Many clients who walk into my office tell me that their relationship is simply not fixable. They feel paralyzed and are utterly hopeless.
But here is something I’ve learned: We often feel that way when our brain is playing a trick on us.
Trauma expert Peter Levine has beautifully demonstrated how our brain is wired to paralyze us when overwhelmed with pain. We get shut down when the pain is intense. We don’t choose it. Our brain just does it. It’s called a “traumatic response.” You’ve probably seen it in other animals. Like when a gazelle is about to be killed by a lion, its whole body shuts down, goes limp and collapses. The brain shuts us down to avoid intense pain.
The same thing can happen in an extremely painful relationship. After repeated, failed attempts to resurrect love, we wake up one morning and feel paralyzed with discouragement. It’s not that we don’t want to love; we can’t.
Our brains have become traumatized and have left us paralyzed and immobile.
But we don’t have to stay that way. Levine reminds us: “Trauma is a fact of life. But it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.” So how do we escape the immobility that comes from this trauma?
There are several meaningful steps you can take. The first step is to break the vows that keep you trapped in your paralysis. Here’s what I mean: When paralyzed, we typically begin repeating death-producing vows, like…
I married the wrong person. This is hopeless.
This will never change.
I can never be happy here.
The more we repeat these vows the more they kill our chances to heal. Vows literally create neurochemical pathways that block positive transformation. They become destiny. And so we need to replace love-killing vows with courageously hopeful and positive statements, like these:
I break my vow of helplessness! I embrace my power to love! All things are possible!
I am ready to come to life and see a miracle in this relationship!
The best days of this relationship are ahead of me!
Say these words out loud with a loud, passionate and positive voice. Let your body feel the positivity. Be playful and not overly serious, perhaps while driving alone. And stay gentle with yourself; this is super difficult. When you fail just start over.
Even when your brain has shut you down and you feel paralyzed, there is still hope to resurrect love. The first step is to break negative vows and replace them with new, positive, hopeful declarations. You have more power than you realize.