Author (Greek version): George Brekoulakis
Translator: Harriet Spala
“The way we were” (1973), is an American film where Katie (Barbra Streisand) is a liberated woman and Hubbell (Robert Redford) is a dynamic man. They meet in College before WWII, and their love affair untangles after the war where Katie works for a radio station and Hubbell, having served in the Naval Army tries to adapt to civil life as a writer – screenwriter. Katie seems to let herself go in her relationship with Hubbell and lives intense moments with highlight a pregnancy while Hubbell seems to focus on his career plans in Hollywood. The lead actors will live a romantic love with impacted feelings that will not be negotiable leading each of them to a separate path in their lives.
Attachment behavior in Adult Love Relationships
Researchers Hazan & Shaver (1987, 1994), have presented findings regarding the strategies of emotional attachment which have been defined from childhood and also found in adult love relationships. They have discovered the following emotional strategies: a. seeking a love relationship in a safe way b. seeking a love relationship with an insecure-preventing way and c. seeking a love relationship with an insecure-irritable way. These strategies can be analyzed as an answer to the question: “Can I rely to my partner when I need him/her?” Whoever answers “Yes” in the previous mentioned question, are partners who feel trust in their relationship have an open communication and possess the experience of a flexible collaborative relationship. Whoever answers “Maybe” in the same question, tend to have an insecure-irritable relationship where with difficulty they handle emotions of sadness and anger as well as a need for recognition and acceptance. Whoever answers “No” in the previously mentioned question, consequently, it is the past of their partner characterized by abuse, abandonment or rejection and gives no hope for a safe (normal) relationship. The strategy of insecurity-avoidance is where the partner avoids the closeness or dependence and sees other people as not trustworthy.
Emotional Brain & Couple Therapy/Consultation
Knowledge of the brain’s function (Cozolino, 2010), may help a couple to accept easier the unconscious behaviors such as being defensive or conflict, as they are presented as a part of the brain function against a real or unreal threat of closeness within a relationship. Explaining the upper and lower brain emotional functions to both members of a couple, they realize that sometimes it’s not them that react impulsively but mostly a part of them that leads from the limbic system (basis of emotions) and another part which directs towards the neocortex (basis of logic). This way each member of a couple can comprehend not only the psychological but also the biological possibility to impose those irregular emotional reactions, liberate them from emotions of shame, make them accept their experiences and obtain faith to their behavioral self-control. Knowledge of the brain function helps a couple to take a step from a negative self criticism to the acceptance of the relationship so that the necessary changes may occur.
Psycho-neurobiology of Couples & Couple Therapy/Consultancy
Each member of a couple learns during the therapy session that the traumatic events are saved in the brain’s limbic system and that the problems of their relationship are due to the personal history of each one separately but also due to their interaction (Atkinson, 2005). Fear, anger, pain are hidden in the unconscious memories that are activated in situations that seem like a dysfunctional communication in the relationship without the realization of the connection between the current negative emotion and the previous traumatic event. Very often the reactions of here and now are not totally comprehended until the couple searches their past and that with the aid of the couple therapist/counselor (Fishbane, 2013). These neuro-biological findings are very useful in cases of unequal power struggle in the couple. In this case these people, who form the couple, realize that the power struggle is a sign that their partners are emotionally weak and they select that type of struggle to draw their partner’s attention.
Therapeutic exercises in empathy lead couples from the transition of the power struggle to the better communication of personal and mutual needs, the acceptance of weaknesses and in mutual caring and understanding.
Emotional Intelligence Growth in Couple Counseling/Therapy
The Couple Therapist/Counselor by aiming in growing the emotional intelligence within couples, is bound in creating a quite safe emotional environment in which each couple member is able to explore the emotional communication motifs, each couple member is encouraged to be informed the single and dual non verbal communication, to explore unconscious memories that affect the relationship (Davila & Kashy, 2009). In Couple Therapy the partners rely on the therapist to offer the emotional adjustment towards the continuous conflicts. The emotional intelligence growth of a couple refers to train each partner in the language of feelings so that they can appreciate eye contact, the tone and intense of their voice, the body language and the facial expressions. The couples through the training of emotional intelligence learn that their arguments and conflicts are opportunities to come closer as one partner may not be trained enough to know that his/her own negative feelings can be tolerated and understood provided they are expressed in an appropriate way.
During the process of emotional intelligence growth in couple therapy (Gottman, 2011), the members of each couple are encouraged from the Therapist/Counselor to name their feelings so that the impulse can be limited, to calm down the brain’s limbic system and to some extent the communication between the couple to synchronize and become more flexible. Naturally that is not easy for everyone – especially for the ones under therapy whose family or society has not encouraged this synchronization and empathy. In this case practice is necessary in recognizing these feelings starting with the body language that accompanies these feelings. Another important exercise is the capability of self-calming/soothing that enhances emotional intelligence. A psychologically healthy relationship includes each person to keep calm and the ability to turn to his/her partner for emotional support. If a partner is incapable to cover this need, this becomes a reason of conflict between them. Exercise in self adjustment tactics gives the couple the opportunity to handle their emotions so that the tension between them decreases. The ability to keep calm leads to balance between self adjustment and being able to seek emotional support from others in a healthier way and thus each member remains mentally strong within the relationship.
The way we were (instead of an epilogue)
We the people are memories, and maybe the corrective experiences of those memories. The lyrics of the film’s Oscar awarded music score, describe the power of the memories that enlighten the mind and leave a bitter sweet melancholy of the best years of the film’s leading actors.
The way we were (Barbara Streisand, 1973)
Misty water-colored memories of the way we were
Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were
Or has time rewritten every line
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we?
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
So it’s the laughter we will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were
The way we were
Atkinson, B. J. (2005). Emotional intelligence in couples therapy: Advances from neurobiology and the science of intimate relationships. WW Norton & Co.
Clulow, C. (2001). Attachment, narcissism and the violent couple. Adult attachment and couple psychotherapy, 105-118.
Cozolino, L. (2017). The neuroscience of psychotherapy: Healing the social brain. WW Norton & Company.
Cordova, J. V., Gee, C. B., & Warren, L. Z. (2005). Emotional skillfulness in marriage: Intimacy as a mediator of the relationship between emotional skillfulness and marital satisfaction. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24(2), 218-235.
Fishbane, M. D. (2013). Loving with the Brain in Mind: Neurobiology and Couple Therapy (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). WW Norton & Company.
Gottman, J. M. (2011). The science of trust: Emotional attunement for couples. WW Norton & Company.
Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of personality and social psychology, 52(3), 511.
Siegel, D. J. (2015). The developing mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. Guilford Publications.
Solomon, M. F. (1994). Lean on me: The power of positive dependency in intimate relationships. Simon & Schuster.