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Greenspun, W. (2013). The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples, by John Gottman, New York: W.W. Norton, 2011, 480 pp., $39.95. Psychoanal. Psychol., 30(2):356-362.
(2013). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 30(2):356-362
The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples, by John Gottman, New York: W.W. Norton, 2011, 480 pp., $39.95
Review by: Wendy Greenspun, Ph.D.
When I teach courses on couple therapy to psychoanalytically oriented clinicians, the students listen patiently to my presentation on the complexities of internalized objects and mutual projections, but then almost universally respond with, “yes, but what do we DO with the couples we see?” This desire for specific and practical ways to manage the heated action that can occur in the conjoint treatment of partners speaks to what can be unsettling for even the most sophisticated psychoanalyst who is learning the practice of therapy with couples.
I have often found the work of John Gottman to provide a useful guide to the navigation of these complicated waters. Gottman, a renowned marital researcher and clinician with over 40 years of research experience, has written numerous articles and books for professionals as well as a lay audience. Among those books, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work(Gottman & Silver, 1999), written for couples, has been a tool I have recommended to numerous patients in search of some practical ideas for improving their relationship.
In Gottman's most recent book for professionals, The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples (2011), he extends his research into the area of trust in intimate relationships. This book provides a summary of his work on this subject, using game theory and mathematical models, alongside other research and clinical material, to try to understand some of the negative cycles that leave couples at risk for betrayal and mistrust. In addition, he attempts to describe how building a capacity for emotional attunement can serve to prevent such breaches and can foster healing when such betrayal has occurred.
The book opens with a beautiful poem by John O'Donahue (2008) depicting the complications of love relationships over time. Gottman draws the reader into his structured research approach with his casual, somewhat folksy, writing voice, which feels akin to being taught by a beloved professor. The text is filled with clear examples from research and clinical work. He even models attunement as he conveys to his readers that he understands the probable aversion to the complex mathematical models he is trying to distill and describe. He quotes a variety of sources, from the Beatles, to Leo Tolstoy, to respected psychological thinkers and researchers.
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