About six months into my relationship with Walt, both of our "old wires" started being activated. I had been alone for 12 years and I knew I didn't need him, so when Walt shut down emotionally I didn't hold back.
I approached him saying that in that moment I felt lonely and . . . a bit bored.
It was the "bored" that reached him.
I didn't know what to do to melt the emotional ice except to use the Cycle Tool. It seemed pretty natural to take turns doing Cycles until we noticed that we had: 1) returned to joy; 2) recharged our desire; or 3) said, "OK, this didn't work, let's eat white cheddar cheese popcorn and stream some videos together!"
Using Cycle Time as a couple
Needless to say, this "Cycle Time" has become part of our relationship when one or both of us shut down or we feel disconnected. We love that, however, our dog Tammy, doesn't feel quite the same way.
She has no prefrontal cortex to reappraise a situation, so she goes to Brain State 5 really easily. Tonight Walt was recovering from an injection and a bit of stress overload from the week, and I was at Brain State 4 from a similar mix of situational stress and health issues. We were both really tired!
Then Walt said, "Let's do Cycle Time!" Immediately, he launched into using this technique to express his emotions (which weren't calm). I listened, happy to be recovering from our individual stressed states.
Instantly, Tammy started to cower.
Tammy's brain state went from stress to joy
When Tammy started to look away and express her desire to get away from all these emotions, Walt burst out laughing. That response is common when using the tools, and a function of his now-higher set point.
As the brain's set point rises, even starting to use the tools can shut off the hypothalamus from activating the stress response. When we step through the portal from overthinking to using the emotional tools, the reward center can light up and activate surges of feel-good chemicals. It feels SO freeing and, at this moment, broke the tension and shifted the tone for the entire evening.
The best part of couple's Brain Based Health is that there is a language to share. Stress is frightening and confusing! We can reframe it logically into five brain states and use one of the corresponding tools to unleash the brain's natural drive for resiliency and well-being.
At this moment, Tammy is sound asleep and Walt and I feel much better, too.