{Couples} Detrimental Cycle – EFT Worksheet

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Below are two worksheets to help couples become familiar and map out their negative cycle(s). One of the first tasks of a therapist is to determine the cycle of negative interactions of a couple, which is conceptualized as a pursue/withdraw pattern in EFT. A pursuer protests the separation and distance he has experienced in love; This indicates an anxious attachment style. On the contrary, the withdrawer often distances themselves from their partner in the form of criticism or rejection to protect themselves from the lack of security in the relationship. This is a typical feature of avoidance attachments. Of course, the more times a pursuer tries to contact (usually through nagging, criticizing, and demanding closeness), the withdrawer needs to distance themselves to establish a sense of security. Pursuers often express underlying emotions, such as feeling hurt, lonely and unwanted, while withdrawers often show feelings of rejection, inadequacy or judgment.

OUR NEGATIVE CYCLE:

WHEN I AM UPSET BY YOU WHEN WE ARE NOT GETTING ALONG, I FEEL (some feelings are on the surface, and some are deeper, less conscious feelings):

  • Angry, Pissed off, Sad
  • Alone, Abandoned, Disappointed
  • Justified in my anger, Like I have to figure this out myself
  • Frustrated by him/her, Deprived
  • Annoyed, Irritated Despairing, Hopeless
  • Scared, frightened, Like I want to protect myself
  • Anxious Hurt, Not heard, Not valued, Not important

WHAT I THEN DO IS (BEHAVIORS):

  • Criticize you, blame you
  • Interrupt you
  • Try to manipulate to get what I want from you
  • Yell, Attack, Say nasty things to you
  • Beg or Plead
  • Demand
  • Point out how you are letting me down or hurting me; try to get you to understand how you hurt me
  • Explain again and again what I want
  • Pull away, Withdraw, Give up
  • Refuse to talk to you
  • Get logical and point out how irrational you are
  • Find solutions, try to fix it so the conflict will stop or so that you won’t be so upset or angry
  • Defend myself
  • Try to show why I am right and you are wrong
  • Justify my feelings and actions
  • Counter-criticize or counter-blame or counter-attack and say nasty things to you

 

I BEHAVE AS I DO (ABOVE) IN THE HOPE THAT (WHAT I LONG FOR IS): BUT WHEN I DO THIS, YOU SEEM TO (CHOOSE FROM THE BEHAVIORS ABOVE):

 

WHEN YOU DO THIS, I FEEL (CHOOSE FROM THE SURFACE FEELINGS ABOVE):

 

THESE BEHAVIORS DON’T WORK. INSTEAD, WE GET STUCK IN THESE REPETITIVE CYCLES THAT UPSET US BOTH.

BUILDING A SAFE AND SECURE RELATIONSHIP Changing Negative Cycles to Positive Cycles Begins with De-Escalating as a Couple

WHEN I AM UPSET BY YOU WHEN WE ARE NOT GETTING ALONG, I FEEL (some feelings are on the surface, and some are deeper, less conscious feelings):

  • Angry, Pissed off, Sad
  • Alone, Abandoned, Disappointed
  • Justified in my anger, Like I have to figure this out myself
  • Frustrated by him/her, Deprived
  • Annoyed, Irritated Despairing, Hopeless
  • Scared, frightened, Like I want to protect myself
  • Anxious Hurt, Not heard, Not valued, Not important

WHAT IF WHEN WE WERE HAVING DIFFICULTY I TOLD YOU THAT….

  • I realize we are beginning a negative cycle and that I am contributing to it
  • I realize we are a system and I am affecting you
  • I would like to be safe and close to you rather than distant, disconnected, alone, and afraid of what will happen
  • Our cycle feels like it is present and I want to help alleviate it
  • I care about our relationship and I won’t do the next thing that hurts or scares you and pulls you deeper into our negative cycle
  • I’d love it if you slow down with me so we can reconnect. We can always figure out what to do about the problem later when we’ve provided assurance and safety and our physiology has returned to normal.
  • If you aren’t ready to de-escalate with me as a team, I will anyway because I love you and want to be close and connected.
  • I realize and take seriously that you need to experience me as safe.
  • I realize that when I’m wrapped up in my own needs and hurts and feel a need to protect myself, I’m not thinking about you and how you feel. I’d like to shift into protecting you and us instead of protecting just me.
  • I realize and take seriously that if I am anxious, scared, angry, and frustrated, you probably are, too.
  • I realize you are upset, too, and I am pledging you support and empathy even though I’m also upset. 
  • I want you to be happy.
  • I want you to know how important you are to me, how much I care for you, and that I want to protect our relationship.
  • I realize and take seriously that I have to trust you and also be trustworthy.

 

WHEN I’VE DONE THESE THINGS, YOU SEEM TO:

 

 

WHEN I SEE YOU DE-ESCALATING AND REASSURING ME OF YOUR AFFECTION, I FEEL:

 

 

Adapted from: Hold Me Tight, Dr. Sue Johnson; Little, Brown & Company, NY 2008.





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