Over the next few weeks, we will be reading the book Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson, the developer of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy. Want to go back to the beginning of the series? Just click here.
The second conversation Dr. Sue Johnson tackles is Raw Spots. Pretty much everyone has them – pockets of emotional vulnerability and hyper-sensitivity that can cause us to react less-than-rationally. Often, when a partner unknowingly hits the other’s raw spots during a conversation or argument, it starts to go off the rails and devolve into the demon dialogues we discussed last week.
Much of the chapter is taken up with discussing examples of what a raw spot can look like. You see, they’re not always so obvious, and neither are their triggers. For instance, someone using the same turn of phrase as a childhood bully could trigger a raw spot. Or, perhaps it’s a certain look or body language that is reminiscent of arguments that you and your partner have had in the past.
When raw spots are so subtle, it can be hard to identify them. A key mechanism for identifying them can be thinking about the moments when an argument seems to “go off the rails.” Dr. Sue Johnson says that this will look like a “radical shift in emotional tone” – there’s even a chance that you’re not in an argument at the time. Raw spots can be triggered by a joke or seemingly innocuous comment.
Once you identify what’s exactly triggering these emotions, the next step is to try to identify why the facial expression, turn of phrase, or whatever it is causes such negative reactions – and then share the why with your partner. This can be very difficult, as raw spots generally stem from some level of trauma or intense negative experience, and you and your partner may already be experiencing some trust problems. However, opening up and discussing the triggers is necessary – if your partner doesn’t understand why something is upsetting you, they won’t be able to avoid it effectively.
All of this may feel a bit like common-sense, but it’s definitely worth doing an audit of the last few arguments with your partner. Did one of you suddenly escalate the argument or completely shut down for seemingly no reason? That’s a raw spot, right there. Even if it’s not causing you any obvious problems, it’s worth identifying the issue. If you want more examples of what raw spots look like, definitely grab a copy of Hold Me Tight!
Next week, we’ll be digging into the third conversation Dr. Sue Johnson discusses: Revisiting a Rocky Moment.