Yolanda von Hockauf on EFIT, Attachment & EFT-Tango

Yolanda von Hockauf interviewed by Dr. Sharon Brehm

Sharon Brehm: I’m so proud. I’m so honored to meet you here. Okay, so how are you doing?

Yolanda von Hockauf: Well, you know with everything that’s going on, it’s so wonderful to be able to find, that online therapy and online training, including EFT with individuals – I’ve already done a training in that online – it really is quite effective. It works. I feel really fortunate to be able to meet with my clients, do supervision, and teach EFIT online – and help therapists learn, even now. Which is what I’ll be doing for you in Germany in September.

Sharon Brehm: It’s so lovely, to have you in Germany. So if your younger self, like two or three weeks younger self… What would you tell your younger self, what you’ve learned during Corona?

Yolanda von Hockauf: The self, that was right before Corona? Well, I would definitely tell that younger self, to give more time to slow it down and take care of myself, to consider reworking my lifestyle a little bit, to involve less travel to and from the office, to take more time to maybe start – like I do here at home now – my day a little later… and do something for myself. Maybe a bit of yoga, or take some coffee with my husband before we both start to work on our computers. And don’t rush, rush, rush as much. What is the point? And that there is more important things, than being out there all the time, going into stores, buying things, running around. Keeping life a little simpler! So you talked a lot about slowing down, and I find it so interesting, because slowing down is also such an important part in EFT. Yes, it is. And we can’t notice things about ourselves, because we tend to go through things like lightning. Even our brain does, our limbic system. It just jumps so quickly into our actions. So slowing it down is such a lovely way to track our own process, and become more aware of it. And how can we do anything with something, that we’re not yet aware of? So I love the slowing down. What is your advice and experience on how to slow down? Well, I still think, that it’s not an individual decision to slow down, or an individual process. We are creatures of attachment, and we are interpersonally regulated by others. From the moment were born, we learn about the world, about ourselves, and about others availability for us. From moment were born, some people say even before. If we cry, does somebody hold us? Does somebody respond, or are we left? If we are happy, does somebody see us, but not if we cry? I have clients like that. So we become co-regulated by others from the moment we are born, and we learn so much about our worth, our value, what we’re allowed to be or not be. So for me slowing down is about security with ourselves and with others. Slowing down is about I can be me, and I can listen to my signals on the inside. I’m allowed to listen to them, they’re okay. I don’t have to hide them. I don’t have to put away my real self. I can listen to my needs, but also, I can share those with others. I can connect with others from that place of health and security. And I can make slowing down an interpersonal thing as well. Or I can share that I want to do that with others, like we just did. And then we affirm each other, and we have smiles, and we talk about the beauty of slowing down… and the safety, we can have by sharing those things, makes it a stronger thing than we can do for ourselves. So I’m always thinking about the internal and the interpersonal. Even with slowing down, that we share that idea, and we become more okay with it, because we receive support and encouragement.

Sharon Brehm: I love your answer, because it’s so much about accepting, also these parts which are so little. There is so little time for like negative emotions, for like actually slowing down.

Yolanda von Hockauf: I also just want to say, that it doesn’t mean, that it’s so simple and easy to slow down. I might have, what you mentioned as negative emotions. I might start with some anxiety, which is of course a fear response. “Like, will I get everything done? What are people gonna think of me, if I don’t get all these emails done? – and don’t find just the right way to respond to these requests with the right wording – Is that going to be okay? What will people think of me? Will they still want me to come, and be their therapist or be their trainer?” If I slow down and listen to my own inner self, and I paced myself differently. And I don’t just anxiously react to everything around me, will that be okay? There will be some fear, right? So, there is something vulnerable and risky about listening to ourselves, because we have to find out, if that feedback loop, that we create with the world, what will that be like? What we will do with that? What reaction will we receive?

Sharon Brehm: That’s lovely. I’m having the thought of therapists being like a role model, like we show how to actually slow down, to accept negative emotions, how to still be loving no matter how dark the things are going.

Yolanda von Hockauf: Yes, well, I think you’re bringing up something really excellent, which is, even with clients in EFIT the therapeutic alliance, the relationship with the therapist, is the first place that our clients experience, that role modeling as you called it. Something new, they may not have experienced before, slowing down, a kind and loving other. Because it takes courage to go into those dark scary places, those unfamiliar places. I think Sue has a beautiful word for it. Frightening, alien, unacceptable emotions. We can’t go there alone, we need a therapist or another attachment figure, ideally. But sometimes, it needs to first be the therapist, to help us go into that frightening, alien, unfamiliar territory. Who grounds us, who stays with us, and helps us face those things, because we can’t do it on our own. And for many clients, it has never been safe to go there, and so everything is still inside, and feels wrong, shameful, not okay to experience You mentioned attachment figures, and there might be some readers, who don’t know what attachment actually means. How to describe it? Well, I’ve had clients, for instance, who say to me: “Can you give me a book on attachment theory, so I can understand what it is?” And I will, of course, give people reading material, but I smile inside of myself, because I know attachment is not something you can just read. You need to experience it. And so, we speak a lot in EFIT – in EFT in general – about corrective emotional experiences, which are not just head knowledge. They are deeply felt and reprocessed new experiences of attachment. Sometimes first ever. And in EFT – whether for individuals, couples or families – the way we help our clients to understand attachment, is by giving them a felt sense of what it is… from the moment, that we have our first contact with them by email or phone, and certainly as we meet with them the first time. We are that others, that make space for them, to start to access, who they are. But we don’t just do that, we also help them to zoom out, and make meaning of what they’re experiencing. So there is not just: “Oh I had such a nice feeling, my therapist was so kind and loving.” It’s also: “My therapist helped me to feel safe enough, then to understand what was happening in this session, to understand what happens for me in my world, to understand my blocks to attachment, and even how much it makes sense, that I’m blocked in my attachment. My therapist is helping me to start to feel safe enough to understand how it is to lean into another person, to help me get to know myself.” And there’s a lot of ways in EFT, that we do it. We have so many micro and macro interventions and tools to do that.

Sharon Brehm: What is your most favorite intervention?

Yolanda von Hockauf: Oh, I love that question. I am gonna pick one… On the macro level the EFT-tango is absolutely my favorite. It is just beautiful, and don’t get me started, because I will talk forever about that. And we do workshops just on Tango I’m doing one for you. We use the tango for individuals, couples and families. So that’s my favorite macro intervention. And in terms of, where I really always want to go with every client is the enactment, because to me there is a difference between our clients sharing with us something vulnerable and frightening, and sharing it with a family member, a partner, a part of the self, or the younger self, or with somebody from their past, who might not even be alive anymore. I’ve had clients enact with their favorite pet, with their religious figure, their higher power of God, with a parent or grandparent, who is no longer alive. Across the board. And what enactments do, they actually are the corrective emotional experience. You may know this yourself, you tell a person about something, that has hurt you, and it is not that hard – it is still hard. You go directly to the person, who has hurt you, and you say: “When you said that – I need to share with you, how hurt I was. I need to know, that you’re not upset with me, and that we can work this out together.” It’s way more vulnerable and risky. Or for the older self to say to the younger self – not just the therapist – to say: “You know that little you, did not deserve to get hurt like that. That little you needed support, and should not have been abused. That little you learned, that he is bad, but that little you isn’t. Can you feel that right now, as I say that?” And the client will say: “Yes, I really feel it.” And then comes the big moment: “Can that adult part of you that feels that, now imagine that little you, yourself? And could you imagine turning, or even close your eyes, and imagine that little part of you sitting there, can you imagine turning and saying that yourself, to that little part of you?” Oh boy, can you even imagine the difference? That older wiser self, that is able to step back a little, take that little part on their lap and says: “You are not a bad child, you should never have been treated that way. That is the fault of your abusers, but you are worthy of love. Come here, and let me help you start to feel safe in the world.” It’s so different from talking about it with the therapist. Can you feel it?

Sharon Brehm: I can totally feel it. I’m getting goosebumps from listening, because there is so much compassion, and I totally like the idea of corrective emotional experience.

Yolanda von Hockauf: Yeah, there is actually rewiring of the brain. But then, my second favorite is what we also do after the enactment, which is to ask: “What was that like to hear that for that child? What’s happening with the child?” Like with enactments with couples or families, we close the loop, and we process it. And then we do the last move of a tango, which is so important, that is integration of the new. We take for granted often, that our clients understand, what they’ve just done and how important it is. But what’s amazing to me is, how quickly clients just move on, and they haven’t consolidated that corrective emotional experience, sufficiently. They haven’t spent enough time being explicitly aware of what they’ve done, and noticing the new emotions, noticing the new limit. So that it can be really taken in and integrated. We call it often just positive psychology. We need to hang out in the new, the positive. So, then I would say: “Wow, so that’s very different! You have actually been – without knowing it – trying to get that little part of you to be good enough, always upsetting that little part for being bad. And what you did now is so different, you embraced that part and felt compassion, and you started to tell that part of you, that you’re not bad, that you’re not a bad person, that you are not shameful, that that wasn’t your fault.” – And by this time, you’re not really saying, it is the younger or older, it is just the self integrating. – “That is so different from what you told me, that you normally do, which is to be harsh with yourself, or ignore yourself, or whatever it may be. Do you notice that, how is that different for you? Do you notice, if you feel something different to yourself? Do you notice, if you feel some new emotions?” And so you kind of compare the old pattern with the new corrective cycle, and throw your weight behind it. So that is a really important intervention, too, that comes after the enactment.

Sharon Brehm: So beautiful, and I can see power within the words and the emotions.

Yolanda von Hockauf: Yes, because EFT and EFIT is a fairly focused model, so we are very Rogerian, but we also speak a fair bit, because we have a path, that we know we’re on, and we want to help our clients stay on that path. So sometimes we may talk quite a bit to keep the focus, other times we may step back and ask those open evocative questions. Make space for the client to discover the new emerging experience, but we’re always aware of where we’re heading. So we don’t allow our clients to move in all kinds of different directions. So words are very, very important in EFIT.

Sharon Brehm: Before you were already talking about negative emotions, and I thought, that would be interesting to talk about depression. And how EFT or EFIT…

Yolanda von Hockauf: Depression is a huge presenting issue in our individual clients. Actually, also for couples and families, but if we speak of EFIT, we think of Barlow’s unified protocol, which is that there are just a few ways clients present in this world: PTSD being part of it, but depression and anxiety are almost universal in mental health distress, and they are usually comorbid too. So, that they occur together and can be treated together. But depression, I feel, is the hallmark of mental health distress. When I think of depression and attachment together, which is how I view depression – through the attachment lens. So that it becomes so clear, what we can do with it. I think about loss, loss of safety, loss of dignity, loss of worth, loss of love, loss of care, loss of attachment, safe attachment. Unlovability comes from that, and a lot of helplessness often, a lot of helplessness in the depressed person. That their sense of agency, that they can reach for what they need in the world, and will receive it, has been taken away from them. So they get into a feedback loop of learned helplessness perhaps, of unworthiness, and it becomes so difficult for them to reach, to get their needs met – if not impossible. They’ve learned a view of self, that they’re unlovable. They may have learned a view of others that others are neglectful, or hurtful and harmful, but sometimes just plain neglectful. And when they feel unworthy and helpless, it is so hard to get out of that feedback loop, which creates more depression, isolation, self-isolation, perhaps walking around in the world, but emotionally isolated, not reaching. And so, depression becomes its own vicious circle. Does that make sense? It totally does make sense to me. It’s like a little loop. It is a little loop, absolutely right. And we come, and we’ve get into that loop, and help our clients with it,

Sharon Brehm: So what do you say, what should those therapists be aware of, or have like a special focus, if it comes to depression?

Yolanda von Hockauf: Well, when our clients come in from the very first session on, we are noticing so many things. We’re noticing their stories, that they tell us. – which is kind of content – and they’re very important, because they give us the context of the client. We’re also noticing, how do they present themselves in this session. What is their level of affect? Are they flat, are they shut down, and have a hard time expressing themselves? Do they speak very fast and anxiously, and are quite disorganized in how they speak? How do they relate to us? Do they look at us? Do they let us in? Or do they speak with very little affect, and very little language, and there’s a lot of silence? What are they telling us about themselves, just by the way they are? So, I’m noticing those things, and I draw my clients out, and I start to validate as I hear their attachment history and their stories. I start to develop the film with them, I call it. You know, the Polaroid or the old fashioned darkroom, and allow the photographs to develop. And I start to ask about their themes of connection, and what they got, and what it was like for them, and I start to help them to kind of see the exquisite logic… of how little hope they have of connection, how helpless they feel. So I start to help them right away with any shame they might have… by helping them to see that from my point of view… – their depression makes complete sense, why would they not be depressed, if whenever they needed something, nobody was there, and they would perhaps get hurt, and shamed, or abused. So I start to help them to see, that it makes sense, that they’re depressed. The other thing, I’m very careful to do is, to make sure, I am very different from what they’re used to. I make sure, I am the opposite of all those things. Not to go over the top, and get anxious myself, and get too pushy with that. But what I do is, I show deep interest in their world. I grab any moment, when I feel touched by something they say, and I show them I’m affected by them. I let them know, that I am different, that I want to be an attachment figure for them, a transitional one, by being interested in their world, not being neglectful, not being dismissive, being compassionate, so that they can start to feel felt by me. And I can start to put a little light on that dark place, and so we can go in there together, because they cannot go into that place unaccompanied, they need that new other type of person, who is there, who does care to walk there with them.

Sharon Brehm: So tell me, have you always been so compassionate, and so loving, or have you learned it? And if you learned it, how did you learn it?

Yolanda von Hockauf: Oh gosh, to this day I’m not always compassionate and loving. You ask my husband, you ask either of my daughters, and they would tell you: “No, she’s not always compassionate and loving.” I’m not always even compassionate and loving with myself, all the time. I don’t know if it’s possible, that we are always that way. And I grew up with some compassion, but I didn’t grow up with as much compassion and lovingness, as would be ideal. What has helped me, is truly that this EFT model is so universal. It is so universal, it touches the heart of what it’s about, that the more, that I use this model, the more I embrace it, the more it also changes me. Because it’s really impossible to use this model, and not feel it ourselves, if you know, what I mean. We cannot really be for others this way, and not start to have it sinking more and more into ourselves. So I’m growing with the model, I’m growing together. And when I’m compassionate with the client, I’m feeling the compassion inside of myself. Or the other way, if I’m speaking with a colleague, and they help me be compassionate with myself about maybe, how I was in a session, then I feel more settled, and I can give out to the client. So, I do think that the framework, that the depathologizing frame of attachment, and that our coping strategies are logical, when given where we come from, is such a compassionate frame for all of us. It’s hard not to start to take it in. But I must also tell you, that I don’t want to create some kind of a picture of me. I mean, I have gotten frustrated with clients. I said things to clients, I wish I had not said. I might have an anxious client, and I would start to feel like: “Oh, I wish they would just settle down a little. This is like overwhelming to me, and I’m very tired today.” Or with an avoidant client like: “Oh, this is boring. How do I draw them out of themselves? For the end of the day, this is a hard session.” I have all that, too. It’s not something we can always be.

Sharon Brehm: To tell you the truth, it’s so touching to hear you being so honest. And it is so helpfull, because we are all learning. We are all learning this together. We are all in this together. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Yolanda von Hockauf: I think that’s really important, that we cannot help clients, if we’re not human ourselves. And it also touches on self disclosure. In appropriate ways, I will share my humaneness with my client. It so good and important, that you’re normalizing negative emotions, or troubles, or struggles, we’re having. Otherwise there’s so much shame, which brings us back to depression. Yes, that’s right. Yes, and the people, struggling with depression, they also need to do the enactments, that I was talking about earlier. They often have a part, which often does feel a lot of shame. They feel ashamed maybe around being broken, and not being as good as other people. They might lie in bed in the morning not able to get out of bed, because they believe this world is a very rejecting world. That there’s no place for them. We have to bring those parts out. We have to not be afraid of what we call negative emotion, and avoid it, and not to join with our clients in avoiding negative emotion. We can be a grounding, solid attachment figure. I always picture the tango on my shoulder here, whispering in my ear, telling me what to do, and helping me feel more secure in my sessions. We can then help our clients go into those negative emotions, and the pain of rejection. For instance, the pain of feeling always not good enough and rejected. “Why would I get out of bed in the morning?” Going into that rejection feeling, view of self and other – I feel broken. Feeling the pain, and loss, and sadness of it and actually processing it, and maybe finding that other part that says: “Wait a minute, it’s true, I got really put down a lot. I was told, I was broken. And I’m starting to realize, that is very sad for me, and very upsetting. And a part of me is starting to go, maybe that is not all true.” Maybe a part of me is saying: “Wait a minute, I deserve better, that was back then, and it’s very sad to this day. I still live with that belief, lying in bed. Well, I don’t have to anymore, because my therapist has helped to experience the pain of rejection, some healthy positive anger, some sense of wanting to step out.” So we must go into the painful emotions, but we can trust the way we work with emotion, we can come through it, and that leads us to what we need. It leads us to what we need to do differently. And that is, I think, the most courageous part of being an EFT therapist. We all have these allergies to emotions. We’re scared of them, because we don’t know what to do with them.

Sharon Brehm: Do you have any advice on how to face negative emotions? How to overcome our fear, when it comes to bigger emotions?

Yolanda von Hockauf: We tend to want to move away from these negative emotions, and I think about things like anxiety and anger – big ones – We need to actually do the opposite of our impulse, we need to move towards them. Why do people need to have such big emotions? Let’s take the big ones: anger, anxiety, frustration. Why are they needing to go so big? You probably have learned about secondary and primary emotions, which we more often now call reactive emotions and core emotions. Which I love, they’re less technical and they’re more evocative. Why do people need to have such reactive emotions? And are not able to be right in their core emotions, which of course are the ones we want to get to… – that is where the needs are, the unmet needs. Well, that’s because they haven’t been heard, because they haven’t had the chance to feel acknowledged, and validated at that reactive level. And so they haven’t been able to feel accepted enough… to be able to really listen to those true emotions underneath. So we actually have to go in there and make sense of those reactive emotions. And the way we make sense of them is, we see what they’re about through the attachment lens. What is the attachment meaning of this anger? It’s about not being heard, it’s maybe about violation. What is the attachment meaning of anxiety? “It’s about a constant panic of never feeling, like it can reach anyone in those moments. It’s my alarm bell going off all the time, because I don’t know how else to reach somebody, and I need soothing, I need love, I need to know “I’m okay”. My anxiety is my way of having my alarm bell on to try and get that.” So we need to give it to them, by saying: “Wow, in this moment I see, how much you are really telling me… about how upsetting those interactions this week were with the people in your life. I really hear how big they are, they really big for you. I’m going to lean in, I want to help you with that.” And then you might go into, slowing it down by using the tango, which we’re going to work on a lot in the training. And we are co-regulating that client with our voice, with our body language, and with the way we help create meaning out of what their big emotions are about. So that they can start to feel heard, and they can settle in their bodies, and don’t have to be so big to be heard by us. It is about experience, how EFIT might work and might heal. Yes, we have to grab people’s hearts, not just their heads. Now that being said, people come for all kinds of reasons. The EFT framework is also extremely well delineated, and part of what I love about EFT, is its exquisite logic. It’s such a beautiful roadmap. And I think, to describe the flow of it… from a more cognitive level is very important also. It needs to make sense at both the experiential and the cognitive level. And that’s actually integration, and that’s what move five of the tango is about, as well. We capture people at all levels, and it all fits together at the end.

Sharon Brehm: Was EFT and EFIT always like that? – because you’ve been one of the pioneers, so to say. You are one of…

Yolanda von Hockauf: Oh boy, has EFT ever grown and has EFIT ever grown? The first time, that I had contact with EFT was, when I was part of the very first research study, when Sue Johnson was a doctoral student and this was her model, that she developed by tracking and tracing what happens with couples as they make changes – hundreds of videos. And she’s still that same relentlessly, curious, powerful, brilliant woman, that she was at that time. And the manual, that we worked on… – because I was one of the therapists and that’s very first study – was 20 pages. So in 1982-83, there were 20 pages written on EFT in the whole world. And it was not as in-depth. I can’t find that original manual. I don’t know, where it went. But it’s so interesting, to see the growth. And part of what I believe, really expanded EFT in late eighties / early nineties, is when Sue began to explicitly integrate Bowlby’s theories of attachment. That especially changed stage 2. It changed everything. But, it is not just a cycle, not just cybernetics. It’s way beyond cybernetics. It is about a deep sense of existential and wired in need… to be connected and safe in this world. Because, we can’t do it alone as mammals. And as she brought more of that in, the model just exploded… into like Technicolor and three dimensions. And it just became so rich and so deep, and then, it just keeps growing, and becoming deeper, and more special examples like attachment injuries, and more on addictions and affairs and especially – in my opinion – the tango is brilliant, and has made this model so accessible also to therapists, because it’s a macro intervention, that is absolutely bottom-up. I love the infinity loop and the steps, because it shows you what happens, but how do you do it? What happens? What is the process? I think the growth, in general, has been just exploding in that way, and EFIT specifically. I remember even before 2010 thinking to myself, if this model works so well for couples, it should work for individuals – why wouldn’t it? As I started tracking the 9 steps, because that’s all we had at the time, and seeing how we could put individual issues into those 9 steps. And that kind of work pretty well, and I started training in EFIT, in various countries including Finland, Holland, at that time especially in Europe, and I think a few other countries. Now, there’s way more countries in Europe I’ve taught EFIT: Croatia, Bulgaria, Italy, Holland, Finland, … I forget Belgium, I think. And now the tango actually makes EFIT even more accessible to us, as therapists. Yeah, I’ve been training EFIT for at least 10 years. And I love it! I just love the beauty of how cycles, and reframes, and corrective experiences… can happen even with one client in the room. You don’t have to have two people for enactments. To understand negative cycles, you don’t need to, you can have just that one client. But how would love, that people, who are not therapists, think about EFT?

Sharon Brehm: What are the words, you would say, if people think about EFT or EFIT, they should have these words in their head?

Yolanda von Hockauf: Deeply humanistic. I’m going to use an English word: Parsimonious, which Sue uses, meaning it’s efficient, and gets you where you need to get. Moving, very moving. That’s it. That is beautiful. Now, like one last question from my side. What would you recommend to either, couples or individuals, who are not therapists, how can they still have like a little piece of this in their everyday life? I think, what we need to say is, it is actually wired into us. It is normal for all of us, to need connection. As Sue would say, it is: “It’s like oxygen, we starve without it. Babies die without holding. People get depressed without closeness. It’s oxygen to us.” Please, let’s all be aware, that this is the most healthy need we have, and if we haven’t had enough of it, or we learned it was not healthy, please, reach out and find out that it is the healthiest, most life-sustaining thing, that we can have. It’s oxygen into our hearts and souls – it’s connection and attachment. I think, that’s so beautiful, because it’s all about being aware, and opening up, and allowing us to be. That’s it. And if that’s really hard for you, to be able to be okay with, it is alright to go for help – as long as it’s EFT. Is there anything else, you would like to say here in this little interview? What I would like to say to the group in Germany, that’s going to be taking this training, that I’m very excited to come and meet with you, even though I’m not physically going to be there. And I’m very sad about that. I was really looking forward to coming to Hanover, but I’m so excited to see all of you, to meet all of you, to do this training with you. Really looking forward to it. I think, we’ll have a rich experience via Zoom… and that’s going to be in September, I can’t wait. Oh, and I would like to say, if the book is already out, to read the first five chapters in German – homework.

Sharon Brehm: I can recommend it too, it’s lovely. Yolanda, thank you so much, for sharing your wisdom and experiences. I’m just so filled with joy.

Yolanda von Hockauf: It is a pleasure to talk with you, and looking forward to meeting you in September.

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