Your Brain Articles

Authentic vs Romanticized Love: What Love Is Not

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

images-846What is authentic love in a couple relationship, and how is it different from romanticized love? For one, whereas authentic love is not designed to be easy, rather an experience that challenges two individuals to keep growing and cultivating their capacity to love and be loved, romanticized love if anything is easy.

Love is not based on dominance or obedience.

Love based on dominance or obedience is not love, rather an “easy” automatic love we have for the weak, the dependent on us, such as babies and pets, those who easily make us feel needed, loved, without much effort on our part. This type of love makes us feel needed, thus can be addictive. As human beings, we yearn to feel valued and to give in meaningful ways to life and others. It becomes an unhealthy or addictive pattern when, subconsciously, we “need” to feel needed –out of fear — that we may otherwise not feel worthy or deserving of love, based on performance, as a man or woman in relation to one another, which meets certain arbitrary standards. It becomes unhealthy when one partner complies with the wishes of the other, out of fear, becoming a “neediness” to feel important that stunts the other’s growth.

Love is not an effortless feeling. 

Too many partners, too often, go into their love relationship to get, rather than give, thinking “love should come easy.” Male partners, in particular, are conditioned to go into their relationships expecting “this shouldn’t feel like work”; and female partners are conditioned to take most or all responsibility for the success of a relationship. For love to be authentic, it cannot be effortless. We go to our relationships to give. If there’s no investment, we lose our connection. Love is an experience designed to ever expand your capacity to love from the cradle to grave, to keep stretching out of old comfort zones, and to embrace self and the other in challenging moments where we or they can seem most “unlovable.” If your love relationship is effortless, it’s not growing you to become an ever better loving and loved version of yourself….


Pornography: Ways It Blocks Healthy Sexual Relations, 2 of 3

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

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A key block to healthy sexual relations, as discussed in Part 1, is that porn depicts sexual relations devoid of emotional intimacy as “the” norm.

Whereas intimacy is an emotional sense of safety and love, a felt state of mind and body that occurs when the love and safety chemical oxytocin is released into the blood stream, and that forms an essential foundation for healthy sexual relations, pornography makes sex about body parts and treats people as objects at the disposal of other object-persons.

Here are three more ways porn blocks healthy sexual relations in a couple relationship:

2. Reinforces the idea that, for men, sex equates to self-worth

Porn promotes the notion that, when it comes to a love relationship, nothing is more important than sex, and that’s all a man needs to feel like a man, thus, to feel loved. This comes with at least two underlying expectations, that a man’s sense of self-worth depends on his female partner to: (1) never say “No” to sex when he wants it, and (2) never ask him to do things “unmanly” things, more specifically, “the love stuff” that he’s learned to associate with what women and children “need” to feel loved. An ideal woman “should want” only what already pleases him, such as sex, and thus never bothers him with petty requests, which pose a “threat” to his feeling manly.

In other words, this mindset holds that a man cannot feel loved if he’s loved, or loves, the way a “woman loves” — as if there’s really such a thing — that he must avoid this “love stuff’ to prove masculinity. 

There are high costs for men (and women) when they buy into this idea to include, that: 

  • It sets up a double standard; and in a partnership, when one partner feels shortchanged, both lose — and any “wins” are mere illusions.

This double standard says that, because sex is what a man “needs” to feel “loved like a man, and a man depends on his partner to feel like a man, a “good” woman must put aside her feelings and needs for “closeness,” and the like, to focus on what he needs physically, mentally, and emotionally, and he depends on to …


15 Statements of Commitment That Couples In Therapy Can Make to Heal and Strengthen Their Relationship  

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Commitment 3Commitment is a foundation that nourishes a sense of safety, trust, and security, among other key ingredients that form a healthy, vibrant couple relationship. The same neurochemicals that make partners feel loved and loving are the same ones that make them feel safe and secure. That is an unalterable aspect of human life and relationships. We yearn to love and feel loved, to matter in life in relation to self and another, and when we perceive a treat or obstacle to this, we lose our sense of balance, safety and trust. It is in moments when we are at our worst that our defense strategies and desperate actions get activated, alas, to make things worse.

And, in a couple relationship it begins with a commitment each partner makes to self and the other to disallow difficult emotions, and defense strategies these activate, from controlling and blocking the level of emotional connection they’re wired to aspire and realize.  The shared drives for security and love is worth every ounce of effort into fulfilling.

Learning to navigate the emotional storms of a couple relationship, however, without getting overwhelmed, going into attack-mode or retreating to a pretend-everything-is-fine bubble, takes a lot of determination and know-how. The influences of past experiences imprinted in memory, in combination with a growing trend in the last few decades to mainstream junk values, mostly via TV, porn and entertainment, make this a nearly impossible task for many couples to do on their own.

Thanks to the latest findings in neuroscience, much of the guesswork is now science. Couples therapy can help partners identify and steer clear of toxic patterns, and focus instead on learning actions, specifically, to improve the quality of energy each partner brings to their relationship at any given moment — and how to energize heart to heart communications, in place of old toxic defensive patterns.


Sexual Reintegration Therapy: Healing Solutions for Sex and Porn Addiction

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Bercaw BookCouples dealing with the impact of a partner with sex and porn addiction, according to Drs. Bill and Ginger Bercaw, face considerably greater obstacles than those facing other addictions, such as substance abuse. Because of the trauma caused by repeated acts of betrayal, healing and rebuilding a relationship will require extensive efforts.

Authors of “The Couple’s Guide to Intimacy: How Sexual Reintegration Therapy Can Help Your Relationship Heal,” the Bercaws are psychologists who specialize in sex addiction and sex therapy. The treatment approach they have developed, “Sexual Reintegration Therapy,” is specifically designed to heal the wounds caused one partner having a sexual addiction. The approach can also effective, however, for couples seeking to heal from love addiction, infidelity and other addictive patterns, as well as to improve or develop a healthier sex life.

Partners must be willing to make a commitment for the long haul, and work hard on their own individual healing before they can work in a more focused way on healing their relationship, with no guarantees the relationship will survive. In the words of Drs Bercaw,

“In sex and porn addiction, not only does the addict’s brain become ‘hijacked’ by the repetitive stimulation and then the secretiveness of his acting out, the spouse or partner is also repetitively emotionally traumatized by betrayal, secrecy and lies. Long-term healing requires rebuilding the couple’s relational system from the ground up. The added challenge is that the very thing that has caused so much pain—sexual behavior—cannot be cut out of the couples like as substances such as alcohol can be. On the contrary, the couple will need to heal from the wounds that the sexual acting out has caused and then decide how they would like to cultivate a new way of relating sexually with each other.”

         The Bercaws view the biggest challenge facing partners in recovery as being open to learning how to reconnect and be emotionally and sexually intimate after the impact of the initial shock and anguish. This involves new ways of relating that allow both to be “emotionally intimate,” perhaps seeing the other for the first time. A healthy emotional connection is what absorbs …


3 Agents that Can Derail Goals and Dreams (And Negatively Shape Your Life)

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

images-252This is a great time of year to energize your dreams and goals, with momentum and high expectations for your success to unfold. In moments of stress, however, or when a set back occurs, you want to remain aware of certain negative agents that can automatically take over and influence your outcomes. By remaining consciously aware of agents that mostly operate subconsciously, hidden from view, the power is in your hands to rewire many of these pre-programmed emotion-command neural pathways.

The idea is to capitalize on positive-change mental imagery your mind is capable of producing, and in part, this means you are actively disallowing certain agents from blocking your capacity to visualize your future, the way you want it, and to make it an optimal sensory experience, one that involves all five of your senses, and puts you in charge of powerful creative processes.

There are at least three thinking patterns that need to be stopped from derailing your goals and dreams, they are:

1. Negative thought patterns

Your thoughts are an inner dialogue. Scientists speculate an average of about sixty thousand thoughts cross your mind a day, many of which you habitually repeat to yourself, and for the most part, have been repeating from early childhood! These thoughts, or “self-talk,” activate emotions accordingly. While certain persons or events may trigger painful emotions, they are not the cause. The real cause is what you tell yourself, this inner dialogue, in particular, your interpretative thoughts. Negative thoughts form more negative thoughts, and repeated over and over form toxic thinking patterns. Characteristically, toxic patterns are associated with either-or, black-and-white type of thinking that occurs when the body’s fear-response gets activated — at which time the higher, reflective thinking part of your brain is put offline, and reactive, defensive, on guard thinking automatically takes over. “Rehearsal” is a process you can learn and practice, if you do not already, that can put you, rather than your fear-based emotions, in charge of what you think, and do, and how events unfold.

2. Old limiting beliefs

Your thoughts are a powerful energy because they are linked to your beliefs, …


5 Prerequisites to Unlock Your Communications — Re-Image Your Partner As Capable of Loving You, 5 of 5

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

1021326634_f207f0dd51Certain shifts in perception are essential to unlock your imagination to work for you in creating a healthy, vibrant love relationship. To summarize the first four:

  • The first shift (see Part 2) sees a commitment to individual healing, each participating fully in your own and one another’s healing processes, as an essential aspect of relationship building.

Your relationship will make you happy, to the extent you are each open to grow, to learn, to stretch your capacity to love, to understand, and that often means to protect and know how to do your part, as needed, to bring positive energy to your relationship. You cannot afford to wait until problems are solved, and so and so does such and such first before you feel happy, loving, loved. You must each cultivate the ability to do your part to enjoy each other, and disallow challenges along the way to drain positive sources of energy inside you. In other words, even as you seek to improve your relationship, your happiness must not depend on present circumstance. Happiness is not a goal, it’s the way to live to create more happiness and other positive emotions, such as gratitude, hope, belief, appreciation, determination, and so on. 

  • The second shift (see Part 2) has to do with how you view and relate to emotions overall, in particular, painful ones that trigger you.

You need to cultivate an openness to feel your emotions, and see them as information that is vital to your decision making. When you get comfortable with uncomfortable emotions, this ability more and more frees you from the pull of old comfort zones and stuck places, and allows you to transform your fears to assets. Your developing ability to embrace painful emotions, as potentially vital information, prevents your body from unnecessarily activating your survival response when you’re triggered (which cuts you off from core inner capacities, i.e., to deeply reflect, to see new options, etc., when you most need them). In effect, this ability to remain engaged and present, and eager to learn and understand, is about developing an intimate relationship with your self, your emotions, thoughts, body and mind, fully accepting all aspects of y-o-u. To the extent you get to know and love yourself, you grow your capacity to love another amazing — albeit also imperfect being


A Gift Guaranteed to Improve Your Love Life — and Brain? Make Your Relationship a Criticism-Free Zone

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

images-888Here’s a gift to add to your list of what to get him/her on that special day, which is guaranteed to boost your brain’s capacity to work for you, and at the same time improve your love relationship. There’s one condition, however: Both of you must give this gift wholeheartedly to one another to experience its life energizing effects.

What is this gift? It’s the gift of making your relationship a criticism-free zone. There’s perhaps nothing as corrosive to your physical health as well as your love relationship than criticism, at least certain types.

To clarify, expressing what you like or don’t like are not criticisms per se. It is healthy to make descriptive observations of a problem, explore what actions or habits work or do not work, make suggestions or requests for something you’d like to see happen or stop occurring, and the like, for example. All of these, potentially, are relationship building actions.

In contrast, criticisms are detrimental to your health and relationship specifically because they are attempts to resolve issues through the use of words that attack or judge or label a partner’s character in derogatory ways. What we’re talking about here are words or phrases, such as shame-, guilt- or fear-inducing statements, which are purposefully designed to get the other to change or stop a certain behavior — in other words, to give you the love you need, etc. They are also widespread because they consist of parenting practices most of us experienced as children.


The Latest on Healthy, Long-Lasting Relationships? Three Types of Responses to Bids for Connection, 2 of 2

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Kindness0Advances in neuroscience inform us that our brains are social in nature, and that, as a species, we’re continually affecting one another’s mental and emotional states of mind and body. This is just one of the findings reported by cofounders of brain-based therapy, Drs. John Arden and Lloyd Linfor in the January/February 2010 publication of Psychotherapy Networker. “ In their words,

We write ‘brain’ as a singular, but in a real sense there’s no such thing as one, single brain—only brains and nervous systems in some sort of relationship to one another.

As discussed in Part 1, decades of research by Drs. John and Julie Gottman indicate that the longevity and happiness of a love relationship can be predicted with 97% accuracy, for couples in which both partners practiced habits of generosity and kindness toward the other. For the long haul, it takes two to tango.


The Latest on Healthy, Long-Lasting Relationships? Both Partners Cultivate Two Key Traits, 1 of 2

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

Kindness1It seems unfair. Of the many couples that get married each year, hoping to find lifelong companionship, lasting joy, friendship and fulfillment, only about 50% will stay married, and of those that do, the vast majority, about 70%, devolve into arrangements that are unsatisfying at best, and dysfunctional or even destructive at worst.

Cheer up, however. These trends are not necessarily bad news, at least not if you think of them as information regarding what works — and doesn’t — to create healthy, vibrant couple relationships! They speak to key elements that relationships need — must have — to stay alive and thrive; and they also point to unrealistic yet prevailing expectations that need to be identified, let go of and replaced. Why? Expectations are life shaping agents. If they form thoughts, beliefs and behaviors that limit the capacity of men and women to nourish and strengthen their love relationship, they are set ups for failure.


The Paradox of Genuine Love: Why Loving Your Self Equals Loving Your Partner (And Vice Versa)

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

HeartCreative Commons License seyed mostafa zamani via Compfight

The permission to fully love and embrace your self and life with wonder, a compassionate love and acceptance is no small matter. Paradoxically, you need your own love and acceptance to fully and genuinely love your partner (and vice versa..).

Why?

Several reasons. For one, it is impossible to be in a love relationship and not hurt each other. It is par for the course. You are two different persons. You each bring unique strengths, gifts, intelligences and energy to the relationship. Each also brings past wounds, hurts and painful experiences in addition to a “new” build up of unresolved hurts between you. Each yearns to feel valued for their strengths, and yet at some point each tends to get stuck focusing on partner’s faults, weaknesses, lack of understanding, appreciation, etc.

Second, nature seems to love to bring together two persons in a couple relationship that have seemingly opposing approaches in several areas, especially when it comes to how they react to pain or stress. Pain is not the problem however. Pain is part of growth, learning, and stretching out of old comfort zones to realize new possibilities. The cliche “no pain, no gain” is more than a guideline; it is law of physics. The real problem has to do with how each partner reacts (defensively) when dealing with pain, i.e., extremes of either wallowing or detaching from pain.


 

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