What are RCs & why do I need them anyway?

If joy is the feeling that we get when someone is glad to be with us, How come so many of us don’t feel joy in situations with people who supposedly love us?

When we learn all about this “joy” stuff, why do some of us start looking around and wondering where all the people are that can be glad to be with us so we can feel joy.

Many of us assume that no one is ever glad to be with us and that must be the reason why we don’t feel joy.

But I think we might need to consider turning that finger and pointing it the other direction.

Instead of looking at what everyone around us is “not doing”…. Let’s look at what our brain might be doing to BLOCK our ability to receive joy from those around us!

(* if you’re into all the “science” behind this discussion I highly recommend getting Outsmarting Yourself by Dr.Karl Lehman)


Without getting super technical here, I’m going to tell you about a place in your brain that can be in 3 different “positions”. It can be, On, Off, or Dim. Dr. Karl Lehman, Jim Wilder, Ed Khouri and the rest of the Life Model Works authors refer to these as Relational Circuits (RCs for short). These Relational Circuits are highly important for us to use in every relationship we have.

Here are just a few things that your brain can do when these RCs are ON.

  • Use all your senses

  • Be flexible (instead of rigid) in your thinking

  • Be self-reflective

  • Attune

  • Use willpower

  • Be open and interested in what others think, feel and say

  • Regulate emotions

  • Work with others to reach understanding

  • Focus & shift attention

Let’s stop here for a moment and consider life without the ability to do some of these things. Not a fun picture is it? Or maybe if yours are set to “dim” each of those things would feel much more difficult than they should. Now here are a few more things your RCs are responsible for.


  • Distinguish between current and past events

  • Allow for creative solutions to be found

  • Help you to join with others to form groups

  • Explore new solutions

  • Process new data or input from others

  • Respond instead of react

  • Control cravings

  • Resolve conflicts

  • Access other brain and physical resources

  • Set goals, remember goals, and enjoy reaching them

Are you starting to see why having your RCs on might be important? Here are some more reasons you might want to keep your RCs on.

They are where your brain can:

  • Develop a consistent identity

  • Control or resolve fears

  • Maintain & nurture consistent supportive, relationships

  • Be resilient

  • Be mindful

  • Recognize what others are feeling & saying & why that might be important

  • Consider that we might be wrong about something

  • Access relational memories

  • Receive from others

Okay, so there’s more than a “few” things that the RCs in our brain are responsible for controlling. Doesn’t this list have a few things on it that you’d like to be able to do?

Let’s take a closer look at that last one. “Receive from others”.

If our RCs are dim, or OFF, then our ability to receive from others is also turned off or dimmed.

I used to suffer from severe social anxiety. When invited to go to a party or other


social gathering with my husband I would begin to panic internally. At times like this, my RCs didn’t just “dim”, they would shut off completely. I could not control my fears about what others might think if they saw me, I could not do anything on that list above. But most importantly, when my husband would come into the closet where I was frantically trying on every piece of clothing I owned (and feeling like everything in the closet was just as bad as the previous thing I tried on), I could not receive his love, his support, his concern, or register the fact that he was glad to be with me.