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Struggling in Your Relationship? Maybe Mother Nature is to Blame.

Humans developed over thousands of years, and many of those years were spent in tough and tricky conditions. Our brains needed to be able to respond quickly to perceived threats that could literally come from anywhere at any time.

However, we’ve also elevated ourselves out of our caves and stopped our constant wandering. We’ve settled down and have the security, time, and comfort that previous generations could never enjoy. But this newfound comfort is relatively new compared to the vastness of human development. So, unfortunately, we often revert back to our more primitive selves, particularly in times of stress or anxiety. 

And this is where many of our relationship troubles come from. When backed into a corner, we turn to instinct and to our primal responses.

Our Lizard Brain

You might have heard someone referring to “my lizard brain” at one time or another. It’s a clever name for a real thing. Formed over thousands of years of survival, our primitive brains kept our species alive in the wild. 

Threats would come at us fast and unexpectedly, and we needed to be able to respond quickly or risk death. Our lizard brain is concerned with the basics and is hard-wired to help us avoid pain, risk, and external threats. 

Our lizard brain governs four primary functions:

  • Fight
  • Flight
  • Feeding
  • Reproduction

 

Don’t get us wrong. We’re glad we have the self-preserving drive to eat and run away from danger. But left unchecked, the lizard brain can lead us to be:

  • Petty
  • Pouty
  • Prickly
  • Petulant
  • Punitive
  • Passive
  • Preachy
  • Pretentious
  • Perverse
  • Penurious
  • Pessimistic
  • Prideful
  • Provocative
  • Promiscuous
  • Profane
  • Paranoid

 

When we react in a spineless way or avoid conflict, that’s our lizard brain in action. In marriages, this often represents itself by us shrinking from a difficult conversation or situation. Instead of pushing through to a solution, we go silent or verbally abuse our spouse. Think of a wounded dog in the wild. We use fancier words than barking (sometimes), but the response is the same. 

Unfortunately, these reactions are hard-wired into our brains. Have you ever noticed that no one needs to write a book titled “How To Easily Be More Sarcastic, Withdrawn, Closed Down, Blameful And Depressed in Just 21 Days?” 

Yes, most people don’t want to be that. But also, most of us can do that very well on our own without any guidance because it’s our natural instinct to behave in these ways. 

Shakespeare even wrote a play about the lizard brain, “The Taming of the Shrew” (or you might know the story as Kiss Me Kate or 10 Things I Hate About You). 

It’s ironic that while this lizard brain literally helped our species survive the wild, it’s killing our marriages and future advancements. Thankfully, we also have another brain at work inside us. 

Our Other Brain

As humans gained more security and had to struggle less for survival, another brain emerged. Our brains began to dream, free from constantly weighing life or death situations. We learned to imagine new possibilities and gain compassion for others. Most importantly to our development, we learned how to cooperate with others. Let’s call this brain our visionary brain. 

The visionary brain lets us be:

  • Patient
  • Peaceful
  • Positive
  • Prudent
  • Pensive
  • Potent
  • Philosophical
  • Partnering
  • Persevering
  • Performance-oriented
  • Penitent (remorseful)
  • And Perspicuous (eloquent)

 

This brain lets us be better than our base self. But, because this brain is “newer,” it takes work to let it out. We have to retrain our automated responses to allow our visionary brain to replace the lizard brain’s defaults. This is why you see so many self-help books on the shelves. These new reactions aren’t natural to us. 

Winning the Ongoing Battle

The battle between our lizard and visionary brains plays out in every aspect of our lives. But particularly in areas with higher levels of stress or anxiety… like our relationships and marriages. Sadly, in most marriages, couples let their lizard brains win out. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  

The good news is that better behaviors and responses are possible in your marriage. You just need to be open to working at them in your relationship. 

Everyone replaces patterns at different times and speeds depending on various factors. In our relationships, we have to understand this development process and give our partners the space and encouragement needed so that this visionary brain can emerge. 

When we work together in our marriage as a team, we can learn to allow our visionary brain to emerge more and move past our base responses. 

If you’re struggling with your lizard brain and want some helpful exercises or guidance on how to move forward, please contact us today. We have a team of qualified practitioners available to help you in almost every area of the country. Please contact us today!

Connect With A Developmental Model Resource
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Coach

A relationship coach supports couples in learning vital partnership skills and helps you to develop conflict resolution skills, offering tools to achieve a thriving, healthy relationship. Coaches tend to focus on the present and creating an inspired future.

All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve. Therapists and counselors have mandatory educational and licensing requirements that are determined by the state or country in which they practice. Coaches do not.

Clinical Social Worker
All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve.

This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

As you know, this is not an easy task when you and your partner are struggling to communicate, cooperate, and connect. This is where a highly trained guide is especially valuable.

Marriage and Family Therapist/Counselor (LMFT)
All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve. 

Therapists and counselors have mandatory educational and licensing requirements that are determined by the state or country in which they practice. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

Counselors and therapists may make situational determinations about how deep to go into the personal history of each partner. They may seek to help you see where certain unhelpful patterns of behavior originated. 

Clinical Psychologist
All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve.

After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psychology. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Our professionals can guide you to clarify your individual goals as well as enable you to develop mutually agreed upon and supported relationship goals.

Psychiatrist
All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve.

After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Our professionals can guide you to clarify your individual goals as well as enable you to develop mutually agreed upon and supported relationship goals.

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