makes no sense to keep self-neglect and self-devaluation going. Let us make the world a happier place by learning how to be there for ourselves so that then we truly know how to be there for others.
“Become the loving parent to yourself that you never had.” Marlena Tillhon