Written by Alison Lee, Ph.D., C.Psych Certified EFT Supervisor & Trainer Ottawa Center for EFT and first appeared in the ICEEFT newsletter.
In a recent session, a young couple was describing an argument and I was trying to help them to see their cycle and reach de-escalation.
Mattie had had a row with a colleague at work and was hoping that her husband, Brian, would understand her distress and validate her in a comforting way. Instead, he told her that if she had only approached this incident differently, then she would have avoided this particular problem. As you might imagine, this exchange escalated to a cycle with Mattie feeling not heard and blamed and Brian feeling unfairly shouted at and withdrawing.
As an EFT therapist, I naturally avoided the content and instead stayed with the process of what happened within and between the couple.
What emerged was Brian’s compassion for his wife and his sense of inadequacy around what to do when she was upset. Having no other tools in his toolkit, he had used the only tool at his disposal – and as you can see, shot himself in the foot with it! Tuning in to his primary emotion and his longing to help her, I re-framed his clumsy advice as his “gift” to her – from his perspective, the gift of avoiding painful problems in the future by doing ‘x’. This is a metaphor I use quite frequently with couples.
My clients have given each other the “gift” of advice, of shutting down to protect the relationship, even the gift of criticism at times.
It is often met with laughter, but couples can usually play with this image. It captures the good intent of clients who simply do not know how to connect with their partners.
I also use this metaphor when supervising therapists who are new to the EFT model. Very often, a therapist indulges in “gift giving”.
For example, using phrases such as “Try saying it softly to him, using an ‘I’ statement” or “Instead of that, tell him what you really need” to a Stage 1 couple who are in full blown cycle. We have all felt the need to give the couple something that makes us feel that we are helping them.