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Brain science to improve your relationships

October 4, 2018

About the Author

photo of Srini Pillay, MD

Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

Srini Pillay, M.D. ( is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry (Part-Time) at Harvard Medical School. After graduating as the overall top medical student in South Africa, he completed his residency in psychiatry at McLean Hospital—Harvard’s largest freestanding … See Full Bio
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Carla Melucci Ardito
October 21, 2018

I teach students a form of self-healing called “resolution therapy” and the way I translate this brain wiring is as follows. When we are younger and not able for whatever reason to feel our pure emotions (fear, anger, sadness and need) we are left with an internal conflict between our bodies and our brains (right brain vs left) – when in a present moment, something triggers this conflict we “react” instead of “respond” because our bodies and brains are recalling the initial struggle. So, i teach my students how to use the sensations in their breathing, feeling bodies to find out where the original conflict took place and then I help them use their emotions, processing and validation to resolve. Then they don’t have to forever be triggered. My Facebook page is called “Resolution Therapy” and I am writing a book right now entitled, “Feel It, Feel Better” Unlocking The Power of Pure Emotion – would love tonchat wity you sometime! Carla Melucci Ardito

Jennifer Huebnet
October 9, 2018

I love this information. I have sent the blog to my autistic spectrum son who struggles with relationships. We will talk about the article and try to get some basic rules out of it for social interaction. There must be related research on social skill deficits and how to improve them through this kind of brain knowledge.
Jennifer Huebner

Srini Pillay, M.D.
October 10, 2018

So glad that you find it helpful Jennifer. Yes, this kind of language is perfect when dealing with Autism. You might find this link helpful:

October 9, 2018

Very Interesting. It would be even more interesting to see how you would use your analysis and solutions on a bigger scale to bring some understanding on the identity politics happening in the USA that seems to be bringing out partisan outrage all over the place as I think you may well be in the best position to understand how the brain is operating and why. Perhaps this is the only place where mutual understanding can occur and hard to argue against as brain science is non partisan.

Srini PIllay, M.D.
October 10, 2018

I agree Bob. This is powerful language for conflict resolution in partisan politics. Understanding the view of the “other” is what will move all of us forward, I believe.

Kade Bolani
October 9, 2018

Great article! I now know why i behave the way I do as it relates to my relationships. Thank you

Srini PIllay, M.D.
October 10, 2018

Try some of these techniques out and let us know how they work Kade. Thanks!

October 8, 2018

This was very informative however when confronted with a friend of many years who spent those years complaining to me about her life for which I only showed sympathy and tried to suggest helping hints; she surprised me when I asked her to march with me for the separated families when she became somewhat irate and said things which obviously were racist at which point I lost it and yelled at her in the diner where we were having lunch.
At this time, I do not wish to associate with her but we have friends in common which presents a bit of a problem regarding get togethers. I sincerely do not want to associate with a racist person.

Gary Favero
October 8, 2018

I find that using empathy with another party,especially if you’ve experienced what they’re going through, helps immensely. Even though
the situation might not be the same , giving them the comfort and understanding they need is a big step to help them realize they’re not alone in the world. Most important is to let them know it’s okay for them to feel the way they do, it’s only normal. Just try not to take on their problems and make them your own.

October 8, 2018

If you write out a Name Tag for someone and they say “That’s the worst handwriting I’ve ever seen!”…………… would you reply to that statement by paraphrasing with cognitive empathy????

Srini Pillay, M.D.
October 10, 2018

There are a few options here.
1. You could stay connected to your good intentions and ignore their comment if possible.
2. If your handwriting is in fact not good, you might say, “I agree that may handwriting is good. Hopefully, my good intentions are also coming through.”
3. If your handwriting is fine, you might say, “Have a fantastic day” by way of protecting your own mirror neurons (and perhaps, switch your attention internally to something or soon who makes you feel good.

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