Hold Me Tight – Dr. Sue Johnson

Hold Me Tight
Hold Me Tight - Dr. Sue Johnson

A wonderful book packed with very recognizable conversations, amazing insights and very practicle tips.

Written by Dr. Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist, professor and author, after decades of research and couple therapy.

Dr. Johnson analysed probably thousands of sessions with couples, during over 25 years of practice, which finally led her to an approach that works: Emotionally Focused Therapy.

I also love this book since the body of work she presents from my perspective resonates so much with the Heart Intelligence approach to relationships. Christian Pankhurst, founder of Heart IQ, is one of my primary sources of inspiration last years.

Myriads of examples as stunning mirrors

It is not only the deeply resonating insights that she presents, but also the abundance of examples she provides, that make this such an outstanding book for me. I can imagine almost anyone who has been in a relationship or marriage for more than a couple of years, will recognize so much in the conversations of all those couples who are struggling to make their relationship work. I did for sure!

Must read

As far as I’m concerned this book is a must read for anyone who wants to create or maintain an healthy relationship. It supports us to recognize how our needs and fears often drive us apart, while not knowing that our not working behavior is coming from a desire to (re)connect and to feel safe in the relationship.

It helps us to be aware of destructive dialogue patterns, to stop them and to start developing new, healthy, connecting communication from the heart.

Mythes cracked

In one of the first pages Dr. Sue Johnson shares some myths that have contributed to a lot of adult relationship misery:

  1. Adults need to (be able) to control (read: suppress) their emotions.
  2. To much emotions are at the root of relationship problems. One should not give in to or listen to their emotions.
  3. Mature adults are independent and unattached.

In the second chapter she continues with some ideas about love professed by many, including researchers and therapists, at the time that aren’t very helpful either:

  1. Love is a temporary, sexual spur of the moment.
  2. Love is an immature need to lean on others.
  3. Love is a moral attitude, that has more to do with giving then with any needs or receiving.

However, it turned out that ‘effective dependency’ (Bowlby) is an important, if not crucial ingrediënt of healthy, lasting relationships. Which reminds me of David Deida’s conception ‘interdepency’ as the final stage of sound development of a relationship.
In other words: Bowlby’s ‘attachment theory’ would not only apply to children, but also to adults. There is a (natural) need for emotional connection and it would be considered a sign and source of strength to be able to reach out for emotional support.

Recipe for better relationship

In her book ‘Hold Me Thight’ Dr. Sue Johnson presents seven conversations for a lifetime of love. Here is my short version of what I see as the core of these practices:

  1. Recognize demon dialogues
    • attack – counter attack
    • atack – defense
    • retreat – retreat
  2. Acknowledge needs and pain
    • need = connection, attachment, safety
    • pain = old pain (triggered pain body)
  3. De-escalate & reconnect
    • recognize and stop the “game” (= demon dialogue)
    • accept responsibility for own part or role in the “game” (both behavior and feelings / emotions)
    • acknowledge own contribution in triggering the other
    • connect to (underlying) vulnerable feelings: of self and partner
    • agree on something shared to work towards together


Of course this review / personal summary can’t be a substitute for this valuable book itself. So from the bottom of my heart I recommend reading it and keep it as reference, as your medicine in times of relationship trouble. And another benefit: you’ll see you’re not the only one!

Dr. Sue Johnson, ‘Hold Me Tight’, 320 pages (USA 2008)
ISBN 9780316113007

On the author’s website: ‘Hold Me Tight
On Amazon: Kindle edition, Hardcover
On Barnes & Nobles: Hardcover & Nook book

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