Why Are You Getting So Upset? – Passive Aggressive Behaviour PART 2

You met Lisa and Yohan in part 1 of my article Why Are You Getting So Upset? They decided to face the challenge of shifting out of a problematic pattern She was being placed in the role of a controlling mother and he was responding passive-aggressively to the control he experienced. They had no productive disagreements at all. Today we will look at some of the work they did to shift out of the unsatisfying dynamics.

Disagreements and conflicts can only be resolved when both people are honest about their feelings, willing to take responsibility for past actions, and committed to making changes for the future. When one partner is stuck in a passive-aggressive stance, he or she is too busy pretending not to be angry and feeling wronged instead of being able to make amends and work through conflicts. To move out of this pattern, it is first of all necessary to believe and feel that it is okay to be angry.

Lisa had to examine if she was perhaps unintentionally discouraging Yohan from expressing his anger directly. She realized that she had a tendency to humour him out of his anger, especially when the kids were around. It still felt more comfortable to her when Yohan was moody and sulked than when he actually expressed his anger. As much as she had been saying to him, “I wish you would tell me honestly what you are feeling”, what she actually wanted was for Yohan to be less resentful and angry. However, supressing anger will only guarantee that it comes out in other more indirect and passive-aggressive ways.

Anger is an emotion like any other emotion. It is neither good nor bad. It is a protective emotion and serves a purpose. It gives us the feedback that we are perceiving something as unfair or unsatisfying, or that there are other emotions hidden behind the anger. Anger is only the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, there are usually more vulnerable feelings.

Therefore, Lisa’s first step was to understand that anger is not a “bad” emotion and to learn to be less judgemental about Yohan feeling resentful and angry to begin with. She had to get to know her own angry part inside, so she could love and accept first herself and then him with this emotion.

Yohan, was very afraid of his own anger and had to do some inner work to get to know this passive-aggressive part, as well as his angry part. He connected to himself at younger points in his life when he was angry and felt the only way to express his feelings was to be passive-aggressive.

Venting anger on its own is not useful unless we can get to the more vulnerable feelings underneath the anger. Yohan needed to find the perfect balance between expressing the anger and finding the courage to explore his unmet needs or what feelings were really hiding beneath the anger.

“Anger is an inherent component of all human relationships, especially romantic ones. The more dependent on someone and vulnerable you feel, the more likely they’ll be the object of your hostility as well as your affection”

(Scott Wetzler: Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man).

 

Relationship expert Dr John Gottman has proven in his scientific research that fighting is not the problem; rather, how couples fight is the issue. Conflicts are inevitable in relationships. Addressing the conflicts is healthy if we can avoid the four horsemen: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Healthy and strong relationships can and do handle anger, provided a couple sees it as a constructive force and fights smart and fairly, sticking to certain ground rules.

Both Yohan and Lisa needed to learn to have healthy fights in which it is okay to express anger, explore more vulnerable feelings and make requests of their partner. An important key element was to recognize when Yohan was triggered into feeling like a child. When Lisa became more controlling, she reminded him of his mother and he would instinctively revert to passive aggressive responses. His automatic assumption in many situations was that his needs were in conflict with Lisa’s and that there was no point in expressing those needs because they would not be met anyways. This corresponded to his experiences in childhood. He grew up feeling that nobody heard him and that he never got what he wanted. He was still stuck in that feeling, expecting that he would still never get enough of what he wanted as an adult.

Yohan had to learn to notice and acknowledge when Lisa was meeting one of his needs. He learned to say thank you and shift his perspective. She, on the other hand, had to learn not to interfere and do things for him he hadn’t asked her to do, especially not when he chose to be passive aggressive with other people in his life. A repeating example was when he was supposed to pay his child support to his ex-wife, but Lisa had to remind him to do it repeatedly before he put the cheque in the mail. Lisa felt this was antagonizing and unfair to his ex-wife and son and had put the cheque in the mail a few times herself. Yet, that caused Yohan to postpone the next cheque even longer and to feel resentful towards Lisa. When they examined this situation without judgement, but simply with curiosity, and began to understand their own parts in it, they were both able to shift out of it.

Another important shift was for Yohan to retreat less. They learned that underneath Yohan’s distancing behaviour was a fear of rejection. He would push Lisa away to prove to her that he didn’t need her. He had to learn to make the distinction between feeling rejected or fearing rejection and actually being rejected. He had to learn how to recognize stuck emotions and release feelings of rejection and disappointment.

Today, Yohan’s and Lisa’s interactions have mostly changed. Some situations still cause them to fall into old patterns, but one of them usually recognizes the pattern, takes responsibility for his or her part in it and initiates an open and honest conversation. There is more intimacy and closeness in their relationship and they exhibit better teamwork taking care of the children. Sometimes Yohan needs space, but he is able to express that instead of just retreating. He is also able to allow more vulnerable feelings of dependency and love without a constant nagging fear that he will get hurt. They know that their intimate love relationship continues to confront them with challenges and opportunities for growth, and they are both committed to continuing to put the necessary time and attention into their marriage.

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Check out my discount packages for couples.

If you are interested in ordering Scott Wetzler’s book ”Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man” I am grateful for you using my amazon associate link below.

Why Are You Getting So Upset? – Passive Aggressive Behaviour PART 1

Have you ever tried to clear the air with somebody by initiating an open conversation, putting your own needs on the table and asking the other person what they need, but they have been very vague and non-committal? Maybe you have even apologized or taken responsibility for your part in an interaction but the other person pretends that they cannot remember what you are talking about? You are given feedback along the lines of “No big deal, can’t even remember what you mean…” but then within the next days, the person drops some pointed remarks about how ridiculous your needs are or how difficult you are to deal with? Or have they ever given you the silent treatment and sulked? Or do they promise to be supportive in some way, tell you they will do something for you, but then conveniently keep forgetting their promises? And when they have led you down again and you are disappointed, they say with disbelief, “Why are you getting so upset?” All this could be passive-aggressive behaviour.

We are all forgetful at times and we have certainly also all been passive-aggressive in situations when we felt powerless, but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about passive-aggressiveness as a strategy developed in childhood out of a feeling of powerlessness, and carried into adulthood and into our relationships as the automatic response when there is a conflict.

The passive aggressive person in your life could be a friend, a family member, your colleague or boss, or your spouse. The passive-aggressive person appears to be such a nice and peaceful human being, supposedly getting along with others, denying that they are doing anything at all while the people they are in relationships with feel the anger seething underneath. Their behaviour is not inadvertent, even though they hope you will think it is. They count on your politeness or need to get along. However, underneath the guise of innocence, generosity or passivity, is hidden hostility.

They test your boundaries all the time. How often can they ignore your needs or rattle you by doing what they know is infuriating to you? That could be forgetting to do what they said they would, doing what they know you hate, taking advantage of you in another way or playing little power games. When you call a passive aggressive person out, they deny their indirect and inappropriate way of interacting or play it down. This is confusing and utterly infuriating because it is impossible to honestly talk about hurt feelings, insecurities or needs.

Passive-aggressive behaviour is a learned behaviour. Passive aggressive people often had an overbearing or controlling caretaker as a child. Expressing their needs and wants was not welcomed. Let’s take a look at Yohan’s upbringing, for example.

Yohan remembers his childhood as a time of coldness, deprivation, control and conflicts. His parents both drank and his mother was an alcoholic. “A remarkably high rate of alcoholism exists among the parents of passive-aggressive men. Alcohol has a way of facilitating conflict” (Scott Wetzler: Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man). His mother humiliated his father and Yohan lacked a strong male role model. He wanted her approval while he also feared and resented his mother. He felt he was never good enough for her and he has projected that onto every female partner or boss he ever had.

The conflict became even more apparent when his two younger siblings were born. Some jealousy towards a younger sibling is normal, but his parents responded with harsh punishments and did not let him voice his feelings or his fear of being replaced.  Because he couldn’t express his anger and fear, he used other ways of communicating his hostility.

He responded to his parent’s expectations with moodiness, stubbornness and a lack of cooperation. He became destructive, whinny and sulky. He refused to speak and started to underperform academically, rebelling against yet another authority figure, the teacher in school. His mother especially wanted to know his every move. This is the emotional expectation of the women in his life, which he still holds onto today, as he has grown into an adult who is secretive and vague.

As a teenager, his inner conflict grew further. When he was kicked out of school for missing too many classes, he felt that was unfair, after all he was working a nighttime job. He did not see a connection with the fact that he was falling asleep at his desk, didn’t turn his homework in on time, and cut too many classes. Expecting special treatment, he felt victimized and still tells this story from that perspective as an adult.

He has a hate-love relationship not only with his mother but every women—like his superiors at work—who appears to be powerful. His wife became an unwitting player in the reconstruction of his past. In Lisa, he was attracted to a woman who was strong and controlling. Simultaneously being attracted to a strong woman who reminded him of his mother and subconsciously fearing dependency and control, he responds to her with retreat, sulking, stubbornness or by turning a cold shoulder.

Yohan is unaware that a mutual dependency is normal and healthy. As humans we all need other people: we are interdependent beings. In our romantic relationships, that means letting yourself be cared for by your partner and at the same time caring for your partner. Dependency makes him feel weak, incompetent and needy. Feeling needy creates a fear of abandonment.

Today, he sets up situations which create an experience of deprivation, rejection or abandonment for him, especially in his love relationships. The stuck emotion of feeling unimportant and the belief that others, especially women, are not giving, operates like a self-fulfilling prophecy in his life. Either he does not express his needs at all and expects his wife Lisa to be a mind reader, or he expresses them at inopportune moments when the kids need to be attended to or Lisa is distracted by work. Subconsciously, he expects for his needs not to be met and sets out to prove that this is true. Meanwhile, he believes other people have all these unreasonable expectations of him which he feels resentful about.

When faced with challenges, opportunities or conflicts, he responds with procrastination, lack of initiative and indecisiveness. He waits for others to solve his problems or for his luck to turn. When others suggest positive changes or new opportunities, his response is, “what’s the point?” His hopelessness wins out over taking action.

Lisa, his second spouse, has a strong manager personality trait and says she fell for Yohan’s potential. She came to his rescue by organizing his finances and resolving his problems with co-workers and family members. She is surprised that Yohan resents her for what he experiences as dependency on her. His inactivity has brought out her more controlling side. And her controlling side activates his passive-aggressive behaviour. The more she tries to fix and help, the more resistant and negative he becomes.

A similar thing occurred in his previous marriage. That marriage ended due to Yohan having an affair and carelessly leaving the signs for his indiscretion out in the open for his first wife to find them. According to Scott Wetzler, that again is typical for passive aggressive men. “No matter how troubled relationships get, the passive-aggressive man will not unilaterally leave them…If he wants out, he’ll engineer the situation so you are forced to break up with him. Leaving is too real, too actively self-assertive, requiring too much initiative. It would allow you to actually blame him, something he doesn’t like at all.” (Scott Wetzler: Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man)

Lisa loves Yohan and she wants to get out of the role of being the mother figure he fears and resents. At the same time, Yohan is recognizing his challenges due to his learned passive-aggressive behaviour and the underlying fears. What can Yohan and Lisa do so that their marriage does not end in the same way that his first one did?

Please read my next blog to find out. You can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post part 2 of this article. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar or in the pop-up window.

If you are interested in ordering Scott Wetzler’s book ”Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man” I am grateful for you using my amazon associate link.

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

Check out my discount packages for couples.

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

How To Do the Time Out Right

“You did it again!”, Sarah yells at Frank, her face red and her eyes dark and full of fire. “If you think you can treat me this way, you are mistaken! You just wait! I will show you!…” She takes another breath to continue her loud tirade, but stops herself. She realizes that her angry and vengeful self has taken over. Before she can say another word, she says, “I need a time out…” and storms out of the room. Ten minutes later her husband gets a text from her “I need a time out to calm down. I will be back in an hour.”

When one or both people in an interaction are emotionally triggered, perhaps even feeling extreme anger or rage, absolutely nothing good can come out of continuing the fight or emotionally charged conversation. While we are in fight, flight or freeze mode, we simply CANNOT problem solve.

What Do We Do When My Partner and I Trigger Each Other Emotionally? (Relationship Tip 1)

When a protective part has taken over, for example anger, harshness, revenge, moral judgement, defensiveness or fear, we do not have enough Self, or in other words, not enough “heart energy”, present to connect and solve an issue as a team. We need to get back into a calm, clear, collected, creative and even compassionate state first.

The time out is like a circuit breaker. When one of our protective parts takes over, it can be powerful and it might feel like we are just not in control anymore. Remember that you are not the anger. It is just part of you. The initial angry impulse might come too quickly to do anything about it. However, any emotion that we engage in longer than two minutes, is not an instinct anymore, but a choice. Like Sarah, you have enough control to turn around and leave. Terry Real likes to point out, and I agree with him, that if you truly could not control your anger and rage, you would be raging everywhere. You would lose your temper at work, in public situations—for example at the cop who stops you for speeding—and you would end up in prison or in a mental institution. If you can control your rage somewhere, you can control it anywhere. If you can control your anger in other situations, you have the choice to control it with your partner.

It is a myth that love has to always be passionate. This myth has us believing that in order to have the positive passion that we want, we also need to put up with crazy jealousy and anger. Emotional ups and downs will ultimately burn you both out and destroy the relationship. It pays off to learn to use the time out method.

Terry Real names ten rules for applying the Time Out method successfully. He calls them the ten commandments.

  1. Use a time out as a circuit breaker
    Time outs immediately stop a psychologically violent or nonconstructive interaction between you and your partner.
  2. Take your time out based on how YOU feel
    You call the time out for yourself, no matter how your partner feels. It means advocating for your own needs because you don’t want to feel and/or act the way you are.
  3. Take distance responsibly
    When we decide to take distance, we can do it provocatively or responsibly. Responsible distance taking has two parts: 1) an explanation and 2) the promise to return. You need to get across to your partner, “This is why I need distance and this is when I intend to come back.” When you don’t give an explanation, you are disregarding your partner’s anxiety about your distance taking and you are further triggering your partner. Provocative distance taking tends to get you chased. Do not play games with your partner. Be very clear about when you are going to continue the conversation.

  1. The phrase “Time Out” or the “T” sign
    If you are able to say something like “I don’t like how I’m speaking to you and I don’t trust what I am about to say/do, therefore, I’m taking some time to regain my composure. I will be back” that is great. However, most people are not able to express all of this, so a previously agreed upon phrase or signal are helpful.
  2. Don’t let yourself get stopped
    Terry Real stresses that time outs are unilateral. Unlike any other relationship tool, time outs are a non-negotiable declaration. You’re not asking permission. Leave the room and go into another room and close the door, or even leave the house.
  3. Use check-ins at prescribed intervals
    The purpose of the time out is not to punish your partner, but rather to calm things down. Therefore, it is critical that you check in with your partner from time to time in order to take the emotional temperature between you. The intervals Terry Real suggests are: an hour, three hours, a half day, a whole day, an overnight. You can check in by phone or even by texting.

  1. Remember your goal
    The goal of time outs is to stop emotionally violent, immature, and destructive behavior. “Stopping such behavior in your relationship is a goal that supersedes all other goals. You may need to work on better communication, more sharing or negotiation, but none of that will happen until you succeed in wrestling the beast of nasty transactions to the ground” (Terry Real).
  2. Return in good faith
    Don’t return with resentment or self-righteousness. Come back when you are truly ready to make peace.
  3. Use a twenty-four-hour moratorium on triggering topics
    In severe cases, put the triggering topic on halt for 24 hours. When you come back from a time out, put a pause on the reoccurring fight you are having. First get comfortable with each other again. Engage in a non-triggering simple every day activity together, like having a cup of coffee or watching TV. Return to the topic the next day when you are calm and collected.
  4. Know when to get help and use it.
    If you find that a certain topic, for example money, children, sex, trust, ex-partners, etc. always triggers a nasty transaction, take that as a signal that you need some outside support in order to break through to having constructive conversations. There is no shame in getting help; it is what smart couples do.

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Check out my discount packages for couples.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

Conflicts in Relationships

“How can you be so heartless and cold?” Sandra asks with anger in her voice, “Why don’t you have any sympathy for my brother? You are so cruel!”

Kyle is looking at his wife and is wondering how they ended up in this escalated conflict, one of many fights about her brother. He is silently reminding himself that she has simply been taken over by not just an angry but also a judgmental protector right now. And underneath those protectors are feelings of fear and responsibility for a younger sibling who has always relied on Sandra. She feels helpless, guilty and frustrated.

She continues defiantly, “I will not turn him away if he needs my help! I am giving him the money, no matter what you think! You always support your ex-wife when she needs extra money, supposedly for the kids…”

Now Kyle can feel how his own protector is coming up. There is a part of him that just wants to reply sharply, “No you will not. I am the main provider in this family and I make our financial decisions.” But thankfully, he still has enough awareness that his controlling protector is gearing up for a fight in response to Sandra’s anger. He remembers to use their code word, ”Fire.”

The protectors are like Firefighters. They don’t care about the damage they cause; they only care about “putting out the fire”. In our inner world, that “fire” equates to our vulnerability and our emotional pain. That code-word “fire” for Kyle and Sandra means, “Stop. Let’s take a break right now to calm ourselves.” When we are triggered by our partner we need a time out of at least 20-30 minutes. During that time, we need to allow our sympathetic nervous system to calm down again. The time out is probably one of the most important agreements to make when couples struggle with escalating conflicts.

When our partner shows up in one of their protectors, rather than connecting from a more loving, calm or even vulnerable place, we often wonder what we are doing with this awful person. We might think, “How could I not see from the start how horrible he/she is?” While we are in this emotionally activated state, we perceive the situation and especially each other as a threat. We are unable to see clearly, problem solve or make rational decisions. Any conversation that we continue in this state can only become more destructive.

Terrence Real mentions in his book “The New Rules of Marriage” that we all have two competing images of our partner. We have one image of them at their best and one of them at their worst. You could perhaps say that when we hold the first image we see them for who they really are at a core level, or for who they are capable of being. That positive image might be identical with what we fell in love with when we first met. When our partner is being taken over by one of their protectors, we can hold that positive image as a beacon to remind us that he or she is more than this angry, controlling, judgmental, negative, complaining, or defensive person across from us.

In some cases, this core positive image can of course be problematic as well. If one person is holding the potential of who their partner can be so insistently that they ignore detrimental aspects of the relationship instead of acknowledging them, the image is creating an issue.

However, in most cases we need and want to cultivate the positive image to get through tough times. We can cultivate this picture by focusing on everything we love and like about our partner. A practice of appreciation of each other allows us to keep this image alive.

According to Terry Real, we also harbour a “core negative image” of our partner. That’s the combination of all the things they do that trigger us into judgements and challenge us in our relationship. It includes all the pain we have experienced with or through this partner. When we are emotionally activated, we are unable to see anything but the negative. We are seeing the other person through the glasses of the fight and flight response. Or Terry Real would say through “fight, flight or fix”. By that he means, we want to fight back, or stone wall/retreat/run away in some way, or quickly fix the tension in the room without addressing the problems and individual needs. Backing away from the issue just to fix the disharmony won’t help us. It breads resentment.

“The difference between real acceptance and just backing away from an issue, or away from the whole relationship, is resentment.”

Terrence Real, “How Can I Get Through to You?”

Why do we want to fight, run or fix? The reason is instinctual. We don’t see the other person accurately when we have been taken over by our protectors. In that moment in time, we also often assume that our partner has the worst intentions instead of being able to consider that they might have good intentions or reasons underneath their behaviour which seems so outrageous to us.

This goes both ways. Just as you might be triggered into seeing your partner from the core negative image when your vulnerabilities are triggered, your partner also experiences you from their perspective of the negative core image. What we really are seeing are our protective parts responding to what the other person activates deep inside of us, or in other words, what that person reflects back to us.

 

Take a moment to ask yourself what characteristics trigger you in your partner, and write them down. Because the people close to us always mirror to us what we have disowned, you will create a list of traits that will mostly be excellent shadow traits to work with in your next session with your relationship coach.

Now write down what you think your partner gets triggered by in you. What does his or her negative core image of you probably look like?

The work in individual sessions or in couple sessions is to understand our protectors—and those that our partner tends to go into—and to learn to speak “for” them rather than “from” them. It is also our responsibility as an individual to notice and work on the triggers or shadows that the relationship with our partner activates for us.

For individual sessions or couples sessions please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Check out discount packages for couples here.

You can also work on your relationship by subscribing to my Patreon. The package “Relationship Tips and Partner Exercises” provides you with my ongoing support to improve your relationships beyond sessions with me. Please click here for more information and samples.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

Conscious Uncoupling

I have been going through the process of consciously uncoupling over a period of several months, starting last year. 2017 brought me some major personal life changes and challenges. I experienced a couple of catalysts in the second part of the year to bring to my attention that my long-term partnership needed to be evaluated and transformed. Until these two events unfolded, I had been trying to fix instead of admitting that repairing only works when you still have enough overlap in your value systems. The catalytic events brought to the surface that we had reached an impasse. Our needs and wants as well as our core values, by which we as humans all live, had grown farther and farther apart. And we cannot compromise our core values or ask this from another person. To live in integrity with our values is one of the most important decisions to make for our happiness and health.

So how do we part consciously? How do we transform a romantic relationship into a friendship in which we feel safe?

When a relationship nears its end, you might have experienced that you are tempted “to try to violently vomit someone right up and out of your heart and soul” (Katherine Woodward Thomas). Ironically, by trying to cut a relationship off too quickly, we keep the connection festering in our psyche. Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all wounds. John James and Russell Friedman name this idea as one of the myths around loss which hold us back from achieving completion. It depends on what we decide to do with the time.

Initially, my experience was deep grief. Part of the grieving when a relationship ends is around grieving the future, or as Katherine Woodward Thomas says, “Much of the horror of a breakup is the insult to our expectations of how this story was supposed to unfold versus how it actually did”.

Woodward Thomas points out that “when our expectations are in line with reality, our brains receive a hefty dopamine hit to reward us… Yet, when our expectations are not met, our stress levels shoot through the roof, shifting our brains into a threat state”. Failed expectations can throw us into deep confusion and inner chaos. We might even experience humiliation, inferiority or shame because of the external rules and expectations of society.

The phrase “and they lived happily ever after” summarizes our collective story of how romantic love is supposed to work. If it lasts, then it’s real love; if it doesn’t, then it wasn’t love to begin with. But we are forgetting that people and their needs and value systems simply change.

So rather than defining the success of a relationship by whether it lasted “until death do us part” or not, why don’t we define the value of it by the wisdom and learning we have gained. A second, and in my mind very important, way of defining success or failure of a relationship is by consciously deciding to end a union in a loving way rather than with hatred and revenge.

Conscious uncoupling is “a way to end a romantic union with dignity, goodness, and honor, and where no one was left shattered or destroyed by the experience.” (Katherine Woodward Thomas). It is the decision to remain as conscious as possible while separating and to strive to overcome the impulses of our limbic-brain. The aim of conscious uncoupling is to plant seeds of forgiveness, goodwill and generosity. The word generous shares the same root as “genesis” and “generate”, which means “beginning” or “to give birth”. One way to be generous and initiate a new beginning is to get to a place where we can honestly offer a blessing to our former partner, wishing them well.

Of course it is great if both partners want to part this way, but it only takes one person to consciously uncouple. Even if your partner is revengeful or angry, you are not bound to behave in kind. Even if he or she does not show up as generous, you have the choice to be that forgiving person. The motivation of forgiveness is for-giving yourself freedom, so that you can move forward empowered to create a happy, healthy life. In order to do that, we need to take what is ugly and rotting, and turn it into “compost” to grow something better from it.

Most marriages or relationships unfortunately end with one or both parties becoming obsessed with winning or getting some form of revenge. Angry and reactive words and deeds are the norm. Well-meaning friends or family members can also do some damage. They often want to see us as a strong hero or heroine. They tend to take sides, “insisting upon devaluing, diminishing, and dismissing your former love, and your relationship in the process, to try and help you move on” (Woodward-Thomas) but that will not ultimately bring us relief and peace. After all, the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference or detachment. Hate is just as strong a bond as love, and keeps us energetically tied to our former partner.

And because our brain is hardwired to keep us safe and ensure our survival, it is also prone to stay connected to the previous attachment figure. For our ancestors, being part of the tribe was essential for survival. Being rejected and excluded creates feelings of unsafety and danger in the reptilian complex, the evolutionarily oldest part of our brain. To that part of our brain, it might seem that it is better to have a negative bond than no bond at all.

To comprehend the pull a former love can still have, we need to understand what happens in our brain when we love somebody and lose somebody. In her TED talk “The Brain in Love”, Dr. Helen Fisher shares how brain research shows activity in the brain cells which produces dopamine when we are in love. This area is part of the brain’s reward system, part of the reptilian core of the brain, below our cognitive functions or more advanced parts of our brain. The same brain region becomes active when someone feels the rush of cocaine.

But romantic love can become even more of an obsession than cocaine. The obsession can get worse when you have been rejected. Our conscious mind is very much aware that the best thing to do is move on and start a new life, but our brains are hardwired to increase our desire for the one we are losing because the exact part of the brain that became activated when we fell in love is the part of the brain that becomes stimulated when we are rejected. It sparks activity in the brain that is similar to the experience of a cocaine addict seeking that next fix.

Dr. Fisher sums it up by saying, “I have come to believe that romantic love is an addiction. A perfectly wonderful addiction when it’s going well, and a perfectly horrible addiction when it’s going poorly… Romantic love is one of the most addictive substances on earth.” Love comes from the wanting or craving part of our mind; it’s a drive.

In fact, three different brain systems are involved in the experience of being in a loving relationship, says Fisher in another talk titled “Why We Love, Why We Cheat”. One is the part of the brain where the craving for sexual gratification originates from, you might want to call it lust. The second of these brain systems is romantic love, characterized by the elation of early love. The third brain system is attachment; that sense of calm and security that you can feel with a long-term partner. Our brain’s main function is to ensure survival of the species. The sexual energy prompts us to look for a number of partners for the survival of our genes, romantic love focuses us on one partner and the attachment need we have enables us—according to Fisher—to tolerate this human being long enough to raise a child together as a team.

The three brain systems don’t always go together and that’s where complications occur. They can go together and that’s why casual sex is not always casual. When experiencing orgasms, you get a spike of dopamine and a rush of oxytocin. Dopamine is associated with romantic love and oxytocin with attachment. We can experience a sense of a strong cosmic union with someone after we have made love to them. That’s when we can fall in love with somebody who we just wanted to have casual sex with.

But these three brain systems aren’t always connected to each other. We can feel deep attachment to one person while we can feel romantic love or sexual attraction to another person. Good long-lasting healthy relationships need to be consciously created despite these instincts. We need to understand our learned attachment styles so we can actually form a long-lasting, secure bond.

So what if we would not just strive to consciously create fulfilling and well-functioning relationships, but also create break-ups “where neither party was blamed or shamed, yet where both people were left valued and appreciated for all that they’d given one another” (Katherine Woodward Thomas)?

If a love relationship ends for any other reason than death of one partner, we assume that it failed. Yet, we would never say a friendship or business venture was a failure if after some time one or both people realize their needs aren’t met and it is time to move on to new adventures.

Life changes, like a relationship loss, are a time when we find ourselves in the corridor between two worlds. We are no longer the person we used to be, and not quite yet the person we are going to become. Even though a break-up is most likely one of the more painful experiences we can have in our life, it holds great promise for growth and awakening.

Every fear and insecurity we have ever swept under the rug now stares us straight in the face to be dealt with. But you can use the shock of the loss “to break your heart open, expanding and enlarging your capacity to authentically love yourself and others” (Katherine Woodward Thomas).

If we do not work on completion of a relationship, the baggage we have buried will come up again in the next relationship. It will leak out in toxic and destructive ways into the relationships we have, which are ultimately all a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves.

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her former husband, Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, brought conscious uncoupling into the headlines of the press when they announced the end of their marriage in 2014. I would like to end with their announcement as a perfect example of uncoupling with consciousness:

“It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate… We have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate. We are, however, and always will be a family, and in many ways we are closer that we have ever been.”

To purchase “Conscious Uncoupling” by Katherine Woodward Thomas, please use my amazon associate links by either clicking on the text link or the image below. Thank you for supporting me and my book reviews.

Are you in the process of creating or improving a relationship, or in the process of ending a relationship, and you want to do it with as much consciousness as possible and in the highest wisdom and benefit for all involved?

Contact me for a free phone consultation on either individual sessions or couple’s coaching.

I also offer packages for couples.

You can request the phone consultation by email.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!