How Our Emotional Brain Can Sabotage Our Relationships

The brain has 5 different ‘states’ ranging from 1-5. Brain states 1-2 are stress free, it is here where we feel all those natural feel good feelings, endorphins oxytocin and dopamine are readily available. This idyllic picture changes however when the brain perceives a stressor, at this point our brain state descends (3-5).

In brain states 3-5 our system produces the hormones of stress, cortisol, adrenaline etc, this then changes our perception, we feel like we are under threat.

The emotional brain (brain states 3-5) is the storehouse of past emotional experiences that are not fully processed. These emotional experiences get ‘triggered’ in the present, and cause problems in our relationships.

When we are in brain states 3-5 our reactions become more unconscious and primitive.This is the brain area of survival. This is also where our emotional defence system gets activated.

Problems arise with our partner when our emotional reactions to them are dominated by the lower emotional brain.

Our perception of our partner changes when we are in our lower brain. We become reactionary and defensive.

What we need are the conscious tools of change, we need a different way of communicating with each other, a way that will bring us back up into our higher brain( neocortex) brain states 1 and 2. The higher brain can create win wins, and can see the bigger picture.

The structure of the safe communication dialogue keeps us in our higher brain, and keeps our communication safe.

The safe communication dialogue includes:

Listening reflectively, validating your partners experience, showing empathy..

We have to become very aware of our emotional responses to our partner. Many of our emotional responses are more to do with our own emotional history, rather than to do with the reality of our partners prescence in our lives.

It can be surprising for some couples when they realise just how much of their emotional history is sabotaging their present relationship.

The safe communication dialogue creates safety and trust in the relationship, allowing both people to feel truly seen and heard.

For more information or to make an appointment, you can use the contact page on this website,

Published by From Conflict To Connection

My name is Lynn Armstrong, I work as a relationship coach, and also in the area of stress resilience

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