This is a beautiful question and I really thank you for your honesty. The likelihood is that most couples have had at least one (if not MORE) intense arguments in the past couple of weeks. We’re all adjusting to this new reality and although we know it’s temporary, we don’t know how long temporary is, and just because it’s temporary doesn’t mean this time period won’t have repercussions that we’ll need to deal with. This puts us all into a state of uncertainty and with uncertainty comes fear.
When we’re in a state of fear, our brains function completely differently to when we feel safe and this affects the way we feel and behave in our relationships.
You can think of the brain as being split into 3 parts: the reptilian brain, the mammalian brain and the human brain.
The reptilian brain is the survival stem – this is the part of the brain that connects to your body and its primary job is keeping you alive. It regulates body temperature, heart rate, breathing and balance. Regions of this area are involved in creating the reactive fight, flight or freeze response.
The mammalian brain is your limbic system. This is the emotional part of the brain and is responsible for detecting fear, forming memories and forming attachments to others.
The human brain, the cortex takes info from our senses and creates maps. These maps create expectation – we expect that when we step outside we’re going to step onto the same street, or that when we bite into a banana muffin, it’s going to taste sweet and banana-y. Our brain does this so that everything isn’t constantly new and it saves us a lot of sorting time.
There’s a small part of the cortex that you find just above the point between your eyes called, the prefrontal cortex. The PFC is responsible for Integration; it integrates all the info the brain receives from your body, the brainstem, the limbic system and the outside world and makes sense of it.
When a person experiences a traumatic event, the fight or flight response is triggered so strongly that the cortex goes offline. We have difficulty making sense of things, we feel emotional and we can act out in ways that are very unproductive.
If you think about what’s happening to the world right now – there is an invisible threat that can make you sick, people have lost their lives and their jobs, and everyone’s economic future is a question mark – the whole world went into a state of trauma. So, our older parts of the brain (the reptilian and the mammalian) are very active, trying to keep us alive. We’re in survival mode, and the human, more rational part of our brain responsible for integration, compassion and long-term thinking, isn’t in a position to respond.
This means we’re behaving more unconsciously than consciously. So, you can expect some tantrums and acting out. You might find that you’ve been a bit more touchy in the past weeks – perhaps you’re getting upset faster about more things than usual and you’re having a hard time talking yourself out of it.
This is normal.
In fact, you’ll probably find that many arguments between couples have gone past their usual limits in the past few weeks purely because the world has been in such a fearful state.
Obviously, it’s not okay to hit our partners or to manipulate or blame or hurl insults at them. But, we can choose more conscious behaviour by stepping out of the fight or flight pattern. To do this, begin by
- Forgiving yourself for the things you said or did when you were in a fearful state. We are going through a challenging time and it’s so natural to be stressed out by it.
- Remember that your partner loves you. At the moment, it might feel like you hate each other and you might be telling yourself the story that you’re not right for each other, but really, you’re both reacting to this higher chaos and every argument is a protest for connection.
- Choose again. Take a breather, give each other space, journal. Do something to raise your vibration in that moment.
It’s really important
to commit to a regular practice of engaging the PFC: meditation, yoga, therapy. All of these practices, turn on the PFC and help you to integrate. We’ve been through a massive shift, very suddenly – it’s important that you give your brain some space to make sense of all this, otherwise you’ll continue to struggle.
Research from the Human Connectome Project has shown that the best predictor of your wellbeing is how well interconnected your connectome is. So, if you haven’t ever meditated or experienced therapy, this is a good opportunity to begin.
I hope you found my answer to this question helpful. Please do send me more questions over on my Insta stories.
Wishing you love, peace and integration,
If you’d like to use this challenging time as an opportunity to develop an even more resilient mindset, you’re welcome to contact me to organise a complimentary online Lifestyle Strategy Session during which we’ll discuss the best way forward for you to THRIVE.
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