Why do you have to be so STUBBORN?!


I had to share this blog post from a fellow colleague, Blake Butler, practicing in Austin, TX. Find his contact information below.


“Sometimes it seems as if the people we love tend to do the exact opposite of what we want, no matter how sincerely, how nicely, or even how not so nicely that we ask.  It’s not just your family…so don’t worry, because there’s nothing inherently wrong with you and yours.  This behavioral tendency happens to be part of human nature and shows up to some degree in any relationship containing an emotional connection.  Parent to child, husband to wife, between friends, between co-workers, it can happen in any relationship.

This stubborn stance comes in all shapes and sizes: the more one partner pushes for an increase in time together, the less time and energy the other seems to have available; the more parents push for extra effort in school, the more kids resist and insist on other activities filling their time.  It can even be as simple as begging your friend to go see a new movie with you; and the more you beg, the less he wants to go.  This movement in the opposite direction is a natural reflex action to what’s called emotional demand.  The survival instinct part of our brain can sometimes kick on what I like to call our “Rebel Reflex” when it senses that another is attempting to control or change us.  Just like other human reflexes, this behavior is housed in a much deeper and stronger part of our brain than the judgment center; meaning, these actions happen before we realize we’re doing them…if we ever realize them at all.

So what gives our brain this idea?  It has less to do with what we say to people and more to do with the level of anxious need we convey when speaking.  Signals like tone of voice, facial expression, volume, posture, and body language are constantly monitored by our brain to sense the level of tension/anxiety in those around us.  If the way we are approaching our loved ones sends off the message that we absolutely need them to change or to do “X” so that we can be ok, then the odds of that change happening decrease drastically.  We naturally want to feel close to the ones we love; and many times when we push or pursue a change, our true goal is to restore the feeling of closeness and connection in the relationship.  If you don’t want someone to move in the opposite direction, don’t chase him.  Nothing kicks in the rebel reflex like needy pursuit.  Shifting the focus from the reaction of family members, to the way we are approaching them, moves the issue to an area we have power over: self.

When a person can solidify himself or herself and learn that at the end of the day the actions of others, even family, don’t change who she is, that person ceases to NEED others to be or act a certain way.  She can then state a preference or desire in the relationship without the emotional demand.  Neediness and demand provoke tension and distance.  Closeness is hard to achieve until we learn how to extinguish demand.  In order to extinguish demand, one has to develop a solid definition of self, separate from others.  One paradox of relationships is that the quality of closeness increases as we learn to exist separately.”


By Blake Butler, LMFT-Associate
(Permission to re-post granted)
Blake specializes in working with
adolescents and their families facing

issues of anger, self-acceptance,
anxiety, shame/guilt,
and identity.

Contact Info: