Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson is a great book on why emotional intimacy is the real core of every successful relationship.
- The emotional need to be close to our partners is wired in our genes
- Effective dependency means that we are stronger when (securely) dependent to our partner
- Communication fixes the signs of relationship troubles. To fix the cause, we need to build emotional intimacy
The author says that John Bowlby with his attachment theory revolutionized the understanding of human psychology.
And she would put him ahead of Freud when it comes to contribution to human psychology’s understanding.
Emotional Attachment Is a Basic Need
Sue Johnson says that love is the pinnacle of human evolution. It bonds us together and helps us survive.
We need emotional attachment as much as we need food, sex and shelter.
When a safe connection is lost we go into fight or flight mode. We get aggressive or shut down.
Trauma and Attachment
Having someone emotionally close to us whom we can rely on has been proven to strongly affect how people recover from traumas.
As a matter of fact, the secure attachment types survivors of 9-11 were even better adjusted after the trauma.
The author goes quickly over the different types of attachment styles.
She says it’s normal we all experience a bit of fear when we we disagree and argue with our partner. The arguing impact different attachment styles very differently though.
It’s a small blip for secure attachment types and avoidant attachments don’t mind too much either.
But it’s overwhelming for anxious attachment types.
Unsecure type descend into a “primal panic” when they fear about their partner’s attachment -for example after a fight-. And do two things:
- They become clingy and demanding (=notice me, care about me!)
- Withdraw and detach trying to soothe (=I won’t let you hurt me, I’ll stay in control)
They work at the beginning, but they set out a vicious spiral of insecurity that pushes the couple farther apart.
Couples with demand-withdraw patterns are emotionally starved. Usually it’s the woman who pursues as she’s more emotionally attuned.
The author say we fail to repair these dynamics because we are not attuned to our partners.
Communication Is No Fix
Sue Johnson says that most couples’ therapy so far focuses on fixing conflicts and power struggles. But those are only the signs, not the core of the problem.
Communication and negotiation will not fix the problem. Happy couples, she says, communicate no better than unhappy ones.
The best predictor of marriage solidity is the couple’s emotional responsiveness (also read: turning towards).
The basic of E.F.T (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is A.R.E.
A.R.E. stands for:
- Accessibility: Can you reach your partner?
- Responsiveness: Can you rely on your partner to respond emotionally
- Engagement: Does your partner value you and stay emotionally close
Basically, these are the question: Are you there and are you with me.
The 7 Conversations
The first four conversations limit the negativity in the relationship. They are what Gottman mostly focuses on in his Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse.
Th The next two conversations demonstrate how you can promote emotional bonding through forgiving injuries and sexual intimacy. The final conversation shows you how to care for your relationship on a daily basis.
1. Recognizing Demon Dialogues – First of all you identify the common emotional reactions that lead to arguments and negative cycles. This is basically where you learn emotional intelligence.
2. Finding the Raw Spots – You learn to look beyond the immediate reactions to better understand your feelings, craving and deep needs.
Raw spots are particularly important because they relate to painful sensitivities that are particularly damaging when touched. The author says it often stems from past relationships (also read Getting the Love You Want for how our past influences us)
3. Revisiting a Rocky Moment – Break down and analyze some a typical argument. Go beyond the anger to understand how your deeper needs are shaping up your cycles of negativity.
The fourth conversation is the one that transforms relationships by making them more accessible, emotionally responsive and engaged.
4. Hold Me Tight® – Here you learn to be emotionally accessible, responsive and engaged. This is the bedrock of a solid relationship.
The last 3 all rest on the emotional foundation of the fourth conversation.
5. Forgiving Injuries– Forgive the past hurt so that you can move forward.
6. Bonding Through Sex and Touch – Emotional connection enhances physical connection and the two feed into each other in a positive cycle.
7. Keeping Your Love Alive – Here you learn to make your Hold Me Tight learning a mainstay of your relationship.
Real Life Applications
Embrace Your Emotional Needs
In 8 mistakes women do in dating I mention of an ex of mine whom was always struggling to be independent from me.
As Hold Me Tight explains that’s a mistake: we are all wired for connection and emotional co-dependency with our partners make us stronger.
Learn Emotional Intelligence
Becoming more emotional intelligent will not only make your relationships better, but it will outright improve your lives.
You can check here a few examples of how emotional idiocy makes for terrible relationships.
7 Conversations Confusing
Listening to the audiobook I find it hard to clearly define and differentiate among the seven conversations.
Indeed I feel like we didn’t need seven conversations. Hold Me Tight should have stayed the core and only concept and all the other conversations mentioned as supports.
Overall, it was a bit too long. The real pity is that it felt that the main core message was a bit diluted.
A lot of conversation examples could have been shorter for example, and more strongly tied back to the need for emotional understanding and emotional connection.
Same for the part on sex.
Excusing Anxious Attachment
The author says that the powerful emotions she experiences in couple’s therapy are not irrational but make perfect sense. That’s true, but I wouldn’t want it serves a justification for the anxious attachment types to justify their behavior.
Anxious also need to take concrete steps to tackle their oversensitive attachment systems.
The core message of Hold Me Tight is deep wisdom that is really at the core of solid relationships (and healthy lives) .
Hold me Tight is a must read for anyone who wants to understand relationships and human nature.
Particularly eye opening for me was the idea that communication and conflict management is often about solving the signs and not the root problems.
Read more summaries or get the book on Amazon