We all want to get along, be really heard, be deeply understood, validated and empathized in our relationships. It’s a deep human need, we are wired for connection and when we feel disconnected our nervous system feels out of kilter. Many times, as much as we yearn to be connected we just can’t seem to make it happen. These skills are not taught to us, and in many cases we have not experienced our families displaying good listening skills, genuine affection and validating one another. The good thing is, that we now know that the brain can continue to learn new ways of being at any age, it’s called neuroplasticity.
Our brain, the most amazing organ in our body, yearns for connection and learning, and if we are less judgmental and more open and curious, it will constantly make new neural pathways as we learn new skills, information and new, more functional behaviors.
The brain can get caught in rigid, dysfunctional ways of thinking, yet with openness and curiosity, old behaviors, that trigger a reaction in the other and puts a wedge between us, can be substituted for more loving healthy ways of connecting. We also learn how to react differently when triggered by the other.
I have been working with couples for 20 years and have found Imago Relationship Therapy an excellent model for helping couples come together. This model uses new facts and findings from neuroscience on attachment, connection and neuroplasticity.
Through slowing down, being present, we become more mindful. Our nervous system calms down, we no longer live in the fear part of the brain. We start using our frontal cortex, the slower, more evolved and administrative part of the brain, find ourselves less triggered and finally more easily able to feel safe and connect. Like all beneficial experiences in life, it does require a willingness too work, and an openness to learn to be more open and authentic to ourselves and the other.
We begin with the first stage, falling in love, which is beautiful and idyllic yet like everything in life, is temporary. During this phase our brain excretes a cocktail of dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin etc. The real work actually begins in the later stages which these chemicals
are normalized and we find ourselves noticing differences in the other which we don’t like. The power struggle begins and this is a dangerous part of the relationship where our greatest dream can become our worst nightmare. This is a good time to intervene and seek a couples therapist. The goal is to learn to accept that we are all different and to move onto acceptance, which requires sincere and real work.
This requires differentiation where we realize we can only change ourselves and the way we treat others. By treating others differently, being more respectful, active listening, mirroring and validating we might be surprised that other do change, by being treated in a more inclusive and less aggressive or passive aggressive manner.
This model is similar to emotionally focused therapy, (EFT), where the focus is on identifying, expressing and taking responsibility for our feelings. This helps create less defensiveness and encourage openness without being triggered and becoming overly reactive.
You might have heard, ‘don’t judge an Indian until you’ve walked in his moccasins’.
We all come to the table with different upbringings, temperaments and experiences.
Rumy, the famous Sufi poet said, ‘There is a field beyond right doing and wrong doing, I’ll meet you there.’
I’m passionate about working with couples, have had excellent results and I look forward to meeting with you.