Five-Minute Relationship Repair
Quickly heal upsets, Deepen intimacy and Use differences to strengthen love by Susan Campbell and John Grey (con’t)
3 Helpful Tips from The Relationship Repair Book
There were three bits of information that I found very helpful in the first few chapters of their book.
1. Being Triggered
What was actually new for me was their comparison of being triggered, to drinking too much alcohol. We all know that an excess of alcohol can impair our ability to think straight. “The same goes for adrenaline (the fight or flight response) or anesthesia (the freeze response).” (p.22) While there are no empty bottles on the table, the survival alarm of our old brain dumps powerful chemicals into our system without our conscious choice.
Understanding this helps take the blame out of the process when you or your partner get triggered, which is the word they use for a stimulus that sets off the survival alarm. The alarm reacts instinctively and without your permission. Repair then is not about blaming, but taking steps to get your higher brain back online.
2. Right Brain Dominance
The second interesting piece for me, was to be reminded, that “before two years of age, our right brains are dominant. Most of our information about our safety and security comes via our caregivers’ vocal tones, touch, facial expressions, and gestures – through non-verbal communication.” (p.76) These are the earliest learning experiences of the child and they are being read very carefully by the child’s survival alarm brain.
Later on, in a relationship, it might be a tone of voice or a look or gesture that triggers the survival alarm more than the spoken words. (How you say something is often more important than what you say.) Most of the time adults have no idea what old programming lies at the root of their triggers. Their survival alarm does not distinguish that the present sounds or looks are coming from different people in an entirely different time and place. The third bit also makes complete sense:
3. Survival Alarm System
“Our alarm systems are built to make mistakes. A good alarm, by its very nature, will overgeneralize and sound a lot of false alarms. It’s about survival, after all. Hence, our alarms go off automatically if an intimate partner does something even remotely similar to earlier painful or scary experiences. In an intimate partnership, we need to feel emotionally safe and secure. Otherwise, we will be triggered to some degree.”(p.18)
What can you do? “Step one is to accept that this sort of thing happens – even to the nicest, most intelligent and conscious people. Step two is learning how to recognize the early warning signs of being triggered.” (p.23) Step three I would suggest, is to stop digging the proverbial hole deeper with the shovels of “blaming, criticizing, name-calling, judging, attacking, prodding, pursuing, provoking, getting defensive, withdrawing, shutting down, proving you’re right, and trying to win.” These reactive behaviors are signs that your higher brain has gotten hijacked. (pp.15-16.)