Facing the Dragon Together

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Bad things happen. We struggle. We feel pain. We need our loved one by our side. This is what Dr. Sue Johnson, Creator of Emotionally Focused Couple’s Therapy would call “Facing the Dragon Together”. As human beings this is one of the reasons we are wired for human connection and bonding, to get us through the tough times. As Dr. Johnson would say, “We are bonding mammals.” It is part of our survival system.

I had the opportunity to obtain some additional training with Dr. Johnson this last weekend in Austin. The focus was on Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy for Trauma Survivors. This kind of therapy focuses on adult attachment. As we are now learning, attachment and bonding is not just for children.  We all need a secure base of attachment with knowing someone is there for us and will respond with helping us to face the dragons we encounter.

Dr. Johnson’s acronym: ARE is helpful in looking at the key points of attachment.


  • Are you ACCESSIBLE? – Do I matter?
  • Are you RESPONSIVE? – Can I depend on you?
  • Are you ENGAGED?

What is NOT helpful when couples face internal or outside the relationship distress is DISCONNECTION. Isolation and withdrawal only fuels our panic and feelings of being over-whelmed. This leading to escalation of helplessness and more disconnection. This is a behavioral cycle that  make matters worse.

The dance of  “attunement, engagement, and responsiveness” leads us to the  “safe haven” we all need. Reaching out and taking a chance and engaging in a “dance of attachment” with our partner is what we need to “face our dragons together”.

When we experience fear, we need a place of safety. We need connection and comfort to sooth our anxiety.  This is what our secure attached relationship can provide.

We all have dragons to face at one time or another. Secure attachment to our partner protects us from trauma. Plus, we cannot forget the “healing power” of our relationships if we must face trauma. So take your partner’s hand and face your dragons together!

Source Material for this Blog Article: Facing the Dragon Together: EFT for Traumatized Couples. Presented by Dr. Sue Johnson. November 3-4, 2017 in Austin, TX.
Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact your local mental health professional. Strom Individual and Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.



3 Ways To Stay Emotionally Connected

couple biking (2)You want to feel connected. You want to feel like you are being heard and that your loved one is there for you. There are actions that you can incorporate within your relationship to nurture  that emotional connection that you so want.  You can silence the “alarm bells” that ring within your brain’s amygdala when you are feeling distant from your spouse or partner.

In Dr. Sue Johnson’s book, HOLD ME TIGHT – Seven Conversations for a Life Time of Love, she talks about 3 Keys to Emotional Connection that are needed for love to sustain. They are as follows:

A = Accessibility    This is about  you being there for each other. This would be physically and emotionally. It means being willing to be open and share your feelings . You share and listen on a deeper level with one another.

R = Responsiveness     You respond to your partner or spouse’s signals that they need you. When there is a fight or disagreement you make it clear you want to resolve the issue. You are there when your partner or spouse is feeling anxious.  You create a feeling of safety with each other.

E = Engagement    You are emotionally engaged with each other in a positive way. You feel safe enough with each other to talk about anything. You care about each other’s feelings and well-being. There is a sense of connection even when you are not physically with each other.

Dr. Johnson calls this A.R.E. Quoting Johnson, she says you can remember this with the simple phrase, “Are you there, are you with me?”

 Dr. Johnson is a clinical psychologist and researcher and is the founder of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy. I have found her research and work immensely helpful in my work as a therapist. She has 30 years of research under her belt and has been focused and adult love attachments and how to repair breaks in love relationships. Her book HOLD ME TIGHT is intended for the public and is excellent.

I wish you the best in finding ways to be emotionally connected to your loved one.