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Seven Interpersonal Myths that Undermine Your Relationships

Relational Rules of a Power Over Culture are Deadly

The 7 Interpersonal Rules that Undermine

Your Health and Relationships


Are you aware of the forces that guide you through life, that inform how you behave in different environments with different people? The rules that tell you when to stand up to someone’s condescension and when to back off and ignore it. The beliefs about how you respond to someone begging for food or money on the street. For most, these behaviors and the decisions we make feel spontaneous and clear, as if they are an innate part of who we are. But, in large part, the messages that guide our behavior come from outside of us – from the cultures we are embedded in. These cultures may be as diverse as insects in the rainforest, but each culture holds a message – and the message of the culture becomes the guiding rules that the people in it live by.

Mainstream American culture is currently built around the belief that humans are born dependent and that the role of socialization is to help make separate, individual beings. According to this theory, a mature adult is characterized by his ability to act logically and autonomously and to participate fully in a hierarchical power over social structure. Pitting people against each other for resources may not be the most effective way to keep our cognitive minds engaged in building social structures. However, this American cultural template is a user’s guide seamlessly built into our brains and bodies as “the way life should be”. The first step in changing these deep seated relational patterns that reflect the cultural hyperindvidualism of Western society is to bring the patterns into conscious awareness.

Remember the consciousness raising groups for women in the late 60’s and 70’s, where women supported each other in an exploration of the way male superiority had seeped into the nooks and crannies of their minds and bodies and how each responded unconsciously to society’s message of how a “normal woman” should look and behave. In these groups, women redefined what it meant to be female and along the way empowered a new generation of girls and women to see their own strengths and to work side-by-side with their male peers for equality of the sexes. A similar level of awareness is necessary to change any deep-seated cultural belief – it is simply how our brains work. Your Head needs time and space to counteract the impulsive reactivity of the Gut. With this in mind, I have devoted this blog post to 7 culturally created rules that I believe are chronically and actively undermining our ability to nurture ourselves, each other, and the planet. These “7 Interpersonal Rules that Undermine your Health and Relationships” are messages you are reenforcing on a daily basis. Make no mistake about it – these messages are literally shaping your brain, body, relationships, and community.



Rule #1 – You are healthiest and most mature when you can stand on your own, self-regulate your emotions, and NOT depend on others.

Rule #2 – When you feel threatened or stressed, establishing power over other people helps you feel safer.

Rule #3 - When you feel threatened or stressed you can regain a sense of safety by making those around you feel smaller.

Rule #4 – In a competitive social structure, individuals at the top of the hierarchy have more value and more power than those on the bottom.

Rule #5 – In a hierarchical social structure, individuals at the top (dominant group) define the reality of those at the bottom (subordinate group) without any real knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses while the subordinate group must pay close attention to the needs and desires of the dominant group.

Rule #6 – Being a unique individual raises your social value but being too different lowers your social value. The line dividing the two is ever changing.

Lisa Langhammer used with permission
Source: Lisa Langhammer used with permission

Rule #7 – Individual successes are more impressive than group successes.

These seven basic rules, when unconsciously enacted as part of a complete socialization process, systematically and effectively stimulate and enlarge the pathways for stress in your body and brain and undermine the critical pathways needed for connection and cooperative behavior. In order to begin to build a greater awareness and deeper understanding of these 7 Rules, I will post a blog dedicated to each rule over

the next seven weeks! As you begin to realize the amazing capacity of your brain to connect, it will become even clearer how these rules are sabotaging the very specific neural pathways you need to form healthy, mutual, rewarding relationships.