Thursday, August 25, 2011

Relationships: Dealing with Life's Little Surprises

On Thursday, Sept 8, I will be giving a talk here in San Diego to the International Bipolar Foundation. My presentation will be on relationships, which I am an expert in, having been in and out of two marriages. Following is a sneak peek, from a segment of my planned talk ... 

Let’s see if we can make sense out of a universe that makes no sense. For that, we go back to the universe inside our heads. The new brain science is telling us a lot about the dynamics of relationships.

The back end of the brain - the primitive reacting parts:

The front end of the brain - the thinking and deciding parts:

Now let’s add an extra element or two to the picture. Look up at the ceiling. This represents life’s little surprises. This is where two tons of crap falls from. Look at the floor. Two tons of crap have just landed. This is what the brain has to deal with. I bet you're wondering what two tons of crap looks like:

So here we are minding our own business. Wow! Two tons of crap just dropped from the sky. How is the brain supposed to deal with two tons of crap?

Okay, here’s the deal. It takes time for the cortical areas of the brain to process information. Very complex. Too much time. And often we can’t afford to wait. We need something simpler, much faster.

So the back end of the brain takes charge. The primitive part of the brain, the reactive part of the brain. This is the limbic system, involved in fight or flight. So, basically, when we perceive anything strange or stressful, we’re wired to freak out first and think later. If it’s a skunk walking in through the cat flap this is a perfectly normal response.

Now let’s add an extra element to this. Namely another person in the room. Two people in the room with two tons of crap.

So now we have two people who are not thinking. How do you think these two individuals are going to get along?

Okay, let’s assume one of the individuals is thinking with the front end of their brain. Do you think we will have a better outcome?

We all make this mistake. We actually think we can reason with someone in this state. Basically, your cortex is talking to the other person’s amygdala. I ask you - What kind of a result are you expecting from that?

Ideally, we want to be engaged cortex to cortex.

But there is a catch. The front end of the brain can’t make a decision without some input from the back end of the brain.

And, of course, heart enters into it.

Emotions give meaning to experience. We need to honor our own emotions. We need to honor the other person’s emotions.


All of you are invited to my talk. For further details, click the link below:

International Bipolar Foundation
Lecture: Relationships and Coping with the Day-to-Day Stuff

Thursday, Sept 8
5:30-6:00- SOCIAL
6:45-7:00- Q & A
Sanford Children's Research Center, Building 12
10905 Road to Cure, San Diego 92121 


Gina Pera said...

John!!!! This is BRILLIANT!!!

I would LOVE to attend your talk. Unfortunately, I'm 500 miles away!

Knock 'em dead. I hope they're listening, because this is important. And you've made it so easily understood!

Haven said...

This is absolutely fantastic!

Your three little words are suspiciously similar to five though haha.

Addy Bell said...

Brilliant. My relationship is in crisis right now, and this made me laugh at a time when I desperately needed it. I even sent a link to my partner.

Anonymous said...

Superb! You must wear "ruby slippers" as you give your presentation. Wish I could attend.

James said...

It's funny how a relationship can be the one thing that gets you on track, but at the same time it can be the one thing that sinks your ship. I'm hoping for the first alternative :)

Eagle Mind said...

I just wanted you to know I just found this website. I have an amateur blog about my bipolar life, and I will direct all readers HERE!

Thank you!

Eagle Mind

John McManamy said...

Thanks, everyone. :)

Neil Butterfield said...

Nice post John and understanding how the other person feels goes a long way towards healing relationships.