Stop Loving in the Wrong Part of Your Brain!
How to Overcome Toddler Love and Enjoy Adult Relationships
If your relationships keep getting worse, no matter what you do or how hard you try to improve them, you're probably trying to love in the wrong part of your brain - the part that was fully developed when you were two years old.
We’re All Toddlers in Love Sometimes
Most lovers in conflict have not felt so emotionally dependent and helpless since they were toddlers. Intense feelings lock us into the emotional processing or toddler part of the brain.
Most marital disputes boil down to toddler-thinking, especially the toddler defenses of blame, denial, and avoidance. Arguments can be reduced to one partner saying, "Mine!" and the other saying, "No!"
When toddlers feel something, they can’t imagine ever not having felt that way or that they will ever feel differently in the future. As a consequence, they do not regulate their feelings with reality-testing, i.e., rather than signals about possible reality to be checked out, temporary feelings become their virtual reality. This is like confusing the signal of a smoke alarm with a raging fire.
Toddlers cannot see any perspective but their own and cannot see other people apart from how they feel about them.
When disappointed or hurt, toddlers are often aggressive, in a futile effort to get others to sympathize with their hurt. Adults who love like toddlers inevitably hurt each other when they really want compassion, demand submission when they really want cooperation, and insist on “validation” when they really want connection.
Toddlers have Emotional Needs
All strong feelings represent emotional “needs” to toddlers. Once the human brain decides that it needs something, it will manipulate or coerce to get the "need" met.
Adults have Desires
Desire motivates giving.
Adults Know How to Switch out of the Toddler Brain
The latest research on the neurobiology of emotions shows how they vary greatly, depending on where in the brain they are processed.
Toddler emotions, i.e., those with dominant processing in the toddler brain, are fear-terror, anger-rage, anguish, shame.
In the adult brain, these become caution, frustration-impatience, sadness, disappointment.
Adults have Binocular Vision
They can see other people’s perspectives alongside their own.
Adults Focus on Improvement
The human brain must do three operations when confronted with a bad situation; the first is in the toddler brain, while the second two are in the adult brain.
First we must feel the signal of possible harm. In the adult brain, we must assess how bad things are and how much damage has occurred, then shift quickly into repair-improve mode.
Adults Respect Individuality and Honor Differences
Research on adult (i.e. happy) relationships shows that they have more disagreements than toddler (i.e. unhappy) relationships. The big difference is that they do not devalue each other when they disagree. Disagreements enrich relationships by adding depth and dynamism, as long as the parties stay in their adult brains.
The Worst It Can Get in Adult Love: “I’m disappointed, but I’m okay, and I love you.”
Adults hold onto self-value when they don't like their loved ones’ behavior, so they don’t feel devalued by it. They also hold onto value for loved ones when they don't like their behavior, so they don’t devalue them because of it.
Adults Try to Become the Partners They Most Want to Be
Your only chance of getting the partner you most want to have is to be the partner you most want to be.
Adult Love: “Teach me how to love you, so that you can love me freely.”
Adults recognize that their partners have different temperaments, vulnerabilities, and emotional histories that will cause them to give different emotional meaning to behaviors and events. Love is a little different for each person and looks a little different in each couple.
Learn how to love your partner, while teaching your partner how to love you.