The Executive: Engaging Your Cognitive Brain

affair recovery-survivors blot-christine-the executive-pain that is not transformed will be transmitted

Remember Inside Out – the Disney Pixar movie where each character represents different parts of a little girl's emotions? Each emotion – or character in the film – vies for attention and control inside her mind. It's a cute idea, and one steeped in reality.

Riley Anderson is born in a small town in Minnesota. Within her mind's Headquarters, five personifications of her basic emotions — Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger — come to life and influence her ways of doing things via a control console – the executive. 'Joy' acts as a de facto leader.

We all have different segments of our personality – different emotions – that jump up and down at times, telling us what they want us to do. Because Riley had joyous memories dominate her short life, Joy, the emotion, was in control. This too is often the case in real life. Our past, particularly our family of origin, has taught us how to filter the world, which is often dangerous.

For my husband, fear and abandonment ruled his dysfunctional alcoholic family and his isolating boarding school youth. In my case, my parents were overwhelmed by the rebelliousness of my only sibling. I couldn't help but tune into their dynamic and thus became the 'good child' – the one who never made waves or caused problems. I kept my side of the street squeaky clean and tidy, all while trying to placate the underlying anxious tone by being cheerful and giving.

This created the perfect storm for a marriage – I gave; he took. I felt it was my job to keep the family running smoothly. He felt relief and entitlement after all that lonely abandonment. A highly empathic giver meets a severely broken 'good guy' poser.

For my husband, addiction was almost inevitable – in fact, he had multiple addictions. As we know, addictions are a symptom, not the root of a problem. And boy did he have a lot of 'roots' in his mind. All of this added to his anger, fear, and disgust gaining control over his joy.

Joy and fear were my major persuaders through a good solid upbringing – void of abandonment, financial want, or addiction dynamics. It led me to view everyone as basically good with good intentions – to be approached out of curiosity and love.

Variations of our dynamic are sadly played out time and time again with all sorts of couples. We live in a broken world that creates broken people who transmit their pain until they heal their pain.

Which brings me to grief. We need to grieve the losses caused by other's transgressions upon us. It is crucial that each and every one of us take responsibility for our actions and heal the residual losses we feel. Pain that is not transformed will be transmitted.

It is also my responsibility to remain in reality and not allow myself to justify cruelty in any form as a result of hurts inflicted upon me. We are all responsible to use our 'headquarters executive' – our cognitive brain function – to mitigate all those emotional characters that are screaming in our ear to act out. It is what transforms immature, childish responses to mature, thought-out, controlled responses.

We are all responsible to grow up, face realities, and act in mature ways that neither hurts us or others. Yes – even those who came from dysfunctional families.

Our 'executive' is ultimately able to control our choices and shape our behavior. That is the hallmark of responsible adulthood. That is the true manifestation of healing from childhood wounds.

To healing.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
- 1 Corinthians 13:11

Add New Comment:


Excellent Christine! Thanks

Excellent Christine! Thanks for clearly articulating part of your story which in turn helped me to "see" some things that have been rumbling around in my head which have been difficult to reconcile. Has helped me to have a new perspective about those things. I appreciate it.

Thank you for your comment,

Thank you for your comment, Voly. I appreciate that you took the time and humbled that some of my words helped.

Thank you

Thank you for sharing. I am at a point in my recovery where I feel stalled. I think that my pain is becoming a pathology and I am transmitting it to my husband. I need to grow up like you said and find a better way to transform the pain. This is exactly what I was feeling but didn't have the words to express my feelings. I am going to share this with my therapist at my next session. Thank you for helping find the words...

What type of affair was it?

Our free Affair Analyzer provides you with insights about your unique situation and gives you a personalized plan of action.
Take the Affair Analyzer

Free Surviving Infidelity Bootcamp

Our experts designed this step-by-step guide to help you survive infidelity. Be intentional with your healing with this free 7-day bootcamp.
I would highly recommend giving this a try.
-D, Texas