Problem-solving from above or below the line

If you’ve read my new book, The Relationship Ride: A Usable, Unusual, Transformative Guide, you’re familiar with my ideas about Creative Brain versus Reactive Brain. To review these concepts (or just introduce them), humans go into automatic reactivity when we perceive any threat to our bodies or to our selves. When the threat subsides, the chemicals of our reactivity take time to get reabsorbed. We eventually move back into what can be seen as “ease and flow,” the relaxed state of well-being that is Creative Brain. There is a palpable internal difference between Reactive and Creative Brain. One way to map this out is to place these states on a vertical axis, with Reactive Brain being the zone “Below the Line,” and Creative Brain “Above the Line.” (You can download the Inner Map that shows you around this landscape.)

Because we create from our state, our lives are significantly impacted by whether we’re in Reactive Brain or Creative Brain. Being able to locate ourselves in one or the other is crucial.  Trying to resolve a conflict or solve a problem while in Reactive Brain is pretty much impossible. (One of the saddest outcomes of confusion is when a couple gets into a big fight and, from within their Reactive Brains, make the decision to end their relationship.) When we’re in Reactive Brain, we really have no business trying to figure out a complicated issue, and certainly shouldn’t be making any big decisions.

I have a variety of methods to help me notice when I’ve left the sweet zone of Creative Brain and have activated myself into Reactive Brain. One of my favorites is a lollipop-shaped circle on a stick that has a green side and a red side. I keep it around to remind me to STOP  when I’m in Reactive Brain, and then GO again when I’ve shifted back into Creative Brain. Noticing when my pulse is climbing is another clue that I’m heading into Reactive Brain. I can also watch my thoughts; when I start perceiving others as “foes” instead of “friends” I know I’m slipping down below the line. And the familiar tightness in my solar plexus is a signal of my own reactivity that’s hard to ignore.

What are your signals that you are in Reactive Brain, or in Creative Brain? What results do you notice that you create when you’re in one or the other of these states?


Would you like to get support in studying the concepts of The Relationship Ride: A Usable, Unusual, Transformative Guide? I’m teaching a very reasonably priced, 10 week teleclass, where we’ll have a week to go over each chapter. Go to my events page to find out more information.

2 thoughts on “Problem-solving from above or below the line”

  1. Hi Julie!
    When I feel like I want to run away from home, I’m in Reactive Brain. And I’m glad I recognize that clue now because I used to literally leave home – and move to a different state. I don’t do that anymore, but it doesn’t mean the thought goes away. So I either ride out the moment until it shifts or I do something to shift the moment, like wash dishes. Or call someone and say I love you. Or move my body. Being aware of The Line has been very helpful. Thank you!

    1. Verna!
      Have you ever tried literally running? Letting your legs do what they want when you’ve been activated into the flight response? We mammals are designed to get away from the conflict (for animals, the risk of getting hurt outweighs the impulse to be aggressive, so fleeing is very functional).
      Nice shift moves!

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