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I am probably not that different than many people that are my age. I often have difficulty sleeping through the night. Maybe ...
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When Your Brain Ruins Your Relationship
Imagine that your brain is an invisible 6'7" raging mixed martial arts fighter that knocks you out at the start of every fight. It is a champion wrestler, black belt, bodybuilder and boxer that doesn’t hesitate to use brass knuckles, nunchucks or throw blows below the belt. It can love, protect and help you or, at a whim, degrade, humiliate and abuse you.
You are not your brain. What your brain seeks (by using you as its runner) isn't necessarily what you seek. What you do and what your brain does to you are different things, a distinction that few people make. You can be right while your brain is wrong.
Have you ever paid a heavy price after making a life decision against your gut instinct? There are simultaneous mental (rational and irrational) processes and instinctive ones at work and they can be in opposition. For example, people in marriages that end in divorce often report ignoring early warning signs that they identify in retrospect. Some mistake their suitor's controlling behaviors for protective ones, or believe they will convince their spouse to stop binge-drinking, gambling, or engaging in other addictive behaviors that ruin relationships.
You may be a loving, caring person and consistently respectful behavior toward others, while, at the same time, your brain is cruel to you. This can lead you to draw incorrect negative conclusions about yourself and act upon them by engaging in self-destructive or self-defeating behaviors.
If you believe you "have to be perfect," common among people-pleasers, when they are unable to reach perfection (in whatever way they define it), they often believe that their failure represents a personal defect for which they must punish themselves. Sometimes this takes the form of self-verbal abuse, such as repetitive unwanted thoughts like "I'm broken" or "I'm stupid." The feelings that fuel these thoughts are resultant feelings of guilt, worthlessness, anxiety and depression. In some cases the punishment involves physical self-abuse, by cutting, burning, or self-hitting, or passively in the form of placing themselves in harm's way, sometimes unconsciously.
Although your brain can influence you to unwittingly engage in behaviors that are both destructive to your relationships and yourself, you can take control by filtering out the false messages and replacing them with true ones.
The first step in fighting back and gaining control is to recognize, in real time, when your brain is providing you with false information, e.g. "You're a failure." Then think of evidence that refutes the thought and supports a more realistic message. This is most effectively accomplished through the use of techniques as thought-stopping, evidence-based, and rational-based thinking through the guidance and support of a therapist.
When we aren't aware of what's going on up there, we can become a conduit of your brain's demands, habits, and distortions; we can become little more than robots. If we are actively mindful of those messages, evaluate their veracity, and challenge them when they are false, we can gain better control of our own lives and relationships.
© Copyright 2013 by Douglas Chay, therapist in Ellicott City, Maryland. All rights reserved.