50 years of research has given us some clear answers about the nature of love. We now know what it is we really need in our closest relationships, WHY we need it, HOW and WHY we so often make such a mess of it, and HOW we can repair damage and rebuild when things go wrong.We can understand scientifically that the need to be securely connected to our important others is biologically wired-in. It's a safety thing. Our bodies react in very urgent and predictable ways when we don't feel safe. For good reason, right? If danger is coming at us – we need to ACT first and THINK later or we'll be eaten, or trampled or burned or maimed or fall to our death or...
Well, it turns out that in a brain-scan-measurable, research-provable way, feeling disconnected or abandoned, or not important, or not heard or understood by those we count on activates that very same safety switch in our brain. It's how we're wired! A secure connection is coded as a safety imperative. Physical danger and attachment danger activate the same part of the brain, in the same way.
I promise I am not making this up.
The part that would be on THREAT LEVEL RED if we were walking through a forest late at night and heard a menacing growl – the amygdala – lights up in exactly the same way when we cannot get through to the one that matters most. Or if we feel we can't count on them. Or we don't matter to them.
And when our amygdala activates the emergency response system we either know how to respond or we don't. When the alarm is sounded we either hear it; recognize the threat and address it or we go into a tailspin and either fight or flee or FREEZE. It's what we do. Fight or flee or freeze. Not because we are mean or stupid or we don't care, but because our safety trigger is a biological reflex so strong that if we haven't learned what to do with it we instinctively try to shut it down by doing all kinds of unhelpful things.
Not intentionally or even consciously. In 2/100ths of a second. The blink of an eye.
And when two amygdalas get sparring and they don't even know it, we end up co-creating a monster without even realizing it: a dance driven by pure reflex that leaves two people feeling very much alone or misunderstood or on different sides of the fence.
In Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), we use this information as a MAP.
Our destination is a secure connection. Seeing our relationship through this attachment lens allows us to identify and make sense of;
- where are we now
- how we got here and
- what's keeping us here .
And once we understand the problem and the solution we can REBOOT our relationship from the inside out.