Tag: love

Freeze, Flee, or Fight

1-flight-fleeAn Excerpt from Love Cycles by Linda Carroll

Our brain is wired for connection. When we begin to love someone, our connection circuitry lights up and dominates. We anticipate the best in our new partner, and we’re rewarded, because each thing she says and does activates the connection center of our brain.

We view her actions and intentions and interpret her language through the lens of our positive vision.  As the chemistry of love fades, a second kind of circuitry emerges. It turns out that we’re wired for self-protection as well. When we experience our partner as a threat, we withdraw to protect ourselves from further injury. Withdrawal and disconnection are what continue to create trouble. At the heart of our vulnerability lies the feeling that we’ve lost our best friend. Our heart and body ache for her return. Yet often our behavior is the last thing that would invite her back.

Whenever a threat is perceived, it registers in the old part of your brain, which some researchers refer to as reptilian. Your body is flooded with the neurotransmitters and hormones that alert you to danger and prepare you for battle. Once these chemicals are present, you can only comprehend a tiny fraction of what’s going on. Just when your ability to see the whole picture shrinks, your certainty that you’re right expands.

Say you’re out hiking in the mountains. Suddenly you see a cougar moving slowly on the next ridge, stalking you. You don’t stop to smell the wildflowers or wonder from what direction the cougar came. Your entire system focuses on how to escape or how to kill the cougar before it kills you. There’s no room in the situation for anything but certainty and action.

Now, say you come home from a hard day, stressed and tired, and your partner is annoyed because you forgot to pick up groceries. If you’re tired and cranky, the complaint may feel almost as threatening as the sight of the cougar. You might react as if you were fighting for your life. When you feel under attack, your body is flooded with warning chemicals. You have three options: to freeze, flee, or fight.
 
Forget the Groceries and Freeze
If you freeze, you’ll sense your IQ dropping several points. Words elude you, and it feels impossible to decide what to do next. You act out the belief “If I’m quiet and don’t draw attention, I’m less likely to get hurt.” If you tend to freeze, you might deflect trouble with a plea for sympathy. Here’s an example.

Your partner says, “Did you forget the groceries?”

You say, “Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry. I’m just not feeling well. I hope you’re not mad.”

Your partner replies, “I’m not mad, but I wish you’d remembered.”

You say, “I’ve forgotten other things in the past few days. In fact, I’m worried that I may be running a fever.”

You go lie down on the couch.
 
Forget the Groceries and Flee
If you tend to flee, most likely you’re wired in such a way that, in the face of stressful conflict, your body wants to run to avoid entrapment and harm. This urge to bolt can take the form of denial of problems, procrastination, or withdrawal. When you flee, you act on the belief, “If I get away from you, and you can’t catch me, then you can’t hurt me.” Here’s an example.

Your partner says, “Did you forget the groceries?”

You reply, “Well, I thought we could make do with something light tonight. We could stand to eat less, you know.”

Your partner says, “But we don’t have any eggs, and you said you’d get some.”

You say, “Look, I can’t deal with this right now. I’ve got a lot of reports to finish tonight. I’ll buy eggs tomorrow.”

You shut the door to your study.
 
Forget the Groceries and Fight
Just like Jack, fighters believe that “the best offense is a good defense.” And just as Jack did with Daisy, they deflect criticism through retaliation. They use the faults and transgressions of their “opponents” against them. The fighter experiences an apparent rise in IQ, and words come easily in the quest to offer proof against any complaint. Here’s an example.

Your partner says, “Did you forget the groceries?”

You snap, “All I need today is your criticism.”

Your partner replies, “I just asked a simple question.”

You say, “With you, nothing is simple. It’s always about what I do wrong. What about you? What about my birthday you forgot? What about Thursday, when you locked your keys in the car? Your brother always said you were an airhead.”

You leave the room and slam the door.
 
Although we can’t rewire ourselves to stop our initial primal reaction to freeze, flee, or fight, we can learn to override our first reaction and behave much more constructively. In the case of the groceries, for example, with some mental and emotional adjustment, we can learn to respond with something like “I’m sorry, I did forget them,” and then offer to go to the store.

Often, our partner just needs to register disappointment and once he feels heard will respond with something like, “Hey, it’s okay. I know you had a long day,” and it’s over. Or he may appreciate your going back out and getting the eggs. In any event, a small thing stays a small thing, because we’ve learned to override our initial inclination to freeze, flee, or fight.


Linda Carroll is the author of Love Cycles. A couple’s therapist for over thirty years, she is certified in Transpersonal Psychology and Imago Therapy and is a master teacher in Pairs Therapy. She lives in Corvallis, OR, offers workshops across the country, and is a frequent speaker at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. Visit her online at www.lindaacarroll.com.

Adapted from the book Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Wholehearted Love ©2014 by Linda Carroll.  Published with permission of New World Library www.newworldlibrary.com.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love

1-stages-of-loveby Linda Carroll

As a counselor to couples for many years, I’ve come to recognize five distinctive stages we travel through over the course of any intimate relationship:  the Merge, Doubt and Denial, Disillusionment, Decision, and, finally, Wholehearted Loving.

Love Cycles and Choices

The first stage, the Merge, is fueled by a delicious and powerful love potion and marked changes in brain chemistry itself, causes people to become obsessed with the wonder and delight of their new partner. Its as though a veil covers our rational brain, and all we can see is what is magical about this person and the relationship.  The seductive power of this stage may also cause us to fall in love with an inappropriate partner. With consciousness and effort, we can choose what to do with our feelings. Do we fan the flames of a potentially dangerous fire, or do we control our passion and turn our attention elsewhere?  

Even if our partner is a good match, this will not eliminate the difficulties and annoyances two human beings bring to one another.  In this first stage, we tend to see only the best, the possibilities, the magic.

If we choose to move with our partner into Stage Two, Doubt and Denial, we wake up from the trance of infatuation and begin to wonder whether this relationship is really the best choice for us. You find your feelings of love are becoming more conditional, power struggles increase and you wonder if your partner has changed. What now? We can choose to look carefully at our partner and assess his ability to collaborate, manage conflict and disappointment and accept responsibility for his choices and troubles. Can we feel strongly attracted to someone and yet admit to ourselves that this person is not a good choice for us? If so, are we able to say no to the relationship?

During this second stage, the spotlight shines on the flaws of our beloved. We now invest a lot of energy in getting our lover to become the ideal partner we thought they would be. At the same time, we also catch glimpses of our own least likeable parts — for example, how we react when our partner doesn’t agree with us. The research clearly shows that managing conflict effectively requires something different than fighting, fleeing or freezing. Can we learn these new skills?

Each of us is forced to give up our dream of perfect, unconditional love in which our partner always sees the best in us, says the right thing, never embarrasses us and reads our mind so that he or she can please us in every way possible.

As our disappointment escalates, so do our biological responses to stress: we prepare for war, retreat, or don camouflage. Welcome to the third stage: Disillusionment. As differences continue to emerge, our proclivities to defend and preserve ourselves may grow even stronger: we may believe that we’re always in the right and that everything should be done our way.

Alternatively, you may be the kind of person who cannot bear conflict. You shut your ears to every dissonant chord and pretend that everything is wonderful — or at least tolerable.

The point is, you have chosen how to respond. You will continue to make choices as you move through love’s stages. As disillusionment sets in, we can try our best to offer goodwill and kindness, even as tension thickens. As the “Why aren’t you me?” argument gathers momentum, we can consciously decide to loosen up a bit and allow more than one truth to be present in the relationship.

In this third stage, when our brain signals major alarm, it is particularly vital to choose to move from reactivity to rationality. When we are calmly present, we are free to act for the highest good of the relationship rather than out of fear and neediness.

Of course, because we’re thoroughly human, we won’t always respond to our lover from our highest selves. Then what? Can we apologize, make amends and take responsibility for how we’ve behaved, despite what our partner has done to upset or annoy us? We have the power to make that choice.

Let’s say that when we reach the fourth stage — Decision— we make the choice to part ways. Can we wish our former partner the best? If that’s too hard, can we at least not wish him or her the worst?

If we decide to remain together, we have the opportunity to learn the lessons that will help to make us the best person we can be, while also giving our relationship the chance to grow and deepen. This is where we enter the fifth cycle, which is wholehearted loving. No longer two halves trying to make a whole, we are two complete people learning about love. Passion, safety and generosity return to the relationship, along with humor and empathy.

From the Inside Out
Some of us are lucky enough to enjoy a strong connection with the same partner for a long stretch. But regardless of the quality of our intimate relationship, our emotional and spiritual life journey begins and ends within us. In this sense, every relationship is an inside job. Inside us is where it starts — and where it finishes, too.


Linda Carroll is the author of Love Cycles. A couple’s therapist for over thirty years, she is certified in Transpersonal Psychology and Imago Therapy and is a master teacher in Pairs Therapy. She lives in Corvallis, OR, offers workshops across the country, and is a frequent speaker at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. Visit her online at www.lindaacarroll.com.

Adapted from the book Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Wholehearted Love ©2014 by Linda Carroll.  Published with permission of New World Library www.newworldlibrary.com.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love

1-stages-of-loveby Linda Carroll

As a counselor to couples for many years, I’ve come to recognize five distinctive stages we travel through over the course of any intimate relationship:  the Merge, Doubt and Denial, Disillusionment, Decision, and, finally, Wholehearted Loving.

Love Cycles and Choices

The first stage, the Merge, is fueled by a delicious and powerful love potion and marked changes in brain chemistry itself, causes people to become obsessed with the wonder and delight of their new partner. Its as though a veil covers our rational brain, and all we can see is what is magical about this person and the relationship.  The seductive power of this stage may also cause us to fall in love with an inappropriate partner. With consciousness and effort, we can choose what to do with our feelings. Do we fan the flames of a potentially dangerous fire, or do we control our passion and turn our attention elsewhere?  

Even if our partner is a good match, this will not eliminate the difficulties and annoyances two human beings bring to one another.  In this first stage, we tend to see only the best, the possibilities, the magic.

If we choose to move with our partner into Stage Two, Doubt and Denial, we wake up from the trance of infatuation and begin to wonder whether this relationship is really the best choice for us. You find your feelings of love are becoming more conditional, power struggles increase and you wonder if your partner has changed. What now? We can choose to look carefully at our partner and assess his ability to collaborate, manage conflict and disappointment and accept responsibility for his choices and troubles. Can we feel strongly attracted to someone and yet admit to ourselves that this person is not a good choice for us? If so, are we able to say no to the relationship?

During this second stage, the spotlight shines on the flaws of our beloved. We now invest a lot of energy in getting our lover to become the ideal partner we thought they would be. At the same time, we also catch glimpses of our own least likeable parts — for example, how we react when our partner doesn’t agree with us. The research clearly shows that managing conflict effectively requires something different than fighting, fleeing or freezing. Can we learn these new skills?

Each of us is forced to give up our dream of perfect, unconditional love in which our partner always sees the best in us, says the right thing, never embarrasses us and reads our mind so that he or she can please us in every way possible.

As our disappointment escalates, so do our biological responses to stress: we prepare for war, retreat, or don camouflage. Welcome to the third stage: Disillusionment. As differences continue to emerge, our proclivities to defend and preserve ourselves may grow even stronger: we may believe that we’re always in the right and that everything should be done our way.

Alternatively, you may be the kind of person who cannot bear conflict. You shut your ears to every dissonant chord and pretend that everything is wonderful — or at least tolerable.

The point is, you have chosen how to respond. You will continue to make choices as you move through love’s stages. As disillusionment sets in, we can try our best to offer goodwill and kindness, even as tension thickens. As the “Why aren’t you me?” argument gathers momentum, we can consciously decide to loosen up a bit and allow more than one truth to be present in the relationship.

In this third stage, when our brain signals major alarm, it is particularly vital to choose to move from reactivity to rationality. When we are calmly present, we are free to act for the highest good of the relationship rather than out of fear and neediness.

Of course, because we’re thoroughly human, we won’t always respond to our lover from our highest selves. Then what? Can we apologize, make amends and take responsibility for how we’ve behaved, despite what our partner has done to upset or annoy us? We have the power to make that choice.

Let’s say that when we reach the fourth stage — Decision— we make the choice to part ways. Can we wish our former partner the best? If that’s too hard, can we at least not wish him or her the worst?

If we decide to remain together, we have the opportunity to learn the lessons that will help to make us the best person we can be, while also giving our relationship the chance to grow and deepen. This is where we enter the fifth cycle, which is wholehearted loving. No longer two halves trying to make a whole, we are two complete people learning about love. Passion, safety and generosity return to the relationship, along with humor and empathy.

From the Inside Out
Some of us are lucky enough to enjoy a strong connection with the same partner for a long stretch. But regardless of the quality of our intimate relationship, our emotional and spiritual life journey begins and ends within us. In this sense, every relationship is an inside job. Inside us is where it starts — and where it finishes, too.


Linda Carroll is the author of Love Cycles. A couple’s therapist for over thirty years, she is certified in Transpersonal Psychology and Imago Therapy and is a master teacher in Pairs Therapy. She lives in Corvallis, OR, offers workshops across the country, and is a frequent speaker at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. Visit her online at www.lindaacarroll.com.

Adapted from the book Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Wholehearted Love ©2014 by Linda Carroll.  Published with permission of New World Library www.newworldlibrary.com.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail