Last night, my husband Walt was dealing with the results of mega-back surgery and was aware that another surgery was coming up in two weeks. It's a stressful time. I'm grateful that both of us are "EBTers" as we can navigate these difficult periods in life so much more easily.

Walt was sitting on the big chair in our living room, and I was sitting on the sofa across from him, our "usual places" when we are in that room. I knew that my job was to be at Brain State 1, as that state in my own brain would help me make good decisions about how to support him, and my Brain State 1 would be automatically transmitted to his brain and improve his state.

EBT Brain States and Functioning

Also, since we are both trained in EBT, we know that all people go to all brain states and that is normal. The benefit of EBT is that when we are in those stressed brain states, we have the emotional resilience tools to get to a higher, less stressed state.

Even if we don't feel like spiraling up to a higher state in the moment, we have the basic "structure" in our brains of understanding what is going on at each state within both of us.

Relationship effectiveness: "What's their number?"

Intimacy is so sensitive to stress that knowing your spouse, partner, or best friend's brain state can diffuse a lot of stress. I asked Walt about his brain state. His answer was, "I'm at Brain State 5."

Instantly, we both understood what was going on if one popped the hood of his inner life. As shown on the table above, all domains of his life were extreme and ineffective.

I didn't ask him what he needed. He knew what he needed because, at Brain State 5, a person can use the Brain State 5 Tool (Damage Control) in their own mind or ask their partner to listen to them as they use it. The Brain State 5 tool is calming and decreases the activation of strong circuits of stress overload ("allostasis").

Minimizing the harm at Brain State 5

Walt said, "I'm at Brain State 5, and I need to stop thinking."

At Brain State 5, every self-defeating thought, fear memory, and reactive circuit is apt to be online. This is true for all of us, so judgment about the other person's behavior stops. Everyone goes to Brain State 5. The issue becomes how to manage it. The simple act of checking my own brain state and understanding what brain state he was in saved the evening.

Walt said that he was at Brain State 5, needed to stop thinking, and instead distract himself by watching ice hockey to take his mind off the surgeries. Most times when one of us is stressed, we listen to the other person do a Cycle, but this time, what Walt needed was to watch ice hockey. That works!

The important moment of the evening was when we connected with each other and recognized our brain states so that we could work together to minimize the harm and make for a happier evening.

I got up from the sofa, walked over to him, and gave him a hug and a kiss. Knowing a little bit about brain states made the difference.

Improvements in relationships from the start

Early in your EBT Journey, be sure to participate in enough EBT to start using ideas from brain states in your relationships. You'll see a difference. Even if only one person in the relationship is proficient at EBT, the multitude of interactions changes.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the other person's stress and "catching" their brain state, the dynamic changes. The old ways that came from repeating experiences from childhood or feeling out of control in a relationship are over.

We recommend that all couples have basic EBT training (the "EBT Essentials" course) as a great start in moving up the set point of their relationship. However, even if only one person is an EBTer, the relationship can shift toward more love and happiness together.