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Tidal Wave of Disconnect - 'Freeze and Flee' Dance

Even being caught in a ‘Freeze and Flee’ Dance, couples who are dedicated to taking a step into the troubled waters together, and are choosing to build a closer emotional bond, can do so.


Insecure cycles of connection, over long periods of time, can ultimately lead to physical and emotional disconnect, as well as complete isolation. When we addressed the various forms of ‘Demon Dialogues’ encapsulated on by Dr. Sue Johnson, we start to see that couples who have been stuck in ‘Protest Polkas’ can begin experiencing a whole other level of disconnect with one another. This emotional disconnect is referred to as the ‘Freeze and Flee Dance’.

When therapists start to catch this pattern with couples, they’re beginning to witness partners starting to push each other away, forming withdrawing stances on each side. That common defensive and denial stance from either side has ultimately dissipated into pilots flying in different directions. The self-protection, or guard to let someone see what’s happening inside, has turned into a mindset of feeling nothing with their partner present.

These are moments when partners begin to form a calm disconnect with one another – “no, I get it,” “it’s okay, you’re fine,” “we can do what you want,” etc. The partner approaches softly, but they’re reaching out from a place of emotional detachment.

The driving wedge for couples counselors in these scenarios are the statements partners have about themselves. Outside of creating a plea bargain for their partner’s attention or emotional comfort, they begin holding tight to remarks about themselves – “I’m unworthy,” “I’m not good enough,” or “I deserve this,” to name a few. This beginning cycle of self-sabotage, and shame, rings deep in the ‘Freeze and Flee Dance’, compared to what you’ve read or learned about the prior two ‘Demon Dialogues’.

Like we see working with individuals from insecure attachment experiences, couples in this insecure connection begin internalizing their own emotional experiences and learning to fend for themselves. Although we might be able to piece together what we’re feeling, when we start to completely disconnect or become unsure of where to meet our needs, we begin solely looking at incidences logically, or analyzing it instead of processing. Partners can begin clinging to this same level of disconnect that they experienced as a child, holding tight to their partner, despite managing pain on their own.

Because we still see two individuals holding hopeless on to one another, we get to step in an instill hope, an integral component of this model of therapy. For couples caught in this tidal wave of disconnect, we piece together where the disconnect is occurring and help catch where insecurities are formed – piecing together raw spots and injuries that have erupted into these withdrawing patterns with one another.

It is our responsibility to stay aligned and attuned to each partner in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. This means that we’re validating, and remaining responsive and engaged, with all individuals sitting in front of us.

Even being caught in a ‘Freeze and Flee’ Dance, couples who are dedicated to taking a step into the troubled waters together, and are choosing to build a closer emotional bond, can do so.

Please reach out and schedule an appointment with us today. If you’re needing emotional support and an understanding that will guide you and your partner into a closer bond, we’re here to help. If you want this, we can cultivate that attunement together. Thanks!

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