Limbic Development and Relationships
So what relevance does limbic development have to our romantic lives?
The authors of a General Theory of Love suggest that those of us to be lucky enough to be parented in an attuned way will be able to modulate our emotions and will be subconsciously attracted to other people who can do the same. Whereas those who have been poorly regulated will attract people who have also been poorly regulated
As Thomas Lewis says:
‘You can’t tell someone with faulty attractors to go and find a loving partner – from his point of view there are none. Those who could love him well are invisible’.
‘A relationship that strays from one’s prototype is limbically equivalent to isolation… most people will choose misery with a partner their limbic brain recognizes over the stagnant pleasure of a ‘nice’ relationship with someone their attachment mechanism cannot detect’
So if you are a person who continually finds partners who are not capable of loving, what can you do about it?
In A General Theory of Love, the authors suggest that most of our emotional development is achieved during our pre-verbal years and requires ‘mountains of repetition’ and ‘years of long-standing togetherness’ to write permanent changes into a brain’s open book. In a relationship one mind revises another; one heart changes its partner.
They suggest that because many of the problems of limbic development will have occurred pre-verbally, talking therapies, which work upon the neo cortex (or logical problem solving brain) do not allow the client to facilitate change at the limbic level. They also make the point that because our attractors were developed in our unconscious limbic brain probably even before we could talk that they are almost impossible to modulate by the conscious mind.
‘People rely on intelligence to solve problems, and they are naturally baffled when comprehension proves impotent to effect emotional change. To the neocortical brain, rich in the power of abstractions, understanding makes all the difference, but it doesn’t count for much in the neural systems that evolved before understanding existed’.
The authors make the point that no one therapeutic approach seems to have an effective impact on developing the limbic system but what does seem to make a difference is the character and personality of the therapist. If the therapist is prepared to be open, honest, engaged and present in the relationship they may have a positive impact on the limbic development of the client regardless of the type of strategies they are using. I love this comment the authors make about the benefits of being a psychotherapist.
‘The vocation of psychotherapy confers a few unexpected fringe benefits on its practitioners, and the following is one of them. It impels participation in a process that our modern world has all but forgotten: sitting in a room with another person for hours at a time with no purpose in mind but attending. As you do so, another world expands and comes alive to your senses–a world governed by forces that were old before humanity began.
So if limbic development is difficult what hope is there for us to change our limbic system to be able to have a happier and more loving life?
A major role of this book is to enable you to develop yourself so that the people who had previously been invisible now start to be visible to you. Having said that, it is impossible for a book to change many years of ineffective limbic programming.
It is interesting that when Veronica and I first started to work together to explore relationships, it never occurred to us that as the time progressed we would effectively limbically develop each other. However from the outset we set clear boundaries, researched topics of interest and relevance, participated enthusiastically in each other’s planned activities, gave each other positive and constructive feedback and were committed to attending the meetings. As I have mentioned before much to our surprise we did not talk about men very often or relationships for that matter. What actually happened was that we researched and participated in our own personal development and we noticed each other change as a result.
Although we believe that this book will undoubtedly assist you to make some different choices with regard to your relationships we believe that it is the interaction or limbic resonance, limbic regulation and limbic revision with other people that will make the real difference because you can’t develop limbic or emotional skills in a vacuum.
We hope that groups will form to work through the material we offer with the tight guidelines we suggest to enable the participants to make different decisions and to be ‘easier to be with’. It is then hoped that people who at the moment are invisible to them will start to become visible.
With thanks to Stella Pitman and Jo Grant for permssion to use their beautiful photographs
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So what does this mean for relationships and the partners we become attracted to?