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Solving Relational Problems

This lesson is a part of an audio course Hack Your Brain, Access Your Aliveness by Dave Wolovsky

Before we begin, as usual, let's pause and take a deep breath.

Then say to yourself, "I'm learning now."

In the previous lesson, we learned that the brain tries to handle relational threats with vigilant visualization.

Since the brain can't tell the difference between our real experiences and visualizations, we end up in a threat response, which disrupts our brain functioning and hinders our ability to overcome threats from within our relationships.

In this lesson, we'll learn what we actually need to do, and in the next lesson, we'll practice it.

To solve relational problems, we need to understand clearly, and communicate diplomatically, what's happening, what we need, and what we're willing to do to move the relationship forward.

We need to find win-win strategies, take consistent action, and sometimes even change our habits, while accepting that there are some things we have no control over and need to let go of.

The most potent strategy for solving relational issues is encapsulated by something called the serenity prayer. It goes like this.

"Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and above all, the wisdom to know the difference."

Accepting what we can't control, taking courageous and effective action on what we can, and discerning which is which, all comes from a coordinated state of brain.

If we're in even a low level of threat mode, which we can give ourselves using just our imagination, we lose coordination between our brain networks.

Let's look at this more closely.

A quick brain anatomy note. The cortex is the wrinkly outer layer of the brain, and the prefrontal cortex is the farthest forward section, just behind your eyes and forehead.

The prefrontal cortex is the most diversely connected part of the cortex.

The cortex can be thought of as a big orchestra, with all the brain areas as different instruments, and brain networks as sections of instruments. You have the strings, the woodwinds, the percussion section.

In this picture, the prefrontal cortex is the orchestra conductor, allowing all the different brain networks to play their parts at the right time, at the right volume, in harmony.

The music being played is brain waves, or electrical pulses of different frequencies.

One interesting fact about brain waves is that the slower they are, the farther they can travel.

The prefrontal cortex communicates with parts of the brain very far away from it, and to do so, it needs to use slow brain waves.

When it's oscillating slowly, it's able to coordinate separate brain networks and enable them to play with each other in the most beautiful, complex, and powerful ways.

During states of stress, however, waves in the prefrontal cortex speed up, making it less effective at reaching all the sections of the orchestra.

Competing brain networks clash with each other, like cellos versus trumpets.

Our subjective experience feels more jumbled and cacophonous.

Dominant networks end up winning over others, and we get stuck in automatic thought loops like old regrets, chaotic worries, and extreme judgments, none of which are useful for solving problems with our relationships.

Rather than going into these states, replaying episodes of suffering, and imagining new, even more, interesting ones, we need a way to get our prefrontal cortex back in the saddle by _re_ducing our physiological threat response and _in_ducing a feeling of safety.

In the next lesson, we'll learn an incredibly effective tactic to do just that.

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Written by

Dave Wolovsky