Bend Oregon Marriage Counselor Says: “Understand Your Brain—Understand Your Relationship”

March 3, 2014 by

Have you ever had loving thoughts of your partner one moment and the next you find yourself reacting negatively? Suddenly we are having a conflict and are confused about how we got there? This is more normal than you realize. Our unconscious has taken over.

Our unconscious is the parts of our brain that are beyond our awareness. Our brain stem is Survival Central and its job is to keep you alive. We don’t have to be aware, or think, to make our survival brain function. Our heart will beat moment to moment and our eyes will blink without us telling them what to do. Similarly, the limbic area of our brain, which we call Feeling Central, will react to perceived danger instantly. We become reactive automatically and the result is often thinking negatively of our partner. Then we might say: “Why did you do that?” We may criticize and use a put down like: “what’s wrong with you, are you an idiot!” We may close down and begin to hold resentment. There are hundreds of reactive behaviors. All lead to distance, conflict and disconnection.

An acclaimed neuroscientist, Dr. Paul Early, states that our brain is “gerry rigged. It is not a smooth running machine.” While we may be aware of our thoughts about our partner, our emotions will react to perceived danger. It appears incongruent if we have loving thoughts one moment and then experience a behavior, a look, a sound or statement from you partner that feels emotionally threatening.

How many times have we or our partner said: “I didn’t mean to scare you or hurt you?” This has so much to do with how our brain became wired emotionally. The latest research has shown we are emotionally wired by age five. With two different brains in your relationship, reactivity is bound to come up. The good news is you can learn to become aware of your emotional reactivity and develop the skills to successfully repair disconnection and conflict. You can also learn more about your own reactive triggers and manage them.

At Bend Marriage Counseling, we help you identify and become aware of what your emotional brain reacts to and what you can do about it. With a little effort you can master your own reactivity and significantly reduce conflict.