And you thought you could reason with your partner.

by John McManamy


THE FOLLOWING is based on a talk I gsve in 2012 ... 

Let's see if we can make sense out of a universe that makes no sense. For that, we need to examine the universe inside our heads. The new brain science is telling us a lot about the dynamics of relationships.

The back end of the brain - the primitive reacting parts:



The front end of the brain - the thinking and deciding parts:



Now let's add an extra element or two to the picture. Look up at the ceiling. This represents life's little surprises. This is where two tons of crap falls from. Look at the floor. Two tons of crap have just landed. This is what the brain has to deal with. I bet you're wondering what two tons of crap looks like:



So here we are minding our own business. Wow! Two tons of crap just dropped from the sky. How is the brain supposed to deal with two tons of crap?



Okay, here's the deal. It takes time for the cortical areas of the brain to process information. Very complex. Too much time. And often we can't afford to wait. We need something simpler, much faster.


So the back end of the brain takes charge. The primitive part of the brain, the reactive part of the brain. This is the limbic system, involved in fight or flight. So, basically, when we perceive anything strange or stressful, we're wired to freak out first and think later. If it's a skunk walking in through the cat flap this is a perfectly normal response.




Now let's add an extra element to this. Namely another person in the room. Two people in the room with two tons of crap.



So now we have two people who are not thinking. How do you think these two individuals are going to get along?



Okay, let's assume one of the individuals is thinking with the front end of their brain. Do you think we will have a better outcome?



We all make this mistake. We actually think we can reason with someone still operating out of the back end of his brain. Basically, your cortex is talking to the other person's amygdala (involved in fight or flight). I ask you - What kind of a result are you expecting from that?



Ideally, we want to be engaged cortex to cortex.



But there is a catch. The front end of the brain can't make a decision without some input from the back end of the brain.



And, of course, heart enters into it.



Emotions give meaning to experience. We need to honor our own emotions. We need to honor the other person's emotions.




This is the third of three articles based on a talk I gave in 2012.

Previous: Good Luck Deciding

Good Luck Perceiving

Reviewed July 15, 2016




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