negative cycle

OMG de-escalation in stage two

The negative cycle again or are we in stage two?

negative cycle

Escalation, the negative cycle again or are we in stage 2? You might have been thinking, okay, we have tracked the negative cycle, and my couple is now de -escalated  “now we’re into the juicy stuff.” Then suddenly all your good work looks to be flying out the window!

The reactivity of the stage one negative cycle seems to be reappearing. You have that sinking feeling of uh oh, here we go again!

Hold on a second. You’re on the right track, even though it doesn’t feel like it! 

This isn’t working!

We reckon this IS working. Effective therapy includes mismatching big feelings.You just get caught out as the couple have often not been angry and frustrated in session for awhile.

What’s going on?

Step back and reflect. Is it the negative cycle of feelings arising as a block because we’re moving into deeper vulnerability? Or is this negative cycle escalation happening because they haven’t yet reframed their negative perceptions of the partner and themselves in the relationship? We’re talking about the former in this article. When you get a bit of escalation flare up as big old topics are surfacing to be addressed and healed.

Where to go?

Don’t go down the despondency tube with them.

Negative cycle feelings arise as safety barriers and can be expected to show up in stage two. We’re touching softer, more tender places. Of course, they’re protecting and feeling that there’s more at stake. It’s risky and unfamiliar to let each other into our tender places.


Reflecting present moment/process and the echo of the negative cycle. And how they want to go somewhere different. You want to help them go somewhere different.  Gently invite them to notice what’s going on underneath that old cycle surface feeling of (X) and ask “can we go there?” … “can we be with that?”

Reassure yourself

As best you can – don’t freak out or feel like a failure. The opportunity is to see an escalation in stage 2 as an invitation for people in relationships to experience their deeper feelings and attachment fears. And share these. If they can do this with each other you are in stage two, but if they constantly display frustration and escalation then you may just have to go back to tracking the cycle again. Be patient with them and yourself, as they will get to their deeper feelings only when the relationship is truly safe for them both to risk diving in to those raw spots that are difficult for us all to experience and share.

Written by MCEFT members Marg Ryan and Mukti Jarvisstage one