Hans Jorg Stahlschmidt, PhD
Certified PACT Therapist, PACT Core Faculty
A central function of the brain is to detect patterns. It must make sense of the data that bombards us from our ongoing internal and external experience. An aspect of this function is to support the sense of continuity and cohesiveness of the self. One way to understand this is the brain’s bias for narrative.
The brain does not function well without purpose, meaning, cohesion, and connectivity. It is busy trying to filter and assemble the data toward a cosmos. The brain cannot exist in chaos without severe repercussions for mental health and functioning in the larger world.
The magnitude of data that the brain is required to process makes it inevitable that significant omissions, mistakes, and distortion occur. These errors in pattern detection and assembly are filled by the left brain in its “narrator” function. The left-brain narrator function often works...
Patricia Hart, Ph.D.
PACT Level 3 Therapist, PACT Ambassador
We have all encountered that moment of impasse with our couples (and probably with our own relationships) when each partner feels like the injured party. The other is perceived as dangerous, and neither partner wants to or feels able to make a reparative move. Witnessing the struggle that ensues feels like watching a race to the bottom.
These moments remind me of my pothole theory of marriage:
The sun is shining, a soft breeze is in the air, and life is good. You and your partner walk down a winding road. Suddenly, a pothole appears. Before you can stop, you and your partner descend into a large dirty hole. How did it happen? Does it matter? The only important task is to help each other out as fast as possible so you can resume your enjoyment of the gorgeous day together.
If only life – and relationship – were so easy.
Couples locked in the grip of mutual recrimination are dysregulated....
By Lisa Rabinowitz
LCPC, PACT Level 2
We have all been in situations in which we feel misunderstood by our partner. We might be left scratching our head, wondering why our partner just doesn’t get us. PACT therapists recognize that such misunderstandings or misattunements to nonverbal and verbal cues are similar to what can happen with babies and their primary caretaker(s). We know from attachment theory that if the caretaker is unresponsive, punitive, anxious, or inconsistent, then the baby may fear abandonment or withdraw or overreact, developing an insecure attachment. On the other hand, if the caretaker responds in a consistent and reliable manner, then the baby will develop secure attachment, believing the caretaker will be there for him or her in the future. As adults, this kind of signal-response...
By Sefora Janel Ray, MFT
I had no idea when I took the PACT training to become a couples therapist that it would affect my personal life so dramatically. I can confidently say now that the reason I’m in a secure relationship is because I took the PACT training and learned how my attachment style affected my dating life. Through PACT, I gained the understanding and skills that helped me to find the love of my life and to create a fully supportive partnership.
I’m a therapist, so I knew for years that I had what is known in PACT as the wave style of attachment (also called the anxious ambivalent or the angry resistant attachment style). My parents divorced when I was five; both my parents worked full time, and I didn’t get the individualized attention and care from them that I craved. They were both very angry and critical of each other, which sometimes leaked onto my sister and me. In adulthood, I was aware that the lack of...
Eda Arduman, Ma.
PACT Level II therapist
Agreeing to disagree can be easier said than done. Some people believe that their beliefs and values constitute their character, and thus can’t be changed. But a relationship in which change is disallowed will not be successful in the long term. The process of understanding a partner—including the risk of having to change in unexpected ways—can be bewildering. For example, who takes the leadership role? Who follows? The couple must learn to negotiate their differences, as well as any resulting conflicts, while creating and maintaining secure functioning.
I work in Istanbul, a city that bridges two continents, and cross-cultural couples are common in my practice. I want to share one example. Roland is Belgian, and Didem is Turkish. They met while students at a university in London, and have been married for 13 years, with two children. She works as an executive, he as a consultant. They joint...
by Mary Ackerman, MIC, BASS (Cllg); CARE Counselling Hong Kong, PACT Level II practitioner
Philippe and Grace, who have been married for twelve years, are clients in my clinical practice in Hong Kong. He is French Swiss and works in finance, and she is Korean American and works as an auctioneer. They have three daughters. They sought therapy after Grace found out that Philippe had been paying for prostitutes on his overseas travel. He admitted to fathering a child in the Philippines.
When I asked why they had come to therapy, both said, “To save our marriage.”
As I worked with them, I found it helpful to observe the influence of the three domains of PACT: attachment theory, arousal regulation, and neuroscience. An overwhelming sense of anger and fear ran through each session, and these domains helped me understand this challenging couple so I could develop an effective treatment approach.
First, their attachment styles were key....
Every species of mammal uses the limbic system—the social, emotional, relational part of the brain—to create strong bonds that provide safety and a felt sense of security. Adult-child bonding is especially crucial for the development of the complex human brain and nervous system, and the development of an internal felt sense of security in the world—both real and perceived. When parents are too often inattentive of their child’s emotional needs, this bonding does not happen optimally, and the injury of insecurity can prevail.
Memories, especially negative ones, are extremely powerful in influencing our perception of the world and our behaviors. Our subjective experience is colored by our past. All experiences, at any age, involving fear and threat are “velcroed” into the memory system in the interest of self-protection, but memories from...
Emotional development doesn’t happen in isolation. The entire field of psychotherapy rests upon the premise that one human being can help another to move beyond vestigial strategies developed in the context of the distant past and to live life in a way that is less encumbered by personal history. We consider this to be emotional or psychological growth. Part of the blessing of being human is that this process can be ongoing as we learn, grow, and continue to develop across our entire lifespan.
As a PACT therapist, PACT trainer, and husband who continues to put PACT principles to the test in my own marriage, I have been awed by the acceleration of development and maturation that occurs within a committed partnership when both parties co-create a foundation of secure functioning. This is the bedrock that PACT helps couples stand upon, and that supports a resurgence...
Healthy, secure relationships are a source of vital energy. PACT therapists know people feel good when they understand how to be successful partners. We are energized by a secure connection to another person. Our need to be securely attached is so powerful that it can get us through the hardest of times and help us float through day-to-day routines with ease, skill, and grace.
Secure functioning is based on a high degree of respect for one another’s experience. Interactions and shared experiences are fair, just, and sensitive. If your partner feels even slightly unwanted, undervalued, disliked, unseen, or unimportant, he or she will—quite frankly—act weird and underperform in the relationship.
Insecurity and insecure attachment negatively affect brain performance. Development can be slowed down because the brain is using most of its resources to...
by Elaine Tuccio, LCSW, PACT faculty, Austin, TX
Email: [email protected]
One of the most common complaints made by couples who come to therapy is that they feel they do not know how to communicate well with one another. The words “we have problems communicating,” or something along those lines, are often preceded or followed by a deep sigh—the signal of long-held misery and defeat.
The PACT therapist using the Partner Attachment Inventory (PAI) can obtain enough information within the first session to help a couple see that their problems are not simply communication. In fact, where couples tend to falter most is in reading signs and signals—the nonverbal cadence on which primary attachment relationships are built. Life’s forces have caused drift in their relationships. A mix of financial stress, betrayal, conflicting priorities of career and family, and addictions have thrown them into survival mode. As a result of early unmet developmental...