Have you ever wondered why? How is it that even closed hearts dare to open, if only a bit or for a moment, to celebrate the possibility for a new beginning?
Successful marriage partners know it’s not a matter of who’s right or wrong that solves issues in their relationship. A healthy vibrant relationship is a matter of knowing what works and what doesn’t—and consistent action.
Brain research now reveals why certain actions succeed and others fail. As it turns out, the specifics of “how” we treat one another makes a world of difference. It appears that certain actions “work” as they release Oxytocin into the bloodstream – a chemical that floods the body with feeling states of love, safety and connection.
In contrast, when the brain is in survival mode, the brain’s ability to use Oxytocin is impaired, thus, we do not feel safe enough to love or even open to learn from our experiences. (Is this why we keep making the same mistakes?)
Research shows that partners who succeed in their love relationship have specific “emotional intelligence” skills that allow them to maintain an inner calm in conflict. This emotional mastery permits them to feel safe enough to remain present to their partner and the situation without setting off their own brain’s “fight or flee” defenses, which also effectively lowers chances of triggering their partner’s defenses.
The proven benefits are many and substantial. Evidence from neuroscience and studies on attachment and relationship intimacy suggests that skills that support the formation of healthy relationships may well be the singular most important asset in life.
Ever notice how many of your thoughts send you out of the present moment to future worries or past laments in your communications with your spouse or children? If you’re not aware of what you tell yourself in your head (self-talk), or you don’t know how to return your focus to the present moment, it makes managing difficult emotions in your interactions with loved ones challenging, if not impossible.
Why? The thoughts you think inside your mind end up on your lips. They also cause your emotions, in this case, fear-based ones that tend to spin conversations out of control. Your goal, however, is to obtain great outcomes in your life and relationships, right?
Like others, you may question the value of getting to know the inner workings of your brain. What does knowing how your brain works have to do with your health and healing, and the health of key relationships in your life? Why get so deep, you may ask?
Studies show that knowledge of how your brain works has healthful effects on key relationships. In his observations, researcher and author of The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We are, Daniel Siegel, MD states that, “the human brain is a relationship organ.” It’s designed to relate. Here are at least five benefits of getting to know it better:
When elevated levels of fear flood the brain’s communication network, the “fight or flee” response gets activated. The stress hormone cortisol activates the sympathetic nervous system.
For example, when faced with an impending threat, such as a swerving car, the subconscious mind activates the limbic brain’s 24/7 fear-alarm, the amygdala, to switch on the body’s sympathetic nervous system, or “fight or flee” reaction, with the release of hormones, such as the stress chemical cortisol.
While this prepares the body to not only act swiftly, but also with superhuman strength to fight or run away, it also disturbs its balance. The part of the brain that runs the autonomic functions of the body has just hijacked all its systems, to include your ability to engage in logical thinking!
It does so for good reason!
I’m pleased to welcome you to Neuroscience & Relationships with Dr. Athena Staik.
Dr. Athena Staik has been studying the brain, the neuroscience of attachments, and cutting edge tools for accelerated success and human change for over 10 years. With a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy, and an MA and BA in psychology, her work is influenced by a wide range of psychological models, with an emphasis on positive, strengths-based approaches.