what’s running your relationship?

We think we make sensible, conscious choices about who we select as our life or romantic partner, but often the truth is not like that at all. To understand how we make these “choices” we need look at how our brains work.

Essentially we have two brains: an old brain and a new brain. Our old brain lives in the brain stem and limbic system and determines most of our automatic functions. It’s the part of us that has existed-in evolutionary terms-since we reptile and fish, and it is organised around threat and drive or fight and flight. This part of our brain is scanning all the time, on the train, in the mall, at work and is saying: is it safe? who might kill me? Who do I have to kill? Who might look after me? Who do I have to look after? Who can I have sex with? Who do I have to run away from?

Now this is a pretty useful part of us. It activates almost permanently, and in a nanosecond (it makes judgements before you know they’re judgements) and it’s just what you you need if you’re about to hit by a bus-in a flash old brain gets you out the way. And it was pretty useful when we were chased by tigers millions of years ago.

In the modern world the “tigers” are made up of all our earlier relationships that embed within us and create stories and reactions about the world. If we have had early relationships that are lacking or threatening or rejecting then old brain acts as a repository of data that tells you how to react in any given situation. This is especially true in relationships which are romantic ones; the investment is so much higher so old brain is on alert. All the time. And it’s your survival mechanism.

Over time we can become so organised around old brain that it runs the show; we think we’re making conscious, healthy choices but because old brain has no sense of time, it tells you that what happened in the past is now and we become largely conditioned by old brain stories and feelings. And we don’t even realise this.

Luckily we have a new brain as well.

New brain is young, it’s situated in the prefrontal cortex and it’s only been around for about 2 million years, but is the part of us that can reflect, imagine, be self compassionate and creative.

It’s the part of you that can make choices and re-relate to your threat based story and find a more soothing, nurturing one.

In couples counselling we create an opportunity to do just that. We explore how past wounds created in your upbringing are even now “running the show”, and we explore how this might have led you to your current situation.

We then work on how you can be encouraged, using new brain, to reconnect and see your partner anew as wounded souls seeking healing. We learn how to become proactive partners in that healing and become healed ourselves.