Research shows most of our personality is formed by the time we are 5 years old. We go through a myriad of experiences as a young child, whose brain is developing. We learn who we are in the world, whether the world is safe, question whether we are important, etc. We receive and learn all these messages when we are young.
Our brain creates certain patterns or neuro-pathways. These neuro connections create our personality. This is why we act in a consistent manner and later when we are adults in relationships we respond quickly as per our personality, like on autopilot. We are also triggered by certain issues that cause us and our partners to constantly have the same arguments.
Better relationships are possible by understanding our automatic reactions.
Take a minute to think about your brain pattern. Typically, we are triggered by our partners’ habits, such as when they don’t text back or they’re late or don’t give us attention. These actions could trigger a neuro pattern that developed in childhood causing us to respond in a certain way. Our response often comes from how our brain is programmed. We have subconscious belief systems that can be difficult to change until we go to therapy. In therapy we can learn to respond in a different way and practice the new response enough times to change the ingrained neuro-pathway. This usually takes consistent effort to do things differently and retrain the brain.
Often when we are emotionally triggered by our partner, a trauma response occurs in our nervous system. We are particularly triggered early on in the relationship when we are really vulnerable and when the relationship is new. The most common emotional triggers at the beginning of a relationship are linked to our biggest fears – abandonment or rejection.
Now take a minute to think about how you usually respond when you are afraid. There are three types of trauma responses: fight, flight and freeze. If you are triggered at the beginning of a relationship and your natural response is to flee, you get out of the relationship or break up with him or her first. This is the flight response – to leave or break up with your partner. To run away.
The fight response means you would create a fight, maybe by picking a argument and texting him or her and getting angry. Some people create fights because it gets their partners attention. If you haven’t heard from him or her, you may choose to start an argument because it creates attention rather than no attention at all. Those who tend to subconsciously create drama through fighting usually were brought up in a household where there was a lot of chaos and fighting at home. In a weird way, they may feel that somehow this intensity is love.
The freeze response means that you shut down and retreat. If you’re with your partner you either don’t respond to them nor express your emotions.
Most of us have a trauma response when we are afraid or trigger by people we love.
It is our sympathetic nervous system. I’ve noticed with my clients that we are trained to do one or the other during childhood – your go-to brain pattern. Think about what your go-to brain pattern is and see how it is impacting your love relationships right now. When you are aware of these responses and notice which one you are – fight, flight or freeze – this awareness can help you start to make
Notice what your automatic reaction is when you are stressed. Do you run away? Do you withdrawn? Do you get intensely angry and start a confrontation?
Journal about your typical response and find the source – think about when you were a kid and when you learned this. For one client, being at home was not comfortable due to her parents always fighting, so she would cope by leaving the house and hang out with friends or always be working. It was a productive response back then but isn’t anymore because she continues to walk out on arguments rather than deal with them.
Talk to a friend or a counsellor so you can rewire your brain and change your subconscious belief systems. You will learn to feel emotionally safe with your partner and change the way you respond to each other. It is possible.