The Science of Relationships: Healing, Emotion, & Connection with Drs. Sue Johnson & Jim Furrow

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Episode Summary

We’re made for relationships. It’s knit into our DNA, knit into our purpose. But relationships are a kaleidoscope of emotions. And psychologists Sue Johnson & Jim Furrow are helping us understand more about the science of relationships, the role that emotions play in healing conflict, and how our human connectedness impacts human thriving.

Show Notes

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“Our society doesn't want to hear about how interdependent we are—doesn't want to hear that if we want to thrive, we have to put people first and we have to create community. And people need connection with others like they need oxygen. If you create a world where that connection isn't very available or it all happens on a screen, you are going to have huge problems. You are going to have huge problems with depression, anxiety, suicide, emptiness—people are going to make terrible choices.” (Sue Johnson) We need each other. We are relational beings, and our thriving—or languishing—often hinges on relationships. In this episode, psychologists Sue Johnson and Jim Furrow not only explain why relationships are so important, they offer practical advice on how to pursue healing, emotional regulation, and lasting thriving in all kinds of relationships. Sue Johnson is the creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy, the gold standard in tested, proven interventions of couples and author of many books including Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Jim Furrow is a marriage and family therapist and an internationally renowned trainer of Emotionally Focused Therapy. This conversation goes from profound to practical, covering the biological and psychological science to explain why belonging gives way to becoming. We discuss the rampant emptiness and loneliness, fear, and depression people today experience and the connection between relationships and a sense of meaning in life. Sue and Jim also provide a framework for how to understand your attachment style and the way it impacts your relational health. And they discuss the practical ways we can grow and change so that we can engage in and sustain fulfilling and life giving relationships. In this conversation with Sue Johnson & Jim Furrow, we discuss:
  • What it means to be fully alive, in all the existential fullness that being human means
  • How to bring together the spectrum of emotional realities with our lived experience
  • The crisis of loneliness we face today, and what we can do about it
  • The role of empathy and caring in the healing process
  • An introduction to attachment science, the role of attachment figures in thriving relationships
  • And the therapeutic and relational practices that lead to security, a sense of worth, empowerment, and competence in life.
About Sue Johnson & Jim Furrow Sue Johnson is the creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy and author of many books including Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Jim Furrow is a marriage and family therapist and an internationally renowned trainer of Emotionally Focused Therapy. Show Notes
  • We’re made for relationships.
  • “We need to understand how crucial relationships are for us. They are oxygen. We need to help people value them and learn how to have them.”
  • “If we're not willing to risk and we're not willing to reach, we're not going to necessarily be found.”
  • “You can't be a self or by yourself. I think that says it all. That's the most basic human interaction. Do you share my reality? Is my reality valid? Do you see what I see? Can you make sense of it? Can you help me make sense of it? Is what I'm feeling making sense? Can you share it? Am I alone? I mean, this is the most basic human contact of all.”
  • The purpose of our being and our means to becoming.
  • Episode Summary
  • Pam King welcomes Sue Johnson and Jim Furrow.
  • What is thriving meant to you?
  • “Full existential living… fully alive.”
  • Carl Rogers
  • “Trust yourself to go through life in an active way.”
  • “Fulsome being… not only who I am, but who I’m with.”
  • Purpose, meaning, and connection
  • Therapy is not only about reducing thriving to the treatment of symptoms.
  • Coherence vs Binary Thinking: “How does all of this cohere in a new way of making sense?”
  • Mother and Child: Explaining reality and needing other people to do so
  • Unexpected, unknown, and fear
  • Attachment figures
  • Fullness vs. Emptiness
  • The relational isn’t just a means to an end. It’s our purpose.
  • Sue’s relationship with her father: “He was an amazing attachment figure.”
  • “I’m an ardent feminist.”
  • Understanding attachment through loss and grief
  • Sue Johnson on working with trauma survivors
  • John Bowlby: “You do unto yourself as you’ve been done to.”
  • “Just to have some sort of sense of who you are, coherent sense of self, you need the recognition from another person. Yes, you matter. Yes, you're important. Yes, you have meaning. Yes, I see you. … to not feel seen, to not feel like you matter to anybody is, it's excruciating for human beings.”
  • “One safe relationship with a loving other. seems to protect us and create resilience.”
  • Jim’s loss of his father: “I know he's going through a difficult time, but I believe in him and I know he will make it.”
  • The power of attachment
  • Fully oneself, fully connected with another
  • Attachment to God: foundation, protector, shield, transcendent
  • Spirituality and experience of attachment through the beauty and transcendence of nature
  • “My life is part of this beauty.”
  • Animate, invigorate, create.
  • “Your worth comes from your connection to others.”
  • “But no, we're not enough. But I think our society doesn't want to hear that. It doesn't want to hear about how interdependent we are. Doesn't want to hear that if we want to thrive, we have to put people first and we have to create community.”
  • Interdependence and affective dependence
  • How to forge relational bonds.
  • Attention
  • “Love and bonding is about attention and if you don't give attention to the other person in your relationship, which means if you don't take the time, make it important enough and focus down and spend time, then whatever connection you have naturally erodes.”
  • ARE—Accessible, Responsive, and Engaged
  • “It’s more than date night… it’s about engaging with the other person.”
  • “Loneliness and depression are going to be the main problems for the next century.”
  • Relationship-driven church communities
  • “One of the things that is a heartbeat in our work in emotionally focused therapy is calling individuals into opportunities to share vulnerably with one another.”
  • John Cacioppo (loneliness researcher): we have changed deep relationships from an essential to an incidental.
  • Vulnerability and loneliness
  • Depressed or heartbroken?
  • The impact of smartphone technology on relationships
  • Empathy and caring in the healing process
  • “When the vulnerability becomes specific and makes sense and is accepted, then people have words for it, they can tolerate it, and they start to be able to share it. And when they do that, they pull their partner towards them. They evoke empathy and caring. That’s the only solution to human emotional pain that there really exists—s the empathy and caring of another. That is true in religion too. It's the empathy and caring of a God figure. That's about bonding. It's about sharing vulnerability.”
  • “No one goes through vulnerability alone.”
  • Belonging leads to becoming
  • Pam King’s key takeaways:
  • Being fully alive means finding coherence and connection with others. finding meaning in human and spiritual relationships.
  • Relational bonding is built in to our genetic code. We're built for connection and made for relationships and we have to work at it.
  • Relationships are powerful. They are capable of bringing sorrow and joy. To the extent that they're able to break us down, they're even more able to build us back up and bring us to healing.
  • Longing for relationships is natural and normal. While loneliness can be so frightening, it does not need to be stigmatized. But it does need to be worked through.
  • Often healing comes through the very wounds we're hurting with. We heal when we open up in vulnerability, when we seek transcendence and connection with others, and ultimately with a loving and caring God


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A Practice: Examine the Presence, Absence, and Quality of Your Relationships

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