“Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson

book cover

Subtitle: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

Dr. Sue Johnson, creator of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, applies attachment theory to adult relationships, and everything suddenly makes sense. Attachment relationships provide an anchor and sense of safety in the world. They feel just as essential to our survival as attachment relationships do to children, so it makes sense we fight or flee when they feel threatened.

The seven conversations are:

  1. Recognize Demon Dialogues – look underneath for attachment fears, and see how both people contribute to patterns.
    • Find the Bad Guy – casting blame for distress
    • Protest Polka – one person withdraws, the other makes demands, in a cycle
    • Freeze and Flee – both people withdraw, and the relationship is on its deathbed
  2. Find the Raw Spots – identify triggers for attachment longings and fears.
  3. Revisit a Rocky Moment – talk through a past conversation that didn’t go well, taking into account patterns, raw spots, and deeper emotions.
  4. Hold Me Tight – emotional attunement, accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement. Each person tunes into their own emotions and shares what they are most afraid of, and then the attachment longing that is live in that moment. Hopefully the partner turns toward them and fulfills the longing, creating a new bonding experience. The person who usually withdraws goes first.
  5. Forgiving Attachment Injuries – relationship traumas, usually involving some kind of abandonment, need to be healed, not ignored.
    1. The hurt partner speaks their pain as openly and simply as possible.
    2. The injuring partner stays emotionally present and acknowledges the wounded partner’s pain and their part in it.
    3. Emotionally connect around this, start rebuilding trust.
    4. Injuring partner takes ownership and expresses regret and remorse.
    5. Hold Me Tight conversation centered around the attachment injury – what is needed now to bring comfort and closure. Hopefully the injuring partner fulfills this.
    6. Create a narrative that captures the injuring event and how it is being healed.
  6. Bonding Through Sex and Touch – bring emotional connection, communication, and trust to touch and sex.
  7. Keep Your Love Alive – name ways to reconnect when a Demon Dialogue crops up, celebrate the positive moments, discuss attachment needs and issues, make rituals for separation and reunion, create an ongoing story of the living relationship, create a vision for the relationship in the future.

There is more than one gay couple in this book! And one couple of Asian descent. Women and men are individuals, not stereotyped caricatures. The client stories are realistic, practical, and encouraging.

Despite the pop-psych title and Overuse of Capital Letters, this book is solidly researched and makes a lot of sense. Highly recommended.

Available at Powell’s Books.

Also read Dr. Sue Johnson’s more recent Love Sense, which covers a lot of the same material, with more information about the neurochemistry of attachment. Oddly, she leaves out the disorganized attachment style entirely. There is an extended example of a couple repairing their relationship.

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