Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Arguing and the brain

Parental arguing can have long-term consequences for boys in the home (e.g., downshifting, failure to learn, depression). It's not that arguing and divorce doesn't impact girls negatively, but it appears that it takes boys longer to recover and return to learning readiness. Now a two-year study by researchers out of Chicago suggests that it isn't just the kids who are at risk. Immune system function appears to be suppressed in the bodies of couples who argue. One suggestion was that when the couple disagrees about something, rather than argue, each is to write a letter to the other person from the perspective of a neutral third party, indicating what would likely be best for both individuals. Then the individuals need to read their letter and pay attention to the different perspective. When people argue they often pump adrenalin, which in turn triggers the release of dopamine. Thus they can end up becoming addicted to their own adrenalin and dopamine, so they continue to argue to self-medicate. People who argue frequently may have self-esteem issues, too, and only feel okay about themselves if they perceive themselves to be "right." Consequently, one partner (or both) spends time and energy trying to convince the other to agree that he or she is "right." Many don't understand that each brain is different and that each brain can be "right" for itself. The issues arise when one brain thinks it really knows what is best for its partner's brain and tries to talk louder or longer or add some coercion or threat in an attempt to get the other brain to agree. Ask, "Will this matter at all 12 months from now?" If no, stop arguing. If yes, get a mediator to help.

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