Communication is the life tool with which we may create and strengthen our relationships, and relationships are all about emotional safety and meaningful connections.
Communication is a tool like no other. Whether verbal or nonverbal, it is to your emotional and mental health, and relationships, what food and water are to your body. You may be wondering, if talking is such a “loving” activity why do you experience so much pain in your communications with one of the most important persons in your life, your partner?
Though not easy, letting go of past resentments, a process also known as forgiveness, really works! Letting go does not mean forgetting a wrongful action or excusing how hurtful it was, however; it means letting go the human survival-instinct to hurt the back, to retaliate or to wish as much or more suffering on the other.
Ultimately, we forgive because of its impact accordingly on the state of our mind and body (autonomic nervous system). While revenge may be our mind-body’s instinct in survival mode (where fear is the governing emotion, and body shuts off any consultations with the heart or higher intellect), revenge is never aligned with our body’s highest directives (built-in wisdom) to do more than merely survive, rather to thrive, to fulfill core yearnings, or emotion-drives, to matter, to meaningfully connect.
Thanks to advances in research methodology and neuroscience, relationships are now a science. The science of love relationships has identified several specific behavior patterns of partners that succeed in creating healthy, mutually enriching couple relationships. Partners who think and act in certain ways nearly guarantee themselves love relationships in which they feel fulfilled, loved and appreciated.
First, the good news is both you and your partner are wired for love, your body’s health depends on it.
Second, you are wired to release a certain love hormone, Oxytocin, the chemical known as the “cuddle hormone,” in response to certain behaviors.
Feeling loved and secure has everything to do with knowing how to create an Oxytocin response that makes you and your partner feel loved and secure.
Okay, the details may be different, but overall do you get into a scripted dialogue in which you can guess what your partner is going to say or do in reaction to something you say?
(Most likely, by the way, your partner likely feels the same way too.)
The stuck feelings seem all too familiar to couples in a relationship. Like others, both of you likely wonder, at times, whether there’s a chance of ever getting the love, understanding, acceptance, appreciation, romance, etc., you want. You know, the feelings you had at the start of your relationship. It seems you’ve tried everything. Is it too much to ask to feel valued, important — and connected — in your relationship?
Here we are into a new year, can you believe it — 2014 — Happy New Year!
What a wonderful time to refresh, renew, ponder and reflect again on … what brings meaning to your life, your deepest aspirations, yearnings and dreams, or new ways to approach old challenges, big or small, in your personal life or relationship.
It’s energizing to write down goals, hopefully achievable S.M.A.R.T. goals, to increase our chances for good outcomes.
Gratitude is an emotion we use to express appreciation and thankfulness and joy in response to receiving a gift. It’s much more, however.
A powerful agent, gratitude can propel us with unstoppable momentum to find ways to express, exclaim and proclaim it to the world, or another person, perhaps shouting from the rooftops!
Words may not suffice to express gratitude, but this cannot stop us from trying.
1. Turn any criticisms into clear requests
Think of words as emotion-activating agents, and reframe criticisms into requests to produce high- rather than low-energy emotional states in your self and others. Brain fact: Low energy emotions (fear-based) block creative thinking to the extent they intensify, and even worse, activate our automatic defense strategies. When this happens, high levels of cortisol turn off our brain’s learning mode, which may explain why we stop listening when we feel attacked. Rather than saying,”You’re always angry and on the attack,” say the following: “Speak to me in a voice that lets me know you love me when you’re upset.”
2. Describe problems in solution focused language.
Use words to craft that reframe a stubborn problem in solution terms to give your self and others a fresh and energizing perspective. Brain fact: The images that positive action-oriented language energizes in our brain produce action-activating emotions emotion-command neural circuitry and associations that can move us to take action more easily and effortlessly. In contrast, problem-focused language can leave us feeling de-energized, in a rut or states of boredom, which can seem “real” after prolonged use, however, they are simply habits — neural associations — that we have subconsciously formed, stored and reinforced over a period of time. This means they can be unlearned. Rather than “You always leave me to do everything,” say “It’s a privilege to care for our house. I want to do my part to make sure you do not miss out on the great feelings of taking part as a team member in caring for our house.”
3. Replace judgements with curiosity.
Stir thoughts that spawn curiosity instead of criticisms or harsh judgments of yourself or others. Brain fact: Whereas criticisms tend to demotivate and keep us stuck in old thinking and behavior patterns (emotion-command neural circuits that activate fear), curiosity motivates us toward …
In Part 1, we considered three areas of the brain that work together to produce feel-good chemicals, and that, depending on the circumstances, can literally alter our emotional states of body and mind to the point of putting our ability to make choices (personal power) out of reach. The automatic release of this chemical mix can lead us to making poor and potentially dangerous decisions, and even worse, form an addictive habit or pattern.
To retain our choice making capacity, it helps to understand that a key underlying issue in relationships, based on decades of research on attachment and intimacy, is the connection.
Human beings get unhinged about a lot of things, yet nothing seems to compare to the actions of desperation, and the emotional roller coasters in the dance of romance.
Where in life are we suddenly in the most intimate of circumstances, contemplating dramatic shifts to our lives and future plans, with someone who was a total stranger a relatively short time ago?
The longer we ignore or stuff painful feelings, the harder it is to work through them, and the more unpredictable our behaviors and life outcomes can be. Rather than a putting-out-fires approach, you can power up your life by learning to healthfully process painful feelings, and that means identifying, feeling and understanding your feelings in a way that helps you make informed actions in dealing with them, as they surface.
The very thought of doing this may bring up feelings of resistance. Your response may be, “Why bring up old stuff?” You likely feel “comfortable” with current ways you stay “in control” of life around you, i.e., by staying busy, avoiding conflict or shaming people who get upset, among others. These old defense strategies, at least superficially, can bring us quick-fix relief, thus, seem reliable, proven ways of dealing with stressors.
It makes sense that you would not want to feel or deal with painful emotions. After all, human beings are wired to move away from pain, and drawn instead to what feels pleasant and comfortable.