Your Brain During Divorce: How the Brain Influences Us

Look for the entire series of articles on our conversation with Dr. David Rock, author of the bestseller, Your Brain at Work. Dr. Rock’s ideas about how the brain influences relationships can help us improve our interactions with partners, loved ones, and colleagues. Dr. Rock is also the director of The NeuroLeadership Institute, a global initiative bringing neuroscientists and leadership experts together in a new science for leadership development. The institute also helps large organizations use brain research to develop better leaders and managers. In this series, Dr. Rock shares his ground-breaking ideas about how the brain influences us during divorce and how divorce can influence our brains.

In speaking with Dr. David Rock, I found that his ideas about how emotional situations affect our brains, and how to overcome innate emotional responses, can apply to divorce and all personal relationships. While he set out to write a book to help people have productive working relationships by understanding how the brain works, his ideas apply to all interpersonal relationships. Understanding how and why emotions drive our behavior in many decisions, can really help anyone navigating any difficult personal relationship or negotiation, including divorce.

Emotions and Logic are Intertwined

Dr. Rock explained that most of the decisions we make are intertwined with emotion. There is no one “analytical” and one “emotional” part of the brain. Rather, he explained that our brains are more like an interconnected network, with each decision driven in part by memory that we can’t easily access. Every time we’ve made a decision or purchased a book, a memory of that is buried in our unconscious, even if we can’t consciously remember it.

Emotions Are More Easily Accessible

Because emotions are the part of our memory that is usually easiest to access, we tend to remember our feelings about those memories. For example, if we meet someone new and we feel that we like them, they probably remind us of people that we’ve liked in the past.

Purely Logical Decisions Aren’t Possible

Dr. Rock compared our brains to a city. Commerce, relationships, violence, and compassion happen everywhere, and people move freely about the city, connecting with other people. Our brains are somewhat similar. Because feelings, experiences, and decisions are so intertwined within our brains, there is no way to consciously divorce emotional responses from cognition. Cognition and emotion are inextricably entangled. So, in some ways, we use emotion to make nearly every decision in our daily lives.

Dr. Rock also has some wonderful tips for how to avoid becoming overwhelmed or ruled by emotion that are useful in your relationship with your former partner during a divorce. But we can apply his ideas about what motivates us, what causes our strong emotional reactions, and how we can balance those emotions to all of our personal relationships. Be sure to follow our entire series on Dr. Rock’s theories for more insight into how our brain reacts during a divorce, and how to overcome those reactions.

If you’re contemplating divorce but would like to try a different approach, one that might have a brighter future, call us for a confidential consultation.