How does Emotionally Focused Therapy fit for couples with a deep faith that guides their daily life? By providing "Garden of Eden emotional moments" in marriage centered on the fact we were all created for connection. It seems science discovered how God created us to connect.
Truth Belongs to the Lord
It seems my whole adult life has directed me to answer this question for myself and those who seek me out for help with their relationship. I have sought to come alongside and assist couples in their journey to experience the marriage they always dreamed of since I became an ordained pastor in 1999 and throughout my professional career as an Army Chaplain and Marriage & Family Therapist.
My goal was to discover how I could best use the gifts and skills God had given me to best serve couples in their journey toward experiencing their relationship in the way they dreamed it could be. In this pursuit, I found myself agreeing with St. Augustine's stance of viewing all truth as God's truth where he said, "A person who is a good and true Christian should realize that truth belongs to the Lord, wherever it is found. . ."
Integrating Clinical Research into Theology
I realized that when I integrate my theology with sound, clinical research I am not blindly searching for interventions to experiment with. I tap into what God already hard-wired within that promotes healing. The clinical research found what God already created when He “created my inmost being” and “knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13, New International Version). This realization gave me the freedom and confidence to rest in the fact that there are reliable and well-researched clinical models available to guide my pastoral counseling.
I also agree with Richard Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation's recent article A Human and Divine Pattern where he explains how "therapists Sue Johnson and Kenneth Sanderfer write about how loved ones can deepen their emotional connection to each other and become more open to receiving God's love."
Sue Johnson and Kenny Sanderfer based their book Created for Connection on the very sound research of Emotionally Focused Therapy and Attachment Theory. This approach to helping people heal is what I discovered as the most effective way through which I can come alongside and assist couples in reaching the goals they have for their relationship.
Garden of Eden Emotional Moments in Marriage
What follows is the foundation for how to experience "Garden of Eden emotional moments," and how I integrate evidence-based theory into my pastoral counseling (Cheney, 2017) as it relates to Attachment Theory and Emotionally Focused Therapy.
Attachment theory and faith-based terminology seem to integrate very well. When the Christian Scriptures are compared to attachment theory, there seem to be similarities that nicely facilitate this integration. Similarities begin with the creation account in the Christian tradition where the first couple relationship is highlighted. The Scriptures state that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, New International Version).
The Scriptures seem to continue highlighting the importance, closeness, and sacredness of this relationship as Adam states in the creation of Eve, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23, New International Version). Scripture goes on to reason, “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:24– 25, New International Version). Key faith-based terms and phrases stand out when an attachment lens is applied to these Scriptures. These terms and phrases include “male and female he created them,” “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” “they become one flesh,” and “were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
Perhaps the strongest attachment, faith-based phrase emerges from Adam and Eve’s relationship where they “felt no shame.” This short statement seems to suggest their relationship was comprised of the vulnerability and trust found with some of the key tenets of attachment theory. Some of the key tenets of attachment theory include the concepts of secure dependence, an essential safe haven, a secure base, and an emotional accessibility and responsiveness (Johnson, 2004). Attachment theory and faith-based terminology seem to integrate well in these specific examples taken from the Christian Scriptures.
Not only do specific Scriptures seem to emphasize the importance of attachment in relationships, but this theme also seems to continue throughout this account in Genesis. God’s creation of man and woman, and their subsequent relationship in the Garden of Eden, may provide a great example for relational health when viewed through an attachment lens. Adam and Eve seemed to experience secure attachment in their relationship in the Garden of Eden before they ate the forbidden fruit. Their behavior after this incident seems to show how their relational health declined from what God intended. This behavior, described in the Genesis 3 account, describes how shame and a lack of vulnerability emerged. They made clothes for themselves and hid from God in the trees of the garden. Before this experience, Adam and Eve seemed to be in a perfect relationship with each other characterized by the vulnerability, acceptance, and connectedness described in Genesis 2:25: “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (New International Version). This theme in the creation account in Genesis seems to provide an example of how Adam and Eve experienced secure attachment as they lived their lives together and how insecurity emerged, bringing disconnection.
These examples seem to provide an opportunity to integrate attachment theory with faith- based terminology. Johnson (2013) stated “the first and foremost instinct of humans . . . is to seek contact and comforting connection” (p. 19). This contact and comforting connection is answering “the core attachment question of ‘are you there for me?’” (p. 219). Adam and Eve’s relationship described in the Genesis creation account seems to answer this core attachment question in the affirmative. They were there for each other in a vulnerable and trusting way, void of shame. The Scriptures seem to suggest that Adam and Even engaged in this way by God’s design.
Johnson’s (2013) goal for couples to learn to experience this type of secure attachment seems very similar to God’s design when describing key moments in this type of relationship, “These kinds of primal emotional moments are so significant that, as with all such ‘hot’ moments, our brain seems to faithfully store them, filing them in our neural networks as the protocol for how to be close to others” (p. 222).
When the creation account in the Christian Scriptures is taken into consideration with what Johnson identifies as primal emotional moments perhaps faith-based terminology can be applied here by describing these moments as Garden of Eden emotional moments. Garden of Eden moments seem to describe the relationship experienced by Adam and Eve that began with perfect emotional engagement, vulnerability, and secure attachment.
Attachment theory and faith-based terminology seem to integrate nicely. Johnson and Sanderfer (2016) agreed: “I placed the science of EFT alongside the ancient wisdom of the Christian Scriptures, clear and consistent parallels between EFT and biblical teachings about divine love and God’s teachings about human love leapt out at us” (p. 4).
We were all created for connection
How does Emotionally Focused Therapy fit for couples with a deep faith that guides their daily life? By providing "Garden of Eden emotional moments" centered on the fact we were all created for connection. It seems science discovered how God created us to connect. We specialize in Christian marriage counseling using Emotionally Focused Therapy focused on guiding couples through experiencing "Garden of Eden Emotional moments." Are you ready to experience these "Garden of Eden emotional moments?" Meet our team and request your appointment today!
Counseling Services at Valiant Couples Therapy and Marriage Counseling
Christian marriage counseling isn’t the only service we offer in our Fuquay Varina counseling clinic. Other mental health services we provide include individual therapy, couples and marriage counseling, Emotionally Focused Therapy, couples intensives, online therapy, and couples workshops.
Cheney, G. J. (2017). Emotional Connection of Military Couples after 16 Years of War: Integrating Pastoral Counseling with Evidence-Based Theory. Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling, 71(3), 176-182.
Johnson, S. M. (2004). The practice of emotionally focused couple therapy (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Johnson, S. M. (2013). Love sense: The revolutionary new science of romantic relationships. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Johnson, S. M., & Sanderfer, K. (2016). Created for connection: The ‘‘hold me tight’’ guide for Christian couples: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.