Relationship Conflict and Your Brain

Three Brains and a Partner

One of the most important aspects of the human experience that young couples are wise to fully understand is how brain physiology impacts intimate, dedicated relationships. I see this as a core piece of information that will help you make sense from what is often both distressing and confusing to married people. I also believe that this is one of the most interesting plus fascinating pieces of information you will find within relationship literature.

Basically, we have three brains and not just one.

The Hindbrain (The Reptilian Brain) Like it delete word, a part of our brain is similar to reptiles. It is located right at the base in our skull in the back. It is the section of our brain that controls the automatic functions (keeps our heart beating, controls breathing, pumps adrenalin when needed, etc . ).

The hindbrain is constantly alert to possible danger and when danger is perceived, it takes more than. For instance, if you were to hear an abrupt, loud, noise, you would have what is called a “startle” response. In an instant, your heart rate would increase, your own breathing would become more rapid, your own eyes would dilate, your mouth would get a little drier, your adrenal intrigue would start pumping and you may likely tense your muscles — getting ready to run or fight or do something. You would not consciously think and choose to do these things; they would all instantly and automatically happen because the hindbrain kicked into activity and went to work to make sure you survive.

The Mid-Brain (The Mammalian Brain)

The 2nd brain, like it or not, is similar to mammals. This is the part of our brain that mediates or controls emotion. We all generally do not think of snakes or even lizards as having emotion, but mammals (dogs, cats, etc . ) experience what we call emotion. They may be afraid, angry, loving, happy, and so forth Humans have a wide and wealthy range of emotion.

The important thing to understand in regards to the Mid-Brain is that our emotions are not controlled by the conscious, intentional part of our brain (that’s coming next). The old saying, “Emotions have no brains” is true only in the sense that we are unable to consciously choose to feel any given emotion at a certain time. Emotions “happen” while we are engaged in life. While they can be understood intelligently and rationally, they cannot be “turned on” by choice.

Even in the field of psychiatric therapy where the goal is often to understand and gain some control in regards to emotion, this is outside our choiceful or volitional control. We can learn to handle and understand and learn from our feelings; we cannot control them directly. Our Mid-Brain (the mammalian brain) is in charge of that.

The Cortex (The Computer Brain)

Finally we all have a cortex, the part of our brain that is conscious, intentional, rational, and choiceful. It is the cortex you are using right now as you read this article. It is the part of us that can be self-aware, reflective, and self-observant. It is the part of our brain that allows us to communicate in complex languages and develop science, literature and art. It is the part of our own brain that makes us distinctively plus uniquely human. Some animals and perhaps porpoises have rudimentary cortexes, but the human cortex is far excellent.

It would be nice if the cortex controlled our lives and our marriages, but alas and alack, that sadly rarely happens in the real world. Many marriages are run on reptilian and mammalian energy.
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The Old Brain

Intended for simplicity’s sake, in this WEB site, we will lump the Hindbrain and the Midbrain together and refer to them because “The Old Brain. ” It is “old” not in the sense that it is outdated or not as valuable as the Cortex (The “New Brain”). We actually are wise to learn to deeply respect, worth and honor the “Old Human brain. ” But it is “old” or in other words in that it is the more primitive portion of our Brain.

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