Piece by Piece
A person found themselves staring out of a yawning black hole. Because there was no light at all to see by, because they were alone, and because they were very tired and frightened and in pain, they had no conception of how big the hole was, no idea of how to get out of it, and sometimes, felt no inclination to do so. This person had been pushed into the black hole by another, another who walked away, disappearing into the sunshine.
Emotional trauma comes in many forms, and it would be a lonely human being who could say that they don’t understand what trauma means. Of course, some emotional baggage is heavier than others, injurious acts varying in degrees, and the burden of carrying the baggage alone can be crushing. As people, though, it is our natural instinct to pair with another, to find someone with whom we can share our troubles and fears. It is often imperative to our well-being and emotional success to bond with someone who can help us shoulder the burden of just being alive. Trauma can be overcome, but best overcome when it is tackled with the strength and support of another caring human being.
Once traumatized, however, the real challenge is being able to rebuild self-worth, to re-establish a confidence that being genuine, being authentic will not necessarily result in abandonment or injury. One may even worry about appearing to be dangerous, a bad proposition, if they allow any hurt to show through. The real tragedy of being betrayed is not the resultant pain, but the stripping of hope that love can exist.
One day, the person became aware of a new presence in their black hole. This presence had a gentle voice and emanated a peaceful feeing of reassurance, of patience, of love. Having been so damaged by the trust they had put into another in the past, the trust that had been so viciously mutilated, the person was reluctant to allow themselves to be touched by this new visitor, but wanted to be, wanted to be very, very much. Tentatively, the person reached out and was surprised to find a strength that they could not deny, and after a time, the black hole wasn’t so black anymore.
“I was a foster kid, with no biological family at all, never adopted, 5th grade education. My husband was a healer. He is my best friend, my family, my life.” ~ Lisa L. Small Business Consultant and CEO of own firm
Even after terrible hardship, when people find themselves in a depth of loneliness where they cannot imagine ever being wanted again, or fathom ever being able to put themselves back together, millions of these people have found family in a loving relationship. When a tight bond is formed with the right person, even a life that seemed to have no end of despair can be made whole and beautiful again. But it would be foolish for anyone to imagine that any relationship is all tea and roses. Rocky roads, turbulent waters, bumpy tracks – there’s a million expressions for those hard times that we all face.
Thankfully, there are professionals out there who specialize in helping couples to build and maintain powerful, mutually fulfilling relationships, professionals who have the education, training and skill to mend even the most broken of bonds. Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a form of psychotherapy that teaches couples to manage their emotions. The idea is not to repress or negate destructive or damaging emotions, but rather to acknowledge them, identify the triggers that cause them, then to develop an awareness of how those emotions may be transformed into ones that nurture compassion and connection. As a result, emotional scarring may be healed to the point that as a couple and as individuals in a relationship, a spirit of strength and stability can emerge that is more powerful than it ever was.
“EFT is about connections, and can help people who have been traumatized to overcome those traumas by having someone in their life they feel connected with. As a result of the couple’s relationship, injuries are less traumatic.” ~ Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW, The Couples Expert
One day, the person woke to find that the hole had gotten significantly smaller and distinctly brighter. For a moment, they felt a wave of panic, for the hole had been familiar for so long that in some terrible way it had become almost comforting. The person turned to the kind, smiling face lying next to them and was once more shocked that it was still there, but then sighed in relief as their cheek was stroked and the reassuring words were repeated. The hole shrank a little bit more.
As an author needs an editor, as a driver needs a mechanic, so too, do people sometimes need a fix-it person for their own selves. It is a difficult thing, sometimes, to admit that help is needed. Feelings of inadequacy or shame can prevent couples from seeking therapy. A long period of living in a less than satisfactory relationship can push people into complacency, or worse, a feeling of utter defeat. What is so important is to realize that one is never alone in any of those feelings, and that seeking therapy is not a sign of weakness, but rather an indication of a desire to improve, to heal, to grow, and to move forward. It is the ultimate sign of willingness to be with a partner, to say, “I want to make this work and to be with you forever.” We are billions of people on this planet and there is a cosmic reason we share it. We just simply are not meant to be alone.
It was hard work. It required a bit of guidance. The edges of the hole reappeared from time to time for a long time, but eventually the hole disappeared altogether. The two people existed as individuals, but were tethered by a love and an acceptance of their individuality that might be stretched in the natural course of the ups and downs of life, but would never, ever be broken. The people had been patient, they had been determined, and they had managed to construct an amazing, exciting, peaceful and loving relationship, piece by piece. The hole forgotten, the people walked together into the sunshine, hand in hand.
Emotionally Focused Therapy was developed primarily by Dr. Sue Johnson in the late ‘90s. It is used not only in private therapy practice, but in hospitals, clinics and training centers around the globe by thousands of practitioners. EFT is used not only to counsel couples, but with families, as well. Research shows that 70% to 75% of couples are able to fully recover a healthy relationship using EFT, and approximately 90% show significant improvement. Because Emotionally Focused Therapy concentrates on relationships and the emotions that all of humanity shares, it has been touted to be the psychotherapeutic approach that can ultimately change the world.
Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW, is a loving, passionate husband, father, entrepreneur, and author. He is the owner and clinical director of The Couples Expert Relationship Counseling Center. He has seen, first-hand, the transition that couples can make once they feel close and connected with one another. These dramatic changes are life-altering. To schedule your FREE 30-minute telephone consultation with one of The Couples Experts, click here.