Aybody Listening?Pt2



We began last time looking at how changes in behaviour could sometimes be understood by understanding changes in hormonal levels in the body, the idea being stimulated by a research project purporting to show that women were more likely to overspend in the 10 days before their period began.  This whole area is really difficult for many people where it's all too easy to use hormones as an explanation and therefore an excuse for behaviour. We sometimes hear phrases like “it wasn’t really me" or, as a reason for dismissing someone’s behaviour, that she is "just being hormonal" or that it is "just the time of the month" - in other words, take no notice.

But this is too simplistic.  I can draw a parallel with people who are tipsy or drunk, where we often say that the drink talks, or that people sometimes speak their truth when they are inebriated, a truth maybe that they are unable to express when they are sober.  The problem here is that when someone is very drunk they are effectively in an altered state, because alcohol in sufficient quantity is a mind altering drug, and a very drunk person is not “in their right mind”. However, in the eyes of the law a drunken person is still responsible for their behaviour. In less extreme cases a difficulty with alcohol remains in that it reduces inhibitions, which is why things might be said where they normally would not, but at the same time it reduces judgement and therefore the chances of successfully making a point are much reduced or completely eliminated, especially where both parties to the conversation have consumed alcohol.

The question is, is it the same process occurring with periodic hormonal change - where maybe we have someone saying something that they believe to be true but which they might normally hold on to - or is it just that so many other things which normally wouldn't irritate them, they now find overwhelming in their heightened emotional state, and this causes things that wouldn’t normally be said (or meant) to get voiced?  The big question is of course, once said, what we do with such things now that they are in the open?

I think we can accept that in many cases in the heat of the moment things do get said that are largely attributable to a hormonally heightened sensitivity.  However, there are occasions when this might be happening but where, if we look a little beneath the surface, is it possible that something real and not hormonally induced or magnified is also being said.  This is a very difficult area for a couple to manage and can be quite tricky in psychotherapy where another couple-like relationship is in play and being managed.  It takes a lot of work to try and remove the feeling that might be passing back and forth between the couple, and which no one wants to own, and then to look beneath this at the process in play and expose what is actually being said.  Quite often dismissal of the message which is contained with the feeling being expressed in the "inappropriate" hormonal behaviour or language leads to the individual who is expressing such feeling to themselves feel dismissed or unheard, or even unimportant or undervalued in the relationship.  This of course can set up a vicious circle where resultant anger causes the "inappropriate" behaviour to become even more marked, and sometimes loud and aggressive, with the chance of the couple reaching some understanding receding into the distance.

I hope you have found this brief exploration of this issue useful and I would be very pleased if you care to share your thoughts and experiences at steveinaltea@gmail.com Thanks for reading.