Photo: woods wheatcroft photography

Dancing through Our Relationship Panic

couples, relationship, divorce, workshop, Dalia Anderman, HMT, Hold Me Tight, Sue Johnson, EFT, Emotional Focused Therapy

Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in… (Leonard Cohen).

We are all longing for that “safety in connection — for that sense that we can let go of our anxieties and relax, knowing that we are held and witnessed. We want that feeling of “I am safe with you,” that when I need you, you will be there for me, and you have my back. We all need that.

We are wired for connection as part of our survival. For most of us, our sense of intuition will alert us to any emotional danger in our relationships, and any disconnect signals danger. We then want to protect ourselves, by prompting a protest, a fight or flight, or freeze response.  It is when that safe love connection gets compromised that our primary panic alarm sets us off, alerting us to the danger of disconnect from a loved one.

Our infants and children know how to respond when they feel the danger of our disconnection: they experience separation anxiety. But when we have secure bonds with our children, we are quick to offer them comfort and reassurance. We all need that as adults, too.

We all long for that sense of being  “gathered safely in,” when we can truly let go, take a deep breath, lean in, and let our shoulders down.

Dr. Sue Johnson, the author of Hold Me Tight and Love Sense, and the originator or EFT (Emotional Focused Therapy), says:   “Our loved one is our shelter in life. When this person is unavailable and unresponsive we are assailed by a tsunami of emotions — sadness, anger, hurt and above all, fear. This fear is wired in. Being able to rely on a loved one, to know that he or she will answer our call is our innate survival code.”

When we sense that a primary love relationship is threatened, we go into a primal panic.  Underneath all the loud arguments and long silences, partners are asking each other the key questions in the drama of love: “Are you there for me? Do I and my feelings matter to you? Will you respond to me when I need you?” The answers to these questions, questions that are so hard to ask and so hard to hear in the heat of a fight, make the difference between emotional safety and emotional peril and starvation.

We can unlearn the survival response and develop skills of connecting. As much as we are wired to survive, we are wired to connect. In workshops, we see couples who were planning on separating rediscover the love they once had… and develop the tools to keep it. Because that’s the real challenge: learning the tools to keep that connection open.

Adopted from Dalia Anderman, LMFT blog.  To find out more about Emotional Focused Therapy and the Hold Me Tight couples work, please go to the website:

couples, relationship, divorce, workshop, Dalia Anderman, HMT, Hold Me Tight, Sue Johnson, EFT, Emotional Focused Therapy

Dalia Anderman, LMFT will be leading a two days Hold Me Tight Couples workshop, with Owen Marcus, MA, Rolfe, author, workshop leader and men’s trainer (, in Sandpoint, Idaho, on Nov. 19 & 20. For questions call 265.8440.  For more information and to register for the workshop go to  

photo by fsHH / Pixabay

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