The Survival Dance that gets in the way of the Encounter

We flee or fight to avoid pain.  In psychodrama  we call those ways of being the coping roles.  The path to the progressive, being fully alive, is to be with the vulnerability of the pain and attend to it.  This can’t really be done alone, yet no-one can do it for you.

This is a universal idea and present in many modalities.

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The title of this post comes from Hedy Schleifer’s ECcT – Encounter Centred Couple Therapy. On her website she says:

“I want them to leave knowing that the “survival dance’ that they have been dancing for such a long time is “not’ who they are in their essence.”

She also calls it “from coping to living”

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EFT – Emotionally Focussed Couple Therapy – has a similar concept – http://www.drsilvinairwin.com/what-is-eft/ :

“EFT sees distress in relationships as centered in the loss of secure emotional connection, and that a negative cycle or “dance” is established when that loss of connection is experienced. These cycles are often characterized by anger, criticism, leaving, or appearing indifferent, to name a few. Once established, these cycles can crop up over the slightest issue, and over time be corrosive to the bonds of trust and security in the relationship. EFT aims to help couples stop these negative cycles by first identifying and mapping out this cycle, then helping couples identify and articulate their needs and clarify their emotional signals in a way that helps their partner to have greater understanding, compassion and responsiveness.”

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Imago Relationship Therapy has the same philosophy. It comes to it this way:

“Our essential state is that of relaxed joyfulness and empathic connection.

… we protect ourselves with maximizing and/or minimizing defenses and also block the expression of our basic functioning (thinking, feeling, sensing, and acting). These defenses disrupt the flow of our pulsating energy and disrupt our essential state of relaxation, joy, full aliveness, and connectedness.”

Harville Hendrix uses these three headings:

    • Staying alive
    • Feeling alive
    • Fully alive — relational

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Karen Horney in Our Inner Conflicts – A CONSTRUCTIVE THEORY OF NEUROSIS – W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York 1945

“Compulsive drives are specifically neurotic; they are born of feelings of isolation, helplessness, fear and hostility, and represent ways of coping with the world despite these feelings; they aim primarily not at satisfaction but at safety; their compulsive character is due to the anxiety lurking behind them. Two of these drives—neurotic cravings for affection and for power—stood out at first in clear relief and were presented in detail in The Neurotic Personality.”

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Gottman. https://cdn.gottman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/The-Four-Horsemen.pdf

The four horseman of the apocalypse – same idea, there are coping strategies that lead to disaster:

“Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling.”

In Psychodrama role theory covers all of the above – we identify the coping gestalt of roles. Roles are a full description of functioning in the moment and incorporates thought feeling and action.

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I’m reflection on “essence”. If we get the coping out of the way will “who they are in essence” just come to the for? Or does spontaneity require learning, just as coping does?

Is encounter and spontaneity something that requires training?

It requires connection.   Couple therapy is to train the other person to be there – to surrender to the auxiliary ego.

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