Biology has played a cruel trick on your relationship. Although your partner thinks you’re responsible for most of the troubles in your relationship, it’s not you. It’s your biology. It’s your lizard brain, also known as your reptilian brain or brain stem.
The lizard brain
Our biology has evolved so that each of us has two brains inside our skull. One brain developed hundreds of thousands of years ago. It is primitive. It’s made up of your reptilian brain and your mammalian brain – which all mammals have. It cares only about avoiding risk, pain and threats. It wants to feel fine fast.
Among other things, this primitive brain governs four “F functions”:
This brain reptilian or lizard brain is very primitive. When threatened it responds automatically. No training required.
Here are some things it does automatically. It gets:
And perhaps the most insidious of all – it gets Pusillanimous. That means it fights, flees or freezes – fast.
That can lead to a cowardly, disengaged, long-term response which avoids speaking up when the circumstances demand an explanation or defense of important values. This disengaged response means you go either darkly silent or verbally abusive. Fighting, fleeing or freezing all prevent you from being compassionately transparent about things that significantly affect both of you.
Yes, biology has hard-wired all these prmitive reactions into one region of your brain. Nobody has to go the self-help section and get books on “How To Easily Be More Sarcastic, Withdrawn, Closed Down, Blaming And Depressed in Just 21 Days.”
Ironically these knee-jerk reactions are all designed to give you rapid relief from pain, fear, or threat. The fact that they make you and your partner more miserable doesn’t make any difference to this lizard brain. In reality, reptiles don’t think much about cooperating in the wild. It’s basically “kill or be killed.” There’s no guilt, self-doubt, or compassion. It’s all about the four F functions above.
The other brain
However, biology also evolved so that you and your partner have another brain inside your skulls. One that can dream, imagine a better future, feel compassion and desire to cooperate. Nothing great has ever been accomplished without teamwork. This visionary brain developed much later than the lizard one.
The visionary part of your brain is:
- Performance oriented
- Penitent (remorseful)
- And Perspicuous (eloquent)
These two brains keep fighting it out. As they have been for thousands of years. Sadly, in many relationships the lizard brain dominates. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton show how this can play out in the classic film based on Shakespeare’s play – “The Taming of the Shrew”. Even before Shakespeare’s time partners in relationships have been struggling to tame their lizard brains.
But it doesn’t have to be a hopeless struggle. These days you can get help from experienced relationships counsellors. Interested in winning this battle with yourself and your partner? All it takes is teamwork. Working together in all areas of interdependence to imagine and create a better future.
You deserve the best trained coaches if you’re planning to invest time and money in your relationship. If you’re not ready to book an appointment, call us on 0421 961 687 to book a FREE 10 minute phone consultation to discuss how we may be able to assist you.
Adapted from Pete Pearson http://www.couplesinstitute.com/mother-natures-cruel-marriage-trick/