Who or what is the Four Corners Coalition
for Marriage and Family, Inc.?
We are a group of Farmington residents who are tired of seeing so many children quit school, join gangs, use drugs or commit suicide. Research is irrefutable that many, if not most, of the children making such horrendous decisions today come from divorced homes. We are also tired of seeing so many couples in destructive or less-than-satisfying marriages.
Healing the Brain – Heal Your Marriage
Our guest columnists today are Drs. Beverly and Tom Rodgers, who have been helping clients better understand themselves and their mates for the past 35 years. They own and operate Rodgers Christian Counseling and the Institute for Soul Healing Love in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they developed the Soul Healing Love Model of Relationships. Together they have written 4 books: Soul Healing Love: Turning Relationships That Hurt Into Relationships That Heal, Adult Children of Divorced Parents, The Singlehood Phenomenon: Ten Brutally Honest Reasons Singles Aren’t Getting Married, and Becoming a Family That Heals.
Today they share thoughts of what happens in the brain that contributes to marital strife and they offer two helpful tips to lessen the damage.
When a person experiences complex trauma, the brain can be affected in a negative way. These traumatic memories are not processed or dealt with in the neo-cortex or the new brain, the part of the brain that thinks rationally, takes in information and makes logical decisions as a result. Traumatic memories are processed, stored, or dealt with in the limbic system, the amygdala to be exact. This is important because this part of the brain is where our fight, flight or freeze mechanism is located. Also, this primitive part of the brain has no sense of time, so a trauma that occurred at age five can be relived at age 25 with the same feelings and emotions.
This is also important because the limbic system controls heart rate, filters external events by associating them with past trauma (emotional coloring), tags events as internally important and sets the tone of the mind. It also stores highly charged emotional memories which are critical to our survival. Because of shading or filtering, a person can interpret neutral events as negative.
The amygdala regulates perspiration, pupil dilation, digestion, and salivation, all of which can be activated and can put you in a hyper-vigilant state. All of this happens in one sixteenth of a second. When this occurs the deep limbic takes over and shuts off the prefrontal cortex, so a person cannot think rationally or problem solve.
Thus when a childhood soul wound is triggered in an adult relationship, a person can become extremely reactive. Reactivity is defined as giving a current situation more emotion than it deserves because a past pain is being triggered.
We have found that people with similar wounds find each other and create dual trauma couples. Often when one mate becomes reactive they can trigger their partner’s soul wounds and they can then become reactive as well. We call this phenomenon “interactivity”.
When couples are in a state of interactivity, neither is being rational. You can easily see how relational conflict can get out of hand. When this occurs people often say that they have tried everything to practice self-control. They can feel defeated in life and in relationships. It gives them tremendous relief to know that their deep limbic is betraying them and they are not bad or incompetent people. There is hope for deeply wounded people and it can be found by using the Soul Healing Love model.
This model helps people identify childhood pain that causes reactivity, and then put those wounds in proper perspective to their present reality, thus allowing them to self-soothe and become intentional in conflict. The limbic system is healed by repetition and experience. Helping people replace negative thoughts with positive ones can create the flow of positive brain chemicals, and experiencing healing conversations and interactions in their relationships can heal their wounded brain.
To help them change their reactions we have developed two communication techniques that help couples determine the root of their anger and stop unhealthy interactivity. These tools can actually change the brain, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Reprogramming the brain with healthy information and relational interactions can help grow the brain in a positive direction.
Technique 1: The GIFT Exercise
Anger theorists teach that anger is not a primary emotion. It is a secondary response to four primary feelings which are: Guilt, Inferiority, Fear, and pain (Trauma). Since this list is hard to remember in the “heat of battle” we developed and acronym to help couples remember it. It is the word—GIFT.
When you realize one or both of you are more angry than rational it is wise to grab your thumb, look at your fingers and consider which of the four feelings are in operation. You can than ask yourself “what is the best action I can take right now?” This process causes you to get back into your thinking brain from which you are far more likely to make constructive decisions. It becomes a gift to a couple, enabling them to communicate through the impasse of conflict by recognizing the root of their rage.
Technique 2: The Digging Deeper Exercise
The Digging Deeper Exercise is a spin-off of the GIFT Exercise. This technique allows the couple to dig deeper into their psyche to determine their soul wounds so that they can understand their reactivity and separate past trauma from their current situation. It consists of five questions one must answer. They are:
Learning why you can be so reactive in relationships allows you to create new patterns and positive brain chemicals that actually heal the traumatized brain. But more importantly, it allows you to see yourself and your relationships through God’s eyes to love yourself and others unconditionally.
I truly appreciate the wisdom of DRS Bev and Tom Rodgers. I am also so pleased that they will be my guests on TWOgether as ONE tomorrow at 6:00pm on KLJH 107.1FM. I hope you can tune in then for more helpful tips on happy, healthy marriage.