(Check out part I to learn more about these reactions affect our relationships: Part I)
For our emotional and instinctual brain loving and being loved are indistinguishable from survival. Thus the fight or flight mechanism often fuels our reactive cycle with our partner. This happens so quickly that we are often unaware of what is happening. When with the help of a therapist we are able to slow things down staying in “present process” we can discover the depth of our responses and how they hearken back to deeply held patterns and ways of seeing ourselves and the other. We carry these imprints with us and so when our emotional needs are not met we go on automatic pilot , we react by either attacking or withdrawing based on our templates from the past. Underneath these reactions are the longings of our hearts and the many disappoints or “attachment injuries” that we have been covered by the fight or flight reaction.
When we are in a safe holding environment afforded by a seasoned couple’s therapist we can recover these vulnerable places. By staying open to our belly, where we carry our fears and need for support, our heart where we feel our longings and past hurts and disappointments, and our head where we hold various beliefs about ourselves and our partner we access our deeper selves in ways that reveal these depths to our partners in real time, this is ground zero of “present process” the cornerstone and foundation of healing our relationship and restoring a depth of love and connection.
As we can uncover these longing and hurts of the heart we can map out how these deeper feelings fuel the reactive cycle between our partner and ourselves. As our partner witnesses us reclaiming these unnamed and unspoken feelings and longings for connection, their heart also softens and they recognize their own hurt and their part of the reactive cycle also emerges. At first we may not trust these shifts and so we share our own fears of trusting what we have been witnessing maybe allowing a glimmer of hope to arise again, held with a guarded and tenuous hesitancy, guarding against another painful disappointment
As we both disclose our fears this becomes part of the new dance we can discover with our partner staying present and noticing our own hesitancy, as we recall past hurts or defend ourselves. We may also rush towards problem solving or trying to meet our partner’s needs. Coming back to our experience we are reminded to “stay where we are “with our own “present process” and to dance with one another allowing ourselves to meet just where we are in the present. This leads to a fundamental paradigm shift when partners stop blaming one another and become a team united in an effort to understand and overcome this reactive cycle that has kept them stuck. Through staying in present process we have begun the dance of reclaiming intimacy.