We develop defences to protect ourselves from all kinds of real and imagined pain that we have experienced over our lives. How impenetrable they are will be related to just how much we have had to defend ourselves in the past. Part of the attraction in the early stages of romantic love is that “falling in love” makes us feel like we don’t need our defences anymore. We feel we have finally found someone with whom we can be totally ourselves and our defences come down. As the relationship moves on, inevitably reality creeps in and our partners reveal themselves to be human after all and with being human comes the capacity to disappoint and cause pain. And the defences come back out again.
Defensiveness is one of John Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. The others are criticism, contempt and stonewalling. These Four Horsemen, if present in a relationship are the strongest predictors of relationship demise.
Defensiveness looks different for...
In my last blog I talked about what happens when you flood and how damaging it can be to your relationship when the dinosaur roars! So what can you do to calm the flood?
While it can take up to 20 minutes for the adrenalin and cortisol that is dumped in your body to prepare you for the fight, flight or freeze response, to leave your body, you can actually calm down much faster than that with practice.
Here I have some ideas for you to draw from – what works for one person may not work for others so you need to develop your own list. Doing some of these every day can help keep the dinosaur at bay!
Relaxation techniques - there are many mp3’s or apps available to guide you through meditation and relaxation exercises that can assist the process. Some useful ones you can try yourself include.
Amygdala hijacking is a funny sounding term that is actually far from funny!! It can make a normally sane and steady person into a roaring dinosaur faster than you can say dinosaur!!!
Magical wikipedia (I think it is magic because when I was a student I had to ride my bike to the library to look up the encyclopedia!!) describes the origins of "amygdala hijack" as a term coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Drawing on the work of Joseph E. LeDoux, Goleman uses the term to describe emotional responses from people which are immediate and overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat.
In every situation we are observing with all of our senses. This information goes directly to the amygdala, situated deep in the emotional part of the brain and at the same time to the neocortex, the thinking part of...
Self care is so important for relationships. You cannot GROW the LOVE in your relationship if you have nothing left in the tank to give. So each and every day, taking the time to do something that is just for you is essential.
"I don’t have time to do that", I hear you say: "I’m a mother of small children", or "I have a business to run", or "my schedule has no spare space" or all of the above! Well think about it this way - it is as optional as putting fuel in your car – you just cannot run without it. When we make things a priority (or not optional) we work out a way to make it happen.
But I must confess I was really bad at this when my kids were small, so I had to make some changes. The easiest way to make a change is to start small and basic and grow from there. If you also attach it to something you are already doing it can help as well. So I started shutting the bathroom door so I could shower in peace – a lovely 5 minutes...
One of my favourite scientific advances in the last 20 years is the ability to take pictures of the brain and its circuitry in action, and what this continues to teach us about how we are wired and therefore why we do what we do.
Anthropologist Helen Fisher is a leader in this area and has extensively studied what happens in the brain as it relates to love. She has differentiated 3 types of love, that each have their own areas of the brain that light up:
1. Sexual attraction or lust – Fisher describes as more like an actual “drive” like hunger, and just like hunger is required for your survival (if you don’t eat you will die). Sexual attraction or lust, (driven by estrogen and testosterone) is required for the survival of the human race. You can have a number of people who you are sexually attracted to but in humans we usually put it together with at least one of the other types of love.
It never ceases to amaze me how busy people are these days (me included). Catch phrases like “time poor” have become part of our language. When you add it all up in a relationship where both partner’s work, or work and care for children, grandchildren or others and then add in all the other things you have to do to take care of yourself (like shower and sleep) and anything else, there really are very few hours left unallocated.
Relationships with our partner (and others) thrive on time spent taking an interest in and being a part of the other person’s day to day. How do we do fit it all in? There are two secrets to this that I share with you now: firstly, you have to make the moments count and secondly: schedule, schedule, schedule!
Small things often – it is the little things that add up but each one may only take a moment. That quick sms between meetings to let your partner know you are thinking of them or the...