Healing Soul Wounds: The GIFT Exercise

by | Mar 23, 2020 | Conflict, Marriage

Relationship experts say that most fights are not what they seem to be about. The chronic conflict over our spouse not cleaning crumbs from the kitchen counter may not be about crumbs at all. There is a deeper root. As a young couple, we did not know how to get in touch with what those deeper roots were. This dilemma led us to develop an exercise designed to help us get in touch with what lies underneath our anger in marital spats.

Anger theorists teach that anger is not a primary emotion. It is a secondary response to four primary feelings which are: 

  • Guilt, 
  • Inferiority, 
  • Fear, 
  • Pain (Trauma)

Since this list is hard to remember in the “heat of battle,” we developed an acronym to help couples remember it. It is the word GIFT: Guilt – Inferiority – Fear – Trauma.

The GIFT Exercise truly becomes a gift to the couple, in two ways: 

  1. It enables couples to communicate through the impasse of conflict by recognizing the root of their rage. 
  2. It helps couples guard their words more carefully so that destructive, unhealthy anger is less likely to occur.

The two communication techniques in the Soul-Healing Love arsenal are helpful for couples because they incorporate three key ingredients that researchers (*) have found in successful, happy married couples. 

These are: 

  1. Validation or active listening 
  2. Leveling or expressing real feelings and emotions 
  3. Editing, which is finding non-defensive ways to express oneself

Finally, this technique (and The Digging Deeper Exercise) helps couples understand themselves and each other (*). Knowing why we and our spouse are so emotional or reactive can help us see ourselves and our spouse through God’s eyes (with unconditional love) and love our spouse, unconditionally. It is the unconditional love of the Lord Jesus Christ that heals our childhood wounds (Jeremiah 30:17). With the tools of the Soul-Healing Love Model, we can better receive healing and give that healing to our spouse. 

Used with permission.
* Gottman, John, J. Gonso,J., Notarius, C.,& Markman, H., A Couples Guide to Communication, Research Press, 1978.