Snippets from “Hold Me Tight”

I just started reading this book called Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson and I’m finding it very enlightening.  Here’s a few snippets (citation below)…
We now know that love is, in actuality, the pinnacle of evolution, the most compelling survival mechanism of the human species.  Not because it induces us to mate and reproduce.  We do manage to mate without love!  But because love drives us to bond emotionally with a precious few others who offer us safe haven from the storms of life.  Love is our bulwark, designed to provide emotional protection so we can cope with the ups and down of existence.
This drive to emotionally attach – to find someone to whom we can turn and say “Hold me tight” – is wired into our genes and our bodies.  It is as basic to life, health and happiness as the drives for food, shelter, or sex.  We need emotional attachments with a few irreplaceable others to be physically and mentally healthy – to survive.
Attachment theory teaches us that our loved one is our shelter in life.  When that person is emotionally unavailable or unresponsive, we face being out in the cold, alone, and helpless.  We are assailed by emotions – anger, sadness, hurt, and above all, fear.  This is not so surprising when we remember that fear is our built in alarm system; it turns on when our survival is threatened.  Losing connection with our loved one jeopardizes our sense of security.  The alarm goes off in the brain’s amygdala, or Fear Central, as neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux of the Center for Neural Science at New York University has dubbed it.  This almond-shaped area in the midbrain triggers an automatic response.  We don’t think; we feel, we act.
We all experience some fear when we have disagreements or arguments with our partners.  But for those of us with secure bonds, it is a momentary blip.  The fear is quickly and easily tamped down as we realize that there is no real threat or that our partner will reassure us if we ask.  For those of us with weaker or fraying bonds, however, the fear can be overwhelming.  We are swamped by the neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp of Washington State university calls, “primal panic.”  Then we generall do one of two things:  we either become demanding and clinging in an effort to draw comfort and reassurance from our partner, or we withdraw and detach in an attempt to soothe and protect ourselves. (<Ding, ding, ding!  that’s me.)  No matter the exact words, what we’re really saying in these reactions is:  “Notice me.  Be with me.  I need you.”  Or, “I won’t let you hurt me.  I will chill out, try to stay in control.”
These strategies for dealing with the fear of losing connection are unconscious, and they work, at least in the beginning.  But as distressed partners resort to them more and more, they set up vicious spirals of insecurity that only push them further and further apart.  More and more interactions occur in which neither partner feels safe, both become defensive, and each is left assuming the very worst about each other and their relationship.
If we love our partners, why do we not just hear each other’s calls for attention and connection and respond with caring?  Because much of the time we are not tuned in to our partners.  We are distracted or caught up in our own agendas.  We do not know how to speak the language of attachment, we do not give clear messages about what we need or how much we care.  Often we speak tentatively because we feel ambivalent about our own needs.  Or we send out calls for connection tinged with anger and frustration because we do not feel confident and safe in our relationships.  We wind up demanding rather than requesting, which often leads to power struggles rather than embraces.  Some of us try to minimize our natural longing to be emotionally close and focus instead on actions that give only limited expression to our need.  The most common:  focusing on sex.  Disguised and distorted messages keep us from being exposed in all our naked long, but they also make it harder for our lovers to respond.
Until we address the fundamental need for connection and the fear of losing it, the standard techniques, such as learning problem-solving or communication skills, examining childhood hurts, or taking time-outs, are misguided and ineffectual.
Hope you found that as intriguing as I did.  Now I’m going to keep reading….


Johnson, S.  (2008).  Hold Me Tight:  Seven conversations for a liftetime of love.  New York:  Hachette Book Group, Inc.


~ by Eva on September 15, 2009.

One Response to “Snippets from “Hold Me Tight””

  1. […] “Hold Me Tight” Cont… 2009 September 21 tags: Communication, Counseling, Dating, Emotions, Family, Life, Long-Distance Relationships, Love, Marriage, Marriage Counseling, Personal, Random, Relationships, Thoughts by Eva Here’s the first part… […]

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