It seems that studying the caveman, or our ancestral heritage, has shed light on how ill-equipped we are to handle 21st century challenges. Already it has been demonstrated that our exercise patterns are much different than what we were wired to do. Our ancestors transversed miles each day in order to find food and be safe. Our brains were reinforced with feel good chemicals so that we would move rather than wait to be eaten.
Likewise, there is continually emerging evidence about the social nature of our brains. Its as deep- seated as other ancestral needs such as exercise. Recently I presented a webinar titled Emotional Intelligence and the Social Brain where I outlined the case for developing emotional intelligence in order to meet our needs, and those of others, in the social realm. Not because it would be nice but it is because it is essential to survive and thrive.
Some of these concepts were reinforced when I attended an all-day workshop on relationships today. The neurobiology of relationships was outlined and the practical implications discussed. Here again, we are wired to be social. One of the concepts that was discussed was the pivotal nature of responsiveness in order to have successful and satisfying relationships. This was discussed mainly in the context of significant other relationships but I can surmise that it has implications for all relationships. If your relationship partners are not responsive to you, then it’s like a slow bludgeoning to death of the relationship. Decreased responsiveness from one person leads to decrease responsiveness from the other. This got me a little rattled because most of us are guilty of this to one degree or another and the demands of the modern world often leave us without the energy to pay attention to this critical need.
Do you truly listen to the people who are important to you? Do you support their hopes and dreams? Encourage them rather than criticize or provoke? These are the not easy to do because looking at the 6 basic emotions from across cultures: fear, anger, sadness, happiness, surprise and disgust, four of the six are related to negativity. So it’s much easier to default to negative than it is to lean positive in our typical day. It takes effort to be aware of the social message those emotions are showing when we are with others. Stress and being constantly plugged in or over-extended only compounds our ability to be aware of this and to make better choices for the health of our relationships.
Where is your stress level? Is it manageable so that you can be responsive to those that people who are most important to you? If not, what can you do today to alleviate that stress and be responsive?