On Improving Our Therapist Attachment Lens

There was a baseball player, Will Clark, San Francisco Giants, who I followed back in the day.  He had the most elegant swing and could hit the ball for power and got on base often (my apologies to non-baseball fans, but this will make sense soon).  His baseball lens for seeing the ball coming to the plate was unsurpassed.

Turns out, Mr. Clark had 20/10 vision.  Yes, he saw things 20 feet away as if they were 10 feet away.  Remembering this got me thinking about my attachment lens.  When first doing attachment-based work, I believe my vision was more like 20/100.  Attachment bonds that were right in front of me looked like they were miles away!   I needed encouragement from supervisors, my mentors, and from the families I worked with.  Time and time again, the strength of underlying emotional bonds rose to the surface.  But in the beginning, I need contact lenses or glasses to see the underlying attachment.

Without corrective lenses, such as reading a lot of Bowlby, consulting with others who believed in the central importance of attachment, learning E.F.T., my vision got cloudy.

Now, after years and years of this work, I think I spend more of the day with 20/20 attachment lenses.  I aspire for the 20/10 vision of Will Clark.  And at times, there are glimpses of that.  This is part of the journey that is most difficult learning E.F.T.  It has been, and continues to come back as a struggle, that is the clarity of my attachment vision.  When I see, feel and sense underlying insecure attachment rather than doubt the couple’s bond, the model or myself, then the power of E.F.T. increases.  And then a couple comes and challenges me, and my vision gets fuzzy again.

How do we improve our attachment eye sight or heart sense?  These are things that helped me and what I’ve heard from other therapists:
1)  Ask couples who succeed what made the difference in early sessions?  Often they report that it arose directly or indirectly from the therapist focus on and use of the attachment lens.
2)  Look for attachment and attachment dances everywhere we can (in movies, songs, stories, poetry, dance, in our own lives and the lives of our loved ones, in biographies, and more).
3)  Read attachment research and revisit Bowlby, Ainsworth, or the newer researchers like Shaver and Mikulincer; we can immerse ourselves in learning about the attachment lens from science research.
4)  Listen to my own attachment emotions, heighten them and share them; I find the value in sadness, experience hurt, acknowledge fears and explore longings with my couples (and in my own life).
5)  In my primary relationship, do Hold Me Tight work, talk attachment, deepen our bond, and
6)  If not in a romantic relationship, find a friend, a sibling, a loved one to do this work with … it is so tough to learn EFT while feeling alone in the relational world.
7)  Be willing to lean in and linger in attachment emotions with our couples, and to believe in their bond more than they do when we meet them and in early work.
Bonus:  Get regular doses of Sue talking about attachment and EFT, watch her tapes.  Gather with colleagues, create “attachment safe zones” for discussion of cases where we assume a bond between couples or family members and work from that basis, supporting each other in the journey.  Have fun with developing clearer vision…celebrate progress…and be gentle with ourselves along the way.
Another opportunity is to attend a Creating Connections Conference, the upcoming one in D.C. in September or in the Netherlands, every other year, in March.  These conferences inundate attendees with the latest information on attachment from the top researchers and clinicians.
With cloudy or poor attachment eye sight, we have to work harder, we become technicians trying to do the model.  We back away in the face of the negative cycle, conflict or apparent apathy from the partners. We lose our EFT Mojo.  As a result, we lean in less and analyze more.  Anxiety goes up, and our presence gets fuzzy to them.  They lose sight of us.  Safety in the room decreases, reactivity rises.
With a clearer attachment lens, we see the dance as attachment distress in motion.  We recognize moments of connection.  We begin naming the reaches and responses happening in front of us with more confidence and grace.   Our alliance moves to the couple, the “us,” to their emotional bond.
Jim Thomas, EFT Trainer, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor and Clinical Fellow
P.S. Rumor has it, that Will Clark’s eyesight moved towards 20/20 as he aged and his career progressed. It went in the opposite direction that we want our attachment lens to go.  And accordingly,  his batting average and home run production dropped with it.  Fortunately, we have attachment lens exercises, stretches, habits and experience to move towards 20/10 vision!
jim in tallin
Copyright, 2016, Jim Thomas, All Rights Reserved, Use with Permission Only