For all my U.S. readers, hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving.
Today I’ll be sharing the results of a recently published exciting study about how an improved relationship really changes your brain.
‘Tis an exciting time for couples therapists and coaches, folks.
And for couples in distress…there are more of you than you realize:
The leading researchers in the field of couples therapy – Sue Johnson, for one – has shown us relationship guides a way to help couples out of distress and back to connection.
And, even better, she’s proven that her approach works.
In countless studies, Sue Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), has shown that couples are able to repair what seemed like broken relationships, and grow even stronger than they ever were before.
It gets better:
In Sue’s most recent study, in which she partnered with James Coan, it was proven how a successful round of EFT actually changed partners’ brains.
You read that right: EFT changes people’s brains, and there is physical proof of that.
The study replicates a famous experiment called “the hand holding experiment” that Coan did back in 2006, but adds a round of EFT in to help folks out.
In Coan’s original study, women were placed in an fMRI machine, which measures activity of the brain.
They were told they’d be shocked when an “x” appeared on the screen.
Naturally, their fear centers lit up when they saw the “x,” and they reported that the experience was scary. Further, the shock was experienced as painful, and their brains registered pain.
In Coan’s study, when a stranger held their hand, there was some minimal improvement and the women were somewhat comforted, but even so, their fear centers lit up and they registered pain when shocked.
When these women were in happy marriages and their partners held their hands, their brains barely even registered the pain or fear.
Coan’s study was so groundbreaking because it pointed to the power of healthy relationships and how they actually mitigate the way our brains perceive threat, fear and pain.
Here’s the latest twist on the research:
The study was replicated with women in distressed relationships. Neither a stranger nor their partners could ease their pain or fear.
Couples then went through a series of EFT sessions, and the women were placed back in the fMRI machine for the same study.
The stranger’s hand now helps, a little. The fear and pain are a little lessened.
But even better:
When her partner holds her hand – after going through the safe bonding and establishing the security of the relationship through the process of EFT – there is very little brain activity that registers fear or pain.
Her entire experience changes, and this is confirmed by the physical results of the fMRI.
The take home message here is twofold:
1.) EFT really works. On a neurological level. We have proof.
2.) The power of relationships is mighty. When we are safe and secure in our relationships, the world is much easier to be in. We are healthier and stronger because of it. When we’re not safe and secure in our relationships, everything is much more difficult.
We’ve all experienced #2 above, but it’s time we accept that as fact, and recognize & honor our biological need to have emotionally secure relationships in order to thrive in this lifetime.
Finally technology has afforded us the ability to look closer at ourselves and realize what we’ve known innately since the beginning of civilization.
It’s time to stop denying this and claim our best relationships.
EFT is one proven set of directions there.
I hope you are as impressed with this amazing work on brains and relationships, and what it means for our world as I am!
Cheers to your best relationship,
P.S. Here’s the link to that study!