While the adverse consequences of abandoning or neglecting children is easy to observe and document, much abandonment and neglect takes place daily in the world in ways we often don’t pay much attention to. And even if we did, skillful ways to address and remedy such actions so that further separation and suffering don’t ensue, are rarely a part of our relationship toolbox. Here are ten-plus-one not-so-subtle common occurrences that I’ve observed over the years. If you consider that a primary driver of neural network enrichment is the result of give-and-take interpersonal, in-the-flesh feedback, what might we inadvertently be doing to our brain with these small-picture behaviors?
Proximate Separation– Two people in close proximity who have little direct emotional or energetic exchanges going on. When I was growing up it looked a lot like a husband and wife both reading the newspaper over the breakfast table. Nowadays, it looks more often like the couple in the picture on the right.
- Excessive Attention to Smartphones/Laptops– In a February, 2016 poll, nearly 200 million people in America own smartphones. That’s a lot of attention being paid to an electronic device that in earlier times was being paid directly to other people. What’s clearly not being attended to is how this attentional shift might be adversely impacting our capacity to readily regulate arousal states when we do actually have to interact with other people. According to Tallie Baram, a brain researcher at UC Irvine, this significant increase in screen time is having an adverse effect that is going to be showing up increasingly not only in ourselves, but more importantly, in our children’s healthy brain development.
- Sexual Time Travel– Basically, not loving the one we’re with. Running off in our minds (and heart) to be with an imaginary someone else, in an imaginary somewhere else. The intimate energy experience with someone who’s fully present and responsive is qualitatively different, in case you aren’t aware of it.
- Workaholism– There’s no work in the world that can sustain interest 60-80 hours a week, month in and month out. I don’t care what it is. When more than half your waking life is spent “on the job” it smacks of avoidance behavior or some kind of a brain organized in an addictive manner. Or worse – The Disease of Being Busy.
- Non-Contingent Communication– You know the feeling: you’re having a conversation with someone and they’re lost in the space inside their head; or they frequently non-sequitur their way onto other topics, usually having something to do with them. Or you’re in communication over the phone or the computer and the person on the other end has their keyboard clacking away the whole time.
- Not Keeping Our Word– When our word is law, when what we say we’re going to do is what we end up doing, we become supremely trustworthy. Not just to others, but to ourselves – to Witness Consciousness – our inside Sentinel who’s watching every move we make and then generating narratives about who we are and what we’re capable of, for better or worse. When we don’t keep our word, it’s usually for worse.
- Relationship Unfaithfulness– With every brain on the planet either consciously or unconsciously wanting a “Yes” answer to the question: Are you there for me? Can I count on you when the chips are down? Will you be there to help me through the inevitable Dark Night of the Soul? – unfaithfulness in relationship answers this fundamental need with a resounding “No.” Expect to be repaid in kind.
- Inebriation– There’s little worse than trying to have a healthy, committed lasting relationship with someone who’s frequently in a dissonant state of consciousness. You and they would be better served if each of you did the hard work of trying to heal the broken heart needing to be so often medicated. Medication is not integration.
- Multi-Tasking– Time and again research has shown that when we try to do multiple things at once, we do all of them less well than if we focused our attention on one person, place or thing at a time.
- Unskillful Listening– We’re all challenged by this sensory experience at some time or another. The primary reason is that skillful listening is just that – a skill. Skills take practice. And we don’t get better unless we know what to practice and what we need practice on. When it comes to this skill, most of us don’t know what we don’t know, and no one has impressed upon us just how important this skill is and how difficult it is to truly master.
- Self-Abandonment– In ways large and small. From the promises we make to ourselves and others and fail to keep, to the many ways we don’t take care of body, mind, brain and spirit. We may have been abandoned by others, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do the work required to be faithful and true to ourselves. Feel free to start with … The Two Perilous Questions.