Okay, cynicisms is well stoked. Like we so often see in academia, especially popular writing of academic subjects, there is a sales job going on here. Academics can be so disingenuous. It seems that much of what Johnson is presenting here as new and even revolutionary is nothing more than repackaging. Create a new lexicon, relabel things and claim them as new and uniquely your own. There is some merit in creating a new lexicon. Langue is the paint with which we project our reality. Changing the lexicon is like changing the color with which we paint. Claiming that this is radically new seems to be an arrogant overstatement.
What I find even more offensive are these faux dialogues that she claims to be taken straight from her sessions with clients. I'm sorry but that is just not the case. There is one guy who is totally emotionally inaccessible to his wife but articulates emotional maturity and insight in connecting to his daughter. I have never noticed such marked disconnect in emotional capacity from one relationship to the next. With this same couple she records short statements of total understanding later in her revolutionary approach. This is not just bullshit, it is insulting bullshit. She thinks that her readers cannot see through this. It makes it difficult to continue reading her.
She speaks of the astonishing epiphany that couples are not negotiating, they are seeking primal emotional connection. She does not seem to recognize that one can negotiated for emotional connection. She makes the correlation to the bonds that children seek with their parents. I can only imagine that this woman does not have children and that she has not spent much time with them. Children constantly negotiate for emotional bonds.
She says that couples are engaged in “primal panic response.” What is this? Fight or flight? Whatever similarities there may be, they need to be spelled out and not glossed over. The only thing that I can think is how this dynamic is very different than what I perceive to be a “primal panic response.” This seems of be another example of disingenuous academic bullshit. Primal panic response does not seem to be a well identified or elaborated concept. When Googled the first two hits were a business site and backyardchickens.com, the third is a pdf by “administrator” which is the exact language from the book and that cites the book. In popular psych. There seems to be a mystical power in manufactured concepts they are imbued with the power of full imagination that is to be taken unquestioningly.
This whole approach also seems to be heavily invested in the idea that all security and wholeness comes through one primary relationship. Talk about a fairytale approach. It is also somewhat of a self fulfilling approach. It encourages people to become completely dependent on one primary relationship, which tends to make them so isolated and frail that that relationship is the sole source of emotional security. Even if one restricts themselves to just one sexual relationship, this does not preclude them from taking significant sustenance from other kinds of relationship than can support the primary relationship and also take pressure off of it.
Again, this approach seems to completely overlook the fact that different people have different needs for emotional connection. This differential is a significant in my relationship. I would say that it is probably the single most problematic issue.
Interestingly she early on begins to avoid the issues contained in this dynamic. She suggested that analysis of childhood issues is of little value. Later she speaks of a couple’s “raw spots” and she even suggests that this woman’s “raw spot” was related to abandonment issues that she had with her father but she glosses and goes right past that little tidbit.
To the point that I have read she has spoken about ARE: Accessibility, Responsiveness and Engagement. Perhaps she will come back to this with better distinction and differentiation but to this point I do not see much difference between responsiveness and engagement.
She sets up the possibility of a nice metaphor but seems incapable of grasping it herself. That metaphor is of the conversation. There are actual and direct conversation that each take on a pattern. This she identifies and talks about. What she misses is that relationships also unfold in a sort of conversation over time with patterns. She seems to be capable of only seeing the patterns in the actual conversation. When you think that she may be about to make the more sophisticated connection to relationship as conversation she only manages to use the made up conversations of her amazing couples sessions. This is a significant failure of insight.
Nonetheless, I shall go on, cynicism in check. Despite the failures of an approach, it can also have merit. My job is to find merit in this approach.