We are wired to connect

Posted on Mar 3, 2016 in Featured

We are wired from birth to connect and regulate in the presence of another human being. As couples, we do most of the damage to our connections when both of us are hijacked” by the brain’s survival imperative to “protect only this separate person”. Our couples work involves learning to re-create the safety and trust that your nervous system needs to be able to discuss challenging content together and remain connected.

Every couples survival dance is unique and yet there are many universals. Couples often feel completely helpless to change the pattern which can feel toxic, confusing and demoralizing. We may attempt to navigate around the survival pattern by avoiding certain topics or even avoiding contact with each other. This will never address what we need to restore connection.

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The new neuroscience calls this biologic event a limbic hijacking because the limbic or mammalian brain actually takes over and runs the show when it perceives a threat. When hijacked some people develop the habit of “turtling” while others “hail” (as in Hailstorm). We have both capacities, but couples can get into fixed patterns of one person exploding and the other imploding during the survival dance.

Many things impact the chronicity of this fight-or-flight dance; our attachment histories, the impact of trauma as well as diet and lifestyle habits that keep us chronically stressed out and hypervigilant. The most important thing is that WE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO HAVE IMPORTANT CONVERSATIONS WHEN OUR BRAINS OUR HIJACKED. This is just a biologic reality. So what can we do?

We are actually wired from birth to be in connection with others. You can see this in infants who gaze up at their mothers while nursing. Our nervous systems are exquisitely designed to pay attention to the face of others as well as to tone of voice and other cues. We can actually work to notice these cues and learn to come back into regulation together as a couple.

Connection with others always begins with connection to self. Although they mutual support each other, we cannot expect to connect with others if we are not making time to stay connected to ourselves. Making time for play and fun are not luxuries; they are essential elements that increase awareness, calm and self-regulation. And they are essential elements in connecting deeply with others.