• brain
  • psyche
  • attachment
  • connection
  • relationship
  • boundaries

Humans NEED connection.


Podcast Episode 7: Conversation with Dr. Sue Johnson

Episode 7_ Conversation with Dr. Sue.mp3

  • emotions drive drama
  • One of the most important things in modern life (if not the most important thing) is relationships.
  • we cannot ignore the emotion.  The emotion is a sign to us.  The emotion is telling us something.  The emotion is a road sign.  Says STOP or GO or turn left or right or go straight.
    • When we learn how to share emotions with our partner we connect on a different level
    • Learn how to walk around emotions and name them
    • Emotions are pushing and poking partner
      • can be signs of loneliness, scared, afraid they are no one to anyone
  • Terrorize with
    • treats of rejection, threats of distance
    • moving away, shutting down, numbing out, when this happens you are stuck.


  1. go into moments of disconnection (drama)
  2. work together to get couple back into balance – name emotions, identify root of emotions resulting in couple turning towards each other again
  3. Creating bonding moments.  This develops trust.  This writes a new story.  The disconnection is always there it is always in the past. History will never change.  But this process is writing a new story.  Instead of the old story being “remember the time you hurt me” it becomes ” remember the time I was suffering and we worked together through that situation, you listened, you helped me through”.

Rewire brain with intentional ways of bonding.  Neuroplasticity.  We can remold our brains through our intentional experiences.   Trauma healed through relational context.

Our past experiences (trauma or good things) scribe grooves into our brains.  In times of stress our emotional responses default into the old grooves gouged into our brains.  We see situations through our lens of past experience.  We can basically expect our spouse to revert or fall back into the groves of past experience by default when under stress and respond accordingly.

Trauma healed through relationships.    New way to establish points of contact, way to heal severed relationships/bonds that creates loneliness and helplessness.  Loneliness and helplessness are which are the core elements of depression and anxiety and despair and unrest in relationships. (couples, kids, family, community, city, country, continent, world)

What we need to heal is to re-establish bonds and relationships…  Rock solid bonds, relationships, trust.  There is power in knowing:

  • faith in others
  • someone has your back
  • you are precious to someone
  • there is someone you can turn to when faced with danger and trauma
  • there is someone there when you are overwhelmed

This need/longing is deeply rooted in our bones.

Relational love is an ancient wired in survival code.

Couples grow each other…

What is the power of naming feelings and articulating them.

Emotions MOVE us.  Emotions are a motivating force…

emotion (n.) Look up emotion at Dictionary.com1570s, “a (social) moving, stirring, agitation,” from Middle French émotion (16c.), from Old French emouvoir “stir up” (12c.), from Latin emovere “move out, remove, agitate,”

My top defense strategy that I use when experiencing negative emotions is 1) Shut down / Numbifying  (FROZEN – do nothing) and 2) Intellectualizing, Logicaffying (blocking emotions) and looking at situations purely by logic.   I do this to avoid vulnerable feelings.

I need to put it together, get ability to look at emotions, give them a name, put them in order, make sense of it.  I want to be the best. I want/expect you to tell everyone I am the best.   Need to say “I am scared that I am going to hear you say:”

  • I can’t please you
  • not good enough for you
  • not good enough for kids
  • not the best husband
  • not the best father
  • you don’t trust me
  • you don’t love me
  • you will leave me
  • I don’t provide enough
  • I am too fat
  • I am too dumb (gardening, taking care of the house, fixing things)
  • you want someone else
  • I disappoint you (with house, car, hobbies, fitness)

I spend my whole life waiting for that message, and I interpret you are saying it by your emotions and the things you say.  Based on past experience I have a reason to be scared.  If my wife was perfect she would never do any of the above.  She would never reject me.   This is where I live, in fear.

When I look at your face I see disappointment, contempt and discuss.

I can’t come close to you because I spend my whole life waiting for your rejection.

What I need from you is:

  • reassurance

I don’t want to be afraid all the time. I need your acceptance.  I need to know that you love me.  When we get stuck in arguments I need you to hear me and give me space. I need you to help me turn back to you because I do want to be close (loved, affirmed, trust, know you have my back, build me up).  I am just someone who has a place in me that is scared of rejection.  (everyone is scared of rejection)   I want your help with it.

Fight, fright, freeze, collapse (chemicals in brain)   vs. tend and befriend.

Response to fear on an animal level… makes it difficult to make a good decision taken from rational logic to respond to the situation.   (Think, plan, come up with actions that will integrate and create harmony.

The ability to appropriately identify and balance emotion and logic.  The emotion is a message (road sign) and it must be heeded (considered) and at the same time some distance from it we need to access rational logic to think, plan and come up with actions that will integrate and create harmony.   Integration and harmony cannot be achieved ONLY  by logic or ONLY by emotion.

Need to get to a place where:

  • I can articulate what I am feeling
  • take responsability for feelings
  • express a need
  • be vulnerable about it (re: knowing I am not entiled to it and maybe I feel I am not entitled to expect it)
  • NOT feel entitiled to it being met but…
    • but feeling touched that if it is met what a awesome gift from my partner that it is met.


What I need from you is….

With my kids… I need to teach them:

  • be emotionally responsive to kids.
  • teach kids they live in a world where people will come when he calls
  • he is precious
  • he is special
  • the world is understandable
  • emotions are something he can manage
  • inner emotions are ok

Human beings are social bonding animals.  We are not designed to stand alone.  Denying vulnerability and our need for others is a weakness not a strength.

The more secure you are the more confident you are:

  • more healthy
  • more confident
  • more assertive
  • more able to face risk and challenge
  • deal with trauma better
  • if you do meet a dragon on the road (meet trauma) you are more able to deal with it

9/11 what did everyone do?  They called their loved one.

  • source of strength for people is relationship
  • when something scary happens the first thing we do is relationship.
  • Even when spouse is not around we talk to them…  Self talk relationship.. example fear of flight
    • Listen to husbands voice in head
    • Trusts that voice
    • It’s ok
    • your not in danger
    • you will go up in air and talk about hings that matter
    • you will come down and go home with spouse.

CO-REGULATION of emotions works much better than self regulation.

Best thing to do is to understand it is a huge risk for people who have been very traumatized and violated.  Just stay there and support them and help them order and support them identify emotions.  Repeat back the emotions that you hear from them.

I miss it. I missed the cue. Cannot respond with  “see I know that was true”, “I cannot solve that problem”, “you are right you do repulse me” I cannot try to fix it.  That is not going to build the relationship.  That breaks it.  The point is to build the relationship with empathy.

When in sadness, anger, and fear…. can you just stay here, stay connected, not try to solve it, work with me and my emotions, know that the emotions are not bottomless, the man just being there IS the solution providing warmth, pressense, confidence that she is NOT alone, trust that there will be no judgement.  Men just dance.  It is about attunement, listen to the music (wife), feel the cues she is sending, be present, move with them.   Dont go off in your head and solve the problem, or come up with different senarios in your head.

My most common emotional list Emotions

  • Better (as in “I feel better” or “I am feeling better now”)
  • Bad
    • Guilty
    • Sorry
    • Sick
    • Sad
    • Ashamed
    • Worried/Fear/afraid
    • Stressed
    • Frustrated
    • Annoyed/exasperated
    • Overwhelmed
  • Good
    • Relaxed
    • Well
    • Comfortable
    • Happy
    • Content
    • excited – looking forward to somthing / anticipate









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