Notes on Hold Me Tight by Dr Sue Johnson

Part 1: Attachment and Presence

  • A = Accessible. Each partner needs to be emotionally accessible; each partner can read the other’s emotional state and recognise important shifts in that state. I expect this means that, if asked, each partner is willing to share how they’re feeling (beyond “I’m fine” or similar).
  • R = Responsive. Each partner can acknowledge and respond emotionally to their partner’s needs if they make requests. They aren’t dismissive or distracted, they are present when called upon.
  • E = Engaged. Outside of requests, each partner remains emotionally engaged. They value their partner, check in regularly and remain close.
  • Attachment Fear = A fear that your attachment is not strong enough e.g. “I’m worried you will leave me because I am X” / “I am scared of commitment because past partners hurt me.”
  • Attachment Need = What you need for your attachment to feel strong e.g. “I need you to still love me, even if I am X” / “I need you to promise not to hurt me like that again.”

The Seven Conversations

  • “Sealed off” sex — In this mode, the goal of sex and touch is simply to reduce sexual tension. People who feel emotionally unsafe in their relationship will gravitate to this mode and will focus on impersonal gratification and sensation.
  • “Solice” sex — Couples tend to have solice sex when one partner is seeking reassurance or a relief from anxiety. Sex is used as a means of resolve and not pursued in and of itself.
  • “Synchrony” sex — In this mode, partners are emotionally present during sex and touch, and combine physical sensation with exploration, eroticism and love. This is the mode of sex and touch couples should aim for, according to Johnson.

Commentary

  • For EFT to work well, it seems as if the fundamental problem at the heart of the relationship must be some sort of benign misunderstanding (“I close off because I’m actually just scared of losing you! I get angry because I need you so much!”). Each partner is supposed to voice their attachment needs and then, if they’re genuine, the other just… meets them? Maybe this is often how it goes but I didn’t hear of examples where the attachment needs couldn’t be met or if the fear is actually well-justified. It all felt a bit too clean.
  • Johnson is very self-aggrandizing. She’s often the hero in the case studies and regularly describes how clients have life-changing moments of realisation in her sessions after she offers a breathtaking insight. These moments are clearly heavily embellished and they make me distrust her as a narrator.
  • Beasley & Ager (2019) ran a meta-analysis and did find that marital satisfaction was improved and sustained by EFT (I haven’t read the details).
  • Another RCT not by the developers found that EFT caused “greater improvement in relationship satisfaction among men and women” (I didn’t dive in here either).

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