Clients come to me with serious boyfriend/girlfriend relationship problems wanting a quick fix. What is needed, though, is a change in the way their brains work, which is going to take some time to fix. Our brains become wired over time to repeat old and sometimes very destructive behaviours such as criticising, rescuing, attacking and even sabotaging our partners. The trick is to first be aware of what your brain is doing and then forcing it to change. It is easier than you think.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about controlling alcohol consumption, where the client would like more control but finds it difficult to conceive of a life without drinking. The first step I suggest is to write down an alcohol plan for change. For instance, not drinking during the week, or having more alcohol-free days in the week, having water between drinks, not having it at home, etc.
Even with the initial enthusiasm for a change in drinking habits, given time, the brain will soon want to revert to the old way of thinking and drinking. Because the brain loves the old thinking it resists, or conveniently forgets, any new need for change. So to get the brain to re-focus, re-read the alcohol plan every day and discipline yourself to carry it out.
You can use the same method to correct non-productive behaviour habits within a relationship. Write down what you will change (not your partner as you can only change yourself), then re-read it daily and practice it constantly.
Research has shown if you do this for 10- 12 weeks your brain will accept the change and from then on you will unconsciously do it. This is the FEED principle: Focus on the changes, apply Effort, it becomes Effortless after 10 weeks, then apply Determination to keep going.
Then comes a great sense of personal control and achievement as you have changed the way your brain thinks and behaves. If you have ever given up cigarettes you’ll know exactly what I mean!
When couples come to see me, we work out the dynamic presently in place that is unhelpful and not working. After some discussion we first work out what they want to change, whether it be settling disagreements easier, listening to each other without interruption, negotiating better sex lives, sharing financial responsibility, handling family matters better, etc.
We can all change the way our brains work by creating new pathways in thinking, but you have to give our brain a helping hand first by writing things down, repeating what has to be done and then doing it for some time. When you master it you will be a changed and elated person, in a better loving relationship, because you, yourself, have changed the way your brain thinks.
By GERRY NORTH
info: Gerry North is a gay & lesbian counselor specializing in couples counselling.