Emotionally Focused Therapy Helps Find the Raw Spots when you Unintentionally Hurt your Lover

All of us have a raw spot in our emotional skin a hypersensitivity that is
tender to the touch. When it gets scratched or rubbed, it can bleed all over
our relationship.

A raw spot originally forms from moments in a person’s past when attachment
needs were repeatedly neglected, ignored or dismissed resulting in the person – the
child, teenager or adult in a past romantic relationship – feeling:

• Emotionally Deprived, or
• Emotionally Deserted.

These two Ds get triggered to varying degrees for all lovers in their present
relationships, living in all kinds of life circumstances, some of which may be quite

Here’s what happens when a raw spot gets scratched or rubbed:

• An attachment cue from your lover stirs things up inside you. Usually it’s a look, a phrase, a change in your lover’s tone of voice. The cue irritates your emotional raw spot and sets off an alarm. Your brain tells you something bad, painful, strange is going to happen.

• Your body responds in a flash. Your stomach churns or your voice goes shrill or you grow cold and still. It happens with lightening speed. Blood flow speeds up in your hands when you’re angry, in your legs when you’re scared.

• And then you act, always before you think. Action is wired into every one of our emotions:
• Anger tells you to approach and fight.
• Shame tells you to withdraw and hide.
• Fear tells you to freeze, run away or, in real extremes, turn and attack.
• When the action is all over, your intellect in your prefrontal cortex catches up with your amygdala. You decide what the attachment cue really meant.
• Your conclusion is what you’re left thinking and feeling in the aftermath. The meaning you give to what happened is often toxic for your relationship. It’s remembered the next time your raw spot gets scratched or rubbed by your lover and your reaction is worse than the last time.

Here are some examples of raw spots that almost always trigger attachment cues,
in an instant!

1. Sally’s expression goes blank when Harry is in the middle of explaining something that’s really important to him and he suddenly can’t find the words to describe it. Then he gets a heavy, sinking feeling in his stomach.

2. Jim forgets to pick up some groceries he promised Jane he’d get on the way home from work. When he shows up empty handed, she doesn’t greet him and ignores him for the rest of the evening.

3. Franki and Aaron are visiting Aaron’s old college campus and he tries to show her the classroom where he taught years ago as a graduate teaching assistant. She tells him they don’t have time and insists they drive home to beat the traffic. Later that night – without a word – Aaron ups and leaves their apartment and spends the night in a hotel.

4. Linda flirts harmlessly at a party with a handsome, highly successful friend from Texas and teases her husband Joe with the line from a recent TV commercial, “All my ex’s live in Texas.” Joe, looking like he’s been struck by a lightning bolt, abruptly leaves the party.

5. Whenever John holds back from telling Linda she looks good or that she’s done something well, Linda’s face grows sad, John gets irritated and reminds her of how insecure she is.

6. When Mary tells Steve she’d like to have more sex, he tenses up and tells her she’s acting like an insatiable nymphomaniac.

7. After Steve calls her a nymphomaniac, Mary goes ballistic and tells him how excited she gets over three guys at work – including her boss – that would just love to get into her pants.

8. John complains that Sally almost never has orgasms and then tells her in a cold, clinical tone of voice that she might have Body Dysmorphic Disorder and suggests that she go see a shrink.

9. Mary gives birth to their baby and Charles feels he no longer exists for her. Whenever they’re alone, he never talks to her or always finds some chore to occupy himself.

10. Franki and Aaron are having sex and Franki, feeling tense, fakes an orgasm. Aaron withdraws from her and retreats to the living room. She follows him, pleading with him to forgive her and he blows up at her and tells her she’s done this with every guy she’s ever been with and acts like a whore.

Choose one incident from above, one that really moves you. Then pick one of the injured lovers. Describe the injured lover’s raw spot and how he/she responded. Then both of you describe how you identify with the injured lover and how the scene might apply to both of you and how you trigger each others raw spots.

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