Saturday, June 26, 2010

Continuing on Hold Me Tight

In the book Hold Me Tight Sue Johnson often accurately depicts patterns and cycles couples can get into that can block growth and development in a relationship. Invariably this is presented in often oversimplified terms. If she were to include all of the intricacies that exist in relationship she might have ended up with something more like Ulysses than a self help book. In addition to the necessary oversimplification she seems to also engage in some seemingly less necessary oversimplification.

She seems content to look at the patterns of engagement without concern for the real problems that may exist in a relationship that, in fact, may be causing the bad patterns of interaction. My sense is that the pattern of interaction is a means of navigating problems and other aspects of a relationship. Without understanding the problems and other aspects of the relationship the pattern of interaction is a rather sterile and disconnected bit of information. This EFT does not seem to be a holistic systems approach.

To the point that I have read she seems to treat bad relationship patterns like the common cold, in that they are just something that arises and you must deal with. There is no knowable cause.
She seems intent on avoiding allocution of responsibility as this is to blame. The obvious example of a possible problem with this approach is the person who is a victim of domestic violence. In the Hold Me Tight paradigm no one is at fault. Even in much healthier relationships there are causes of destructive patterns. It is less likely to rest on the plate of only one partner but at times it might. Refusing to accept this seems to be a rather Pollyanna and unhelpful approach. This is not to say that both partners should not take responsibility for all relationship problems. It is not your fault if your partner is an alcoholic; but you may be supportive by arranging an intervention or by not allowing yourself to become an enabler.

Failing to do an inventory of significant problems in a relationship before looking at the patterns in the relationship seems a little like setting off for a destination that you have not been to without directions. Being a good driver will not get you there even though good driving is important.

On page 79-80 she says
For Years, Therapists have misguidedly viewed this pattern in terms of disputes and power struggles and have attempted to resolve it by teaching problem-solving skills. This is a little like offering a Kleenex as a cure for viral pneumonia. It ignores the “hot” attachment issues that underlie the pattern. Rather than conflict or control, the issue, from an attachment perspective, is emotional balance.

This is a problem solving approach. It simply boils everything down to one very vague problem: hot attachment issues. And offers only one solution: change your pattern of interaction. It does also seem like she is blaming her peers for being misguided.

This is not to say that she does not provide valuable insight into cycles of interaction. Certainly I can see this in my own relationship. But I also know that the problems are a contributor to the patterns and as such breaking the patterns is at least partly dependent on solving the problems. The patterns are to some extent an artifact of the problems. Additionally, despite her dismissal of the idea, axiomatic to these problems are the components of our past, especially our youth. We learn our attachment patterns long before we come to an adult relationship. Those patterns may not be static but they are the building blocks that we are given and they remain a part of our foundation.