Today I have the pleasure of sharing the drawings and animations of the talented Andrew (Andy) Bernier. I had the privilege of graduating from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design with this fine fellow, and hope you enjoy his work as much as I do! You can check him out at andybernier.com.
‘Skullcrusher Mountain’ Vertical Video
“This video spawned from an idea that music videos are seen less on television and more on mobile devices. The portability of a screens orientation allows for more unconventional video proportions and will lead to many new creative possibilities.Thanks to Jonathan Coulton for writing such an amazing song.”
Introducing the work of Illustrator and Creative Director, Nathan Pionke. He also happens to be an amazing musician and member of two bands, as well as an unparalleled bad ass. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, I am happy to present the work of writer and film producer, Omri Bezalel. Omri originally posted the following on January 18th, 2015, on his own blog, which you can find and follow here. Thank you for contributing, Omri!
On the north east corner of 35th street and sixth avenue, lies an empty Chicken Nuggets Box. It has just recently been dropped, it seems. People are walking by and around, taking care not to step on it. A heavyset man in a baseball cap is the first one to step directly on it and keep moving. After that a domino effect kicks in and the box is stepped on and kicked. A small Asian man, a little kid in a hoodie, a woman on her phone.
We’re almost at 36th street now. Then a blonde woman in a business suit kicks the box across the sidewalk next to a line of people waiting for the bus. It looks like the box is just waiting for the bus like everyone else. As if the bus will come and the Chicken Nuggets Box will get on after the old lady in front of him and swipe his metro card and ride the bus back home to his family of Chicken Nuggets Boxes. His mother will clean him up and bathe him and scrub all the shoe filth off of him and pop his corners back up until he looks fresh and good as new. She’ll tuck him into bed and tell him she loves him and that tomorrow will be a better and brighter day. She’ll kiss him and close the lights and the Chicken Nuggets Box will forget that he spent twenty minutes of the day getting kicked around by people.
But the bus comes and goes with everyone getting on and the Chicken Nuggets Box stays on the ground alone. He gets kicked again. He’ll keep getting kicked until a good samaritan picks him up and puts him in the garbage, where maybe he’ll meet some friends he’s made along the way; the other misfits who have lived up their purpose and have been disposed of and discarded. He’s now flat and crumpled on the edge of the sidewalk, on the margins of society. No one even cares enough about him to kick him. He’s just ignored. And that’s the worst. That’s the opposite of love. Me? I’d rather be kicked.
A month ago, I wrote a blog post entitled, “It’s Not Cheating, It’s Just Sex,” in which I reviewed a mountain of neurological, sociological, and psychological research focusing on the battle of the sexes. I cried through every minute of typing that post, having come to the following conclusion: Mr. Perfect is a pipe dream concocted by romance writers to help you orgasm, and that’s about it. Science would have you believe all men are philandering horn dogs (if not in action, than in spirit) and settling is the only way to go, unless you’d rather be alone for the rest of your life.
But then I thought about friends and family members, and the husbands of friends and family members, who do not fit the profile of the beer-guzzling, tail-chasing ape many a woman learns to suck it up and love. I asked several of these rare fellows to tell me how they imagined their ideal relationship, as part of a portrait series I am developing.
“In love, when loved, and when loving is truly the only time that real risk and danger can occur, because it is the only time you are able to discover places within that you didn’t know existed,”said one 45-year-old, divorced, community artist and father of two. “It is not the mystery of withholding, it is the mystery of the explorer, with a partner, on the same journey.”
“An ideal relationship, for me, would be full support in personal development, in every area of life,” said one 23-year-old, single, undergraduate psychology student and semi-professional athlete. “Endless love for one another, and constant communication.”
“Honorable,” said one 34-year-old, single, military man and father of two, “and committed. ”
Okay, so, maybe not all men lack control over their hormones, or equate the value of a loving relationship with porn-site loyalty. Maybe it’s that I attract only these kinds of men, and/or I am only attracted to them. Psychology would suggest maladaptive patterns of relating have unconsciously affected my methods of mate selection (I wrote a blog post about that too). But I’ve had years of therapy. I am, in fact, a therapist. So how can it be that with all the insights and behavioral changes I have made, I still find myself in the same place romantically? Why, God. Why?
Some might argue God has nothing to do with it, but I beg to differ. We often throw around phrases like “Soul Mates,” and my repetitious love life would seem to support the theory of “Karmic relationships,” but what do those words even mean?
I decided to do my own research into the topic, exploring spiritual theories of love. What I found is far too lengthy to include in this article, but I’d like to share the gist, and it begins with the origin of your soul.
One day, God (who is both male and female) gave him/herself a little squeeze, and a drop of “white fire light” fell out. This drop agreed to live a human existence, to learn more about love. So, the drop was divided in half, one half focusing on masculine energy, and the other on feminine energy (though both contain aspects of each, like ying and yang). Together, these halves are called “Twin Flames.” Separately, each is an “I AM” presence.
Each flame, or I AM presence, sent forth a soul, like a fisherman casting a line with bait on the end. The line connecting the bait to the fisherman is considered the soul’s “Higher Self” or “True Self,” the part that connects your soul to the most divine aspects of yourself. Through many lives on earth (embodying both genders), a soul seeks to balance Karmic debts (shameful wounds) through transformative feelings of love, in order to find its way back to its I AM presence, and reunite with its Twin Flame. But this is the soul’s essential misconception.
As Cyndi Dale, author of BEYOND SOUL MATES, asserts, “The soul’s dedication to karma supports one repetitive pattern after the other…reinforcing the idea that you have to earn love. But True Self-based, dharmic relationships suggest you are love. This means you are empowered to allow in only what encourages love and send the same to others.” Dale explains this dharmic short-cut through Karma is not an unhealthy, boundary-less love where you become a doormat and turn the other cheek in a domestic dispute, but a transformative intention to act with love towards yourself and others, instead of only yearning for it.
At times, there will be an emptiness, loneliness and longing that reveals the karmic nature of a relationship, particularly those that result in marriage. These can be difficult marriages because they may be for the balancing of severe crimes, such as murder, betrayal, or hatred; the worse the karma, the more intense the love and attraction upon meeting. As Elizabeth Clare Prophet, author of SOUL MATES AND TWIN FLAMES, states, “Very often the only way to overcome that record of hatred is through the intense love expressed through the husband-wife relationship. We love much because there is much to be forgiven.”
Soul mate connections are somewhat different, and not necessarily romantic in nature. Soul mates are kindred souls seeking to master the same issues as you. Sometimes they are part of the same “soul tribe” you’ve traveled with throughout many lifetimes, and sometimes they are unknown souls you are encountering for the first time. But don’t put your life on hold looking for a soul mate. More importantly, learn to give and receive love from the people you meet, because you won’t necessarily be struck by lightning when you find one.
Char Margolis, author of LOVE KARMA, and frequent guest on shows like Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, and Larry King Live, states, “We get into trouble when we start to believe that the only relationship worth having is with a soul mate. When the fireworks aren’t immediate or the connection isn’t instant, this belief makes us think the relationship isn’t worth our time. The truth is that we have many soul mates that incarnate in many forms over many lifetimes, depending on the lessons we—and they—need to learn…What if your lesson is to learn about the kind of love that builds slowly?”
Let’s recap. Your soul’s mission is to love itself without feeling like it has to earn it, in order to be rejoined with its Twin Flame, and return to God (this is the general concept of dharma). But in the meantime, your soul isn’t buying it, so instead of taking the elevator, it climbs the stairs by balancing karmic debts. This makes the idea of the happy ending (uniting with our Twin Flame) feel too far away and damn near impossible to achieve.
Sylvia Browne, author of PHENOMENON, and frequent guest on The Montel Williams Show, CNN, and Good Morning America, challenges us to assume a different perspective. “We share a bond with our [Twin Flames] like identical twins would, but we are certainly not joined at the hip. I am not a half person. You are not a half person. Like all spirits on the Other Side, [Twin Flames] can choose when, if and how many times to incarnate… We make these decisions separately, for our own very specific reasons, and don’t forget, in the context of eternity, we leave Home and come back in the blink of an eye. So why coordinate travel plans when you see each other as often as you want on the Other Side?”
Brian Weiss, a prominent psychiatrist and author of MANY LIVES, MANY MASTERS, quoted a messenger from “the in-between,” through a patient in a regressed hypnotic state, “Our task is to learn. To become God-like through knowledge…By knowledge we approach God, and then we can rest. Then we come back and teach, to help others.”
And so, with a little willing suspension of disbelief, perhaps life isn’t a shameful balancing act, but more like a party. And you can either mess with the “bad kids,” and find yourself in a heap of trouble, or you can get a little tipsy and dance with your friends until the cows come home. Even if you make a poor decision, there’s always the next party to make a better one. And a party isn’t a party if you sit around waiting for only one guest to arrive. But most importantly, love and happiness doesn’t begin at the finish line; it was with you from the start.
Briana MacPerry is a licensed creative arts therapist and adjunct writing and research instructor. When she is not grading or corralling her four-year-old son, she is blogging and working on making that big break happen. To learn more visit her on twitter @macperrytweets or on her Facebook Page.
In my previous blog post, It’s Not Cheating, It’s Just Sex, I discuss weighing the benefits of a committed, loving relationship against leaving a partner for a lusty indiscretion. The feedback I received (all privately) was varied, but among readers’ responses there appeared a defensive despair. “It’s not that complicated. If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. Why bother remaining in a relationship if it makes you feel shitty? At that point, you’re just settling.” I would like to address the credence we afford our “feelings.” Socrates stated, “The unexamined live is not worth living for a human being.” And while there is something to be said for “going with your gut,” there is also something to be said (particularly in the context of romantic relationships), for asking ourselves why we feel the way we feel. Why are some excited by the notion of multiple sexual partners, and others deeply offended?
Allan and Barbara Pease, authors of WHY MEN WANT SEX AND WOMEN NEED LOVE, attributes the individual’s romantic inclinations to his “love map.” A “love map” is a “blueprint that contains the things we think are attractive…determined by the brain’s hardwiring and a set of criteria formed in childhood.” Sigmund Freud believed a child’s amorous interest in his parents “fixes his attraction to later lovers.” His repressed memories and emotions remain in pristine condition, to be exhumed at a later date, unchanged. Freud wrote, “The unconscious, at all events, knows no time limit.” Indeed, many scientists believe love maps begin forming around age six, and are firmly in place by age fourteen.
This supposition not only dooms us to re-live the lives of our parents, but to pass their dynamic on to our children. And it is flawed for two reasons. First, memory is not a thing. Your heart is an object but the pulse it generates is a physiological event; it occupies no space and has no mass. Secondly, memory is not only mutable, but the nature of the brain’s storage mechanisms dictate that memories must change over time. In their book, A GENERAL THEORY OF LOVE, authors Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M.D., and Richard Lannon, M.D., assert our love maps are determined at the crossroads of implicit versus explicit learning. Lewis et al., states, “The physiology of memory determines the heart of who we are and who we can become…the plasticity of the mind, its capacity to adapt and learn, is possible only because neuronal connections can change…The stability of an individual mind—what we know as identity—exists only because some neural pathways endure.”
Explicit learning encodes memories of events including autobiographical recollections and discrete facts. This is commonly described as our perceptions. However, there is a wealth of learning human beings absorb without being consciously aware of it; this is implicit learning. We tend to give greater credence to explicit knowledge of facts, but this is misplaced, as evidenced by distorted eye witness accounts, and those small moments of, “Huh, I remember it differently…” we experience on a daily basis.
For example, Mr. Underwood suffered catastrophic damage to his hippocampus, destroying his explicit memory, and leaving him perpetually living in the present. Researchers taught Mr. Underwood to braid, a skill he did not have prior to suffering brain damage. After he had mastered it, researchers asked him if he knew how to braid. He replied, “No,” a truthful statement from his perspective. But when three strips of cloth were placed in front of him, he wove them together without hesitation.
In my post entitled, The Four Phases of Love: It’s All About Chemistry, I examine the impact of brain chemistry on physical and emotional reactions to potential mates. In my post, Its Not Cheating, Its Just Sex, I go on to illuminate how those lusty reactions are biologically different from love, though they might eventually come together. But what makes one lusty relationship evolve into bonded bliss, and the next fizzle in a matter of weeks?
When it comes to mate selection, overwhelmingly, it is this mysterious, implicit learning mechanism—our unconscious knowledge—that tends to take charge. A person’s brain chemicals could compel him or her to be sexually attracted many potential partners, but he or she is only likely to fall in love with a fraction of those. And of those love objects, he or she is only likely to commit long-term to one of them. Even amongst non-monogomous or polyamorous relationships, more often than not, there is an essential diad at the center of a network of lovers, a “primary” partnership. “The One,” in the end, may be a complete disaster for you on paper, yet, when you met, the “chemistry” was perfect, and deep down, you “just knew.” But did you ever stop to ask yourself, why? Why do we assume this mysterious intuition a beacon of truth? How do you know a broken love map isn’t steering the boat, and your love object isn’t necessarily “The One,” simply familiar? Why, no matter how many different choices you’ve made with each subsequent partner, do you still end up in the same type of relationship?
If you don’t ask yourself these questions, you may negatively crystallize a potentially malleable romantic dynamic. Lewis et al states, “If a child has the right parents, he learns the right principles…love means protection, caretaking, loyalty, and sacrifice. He comes to know it not because he is told, but because is brain automatically narrows crowded confusion into a few regular prototypes.” Equally, if your parents have a dysfunctional relationship, this will produce implicit schema as well, planting “an erroneous generality” in a child’s brain. His implicit or unconscious knowledge “distills but does not evaluate” how applicable the early lessons of family life are to the larger adult world.
Murray Stein, author of CARL JUNG’S MAP OF THE SOUL, might suggest these “prototypes” are another term for Carl Jung’s archetypes, which are psychic structures that organize unconscious learning. Stein offers an example:
If a man reminds a woman of her harsh abusive father by his tone of voice, way of reacting to life, intensity of emotional response, and so on, he will [stimulate] her Father Complex. If she interacts with him over a period of time, material will be added to the complex. If he abuses her, the negative father complex will become enriched and energized, and she will become all the more reactive in situations where the father complex is [stimulated]. Increasingly, she may avoid men entirely, or on the other hand, she may find herself irrationally drawn to them. In either case, her life becomes restricted by this complex; the stronger the complex, the more restricted is the range of the ego’s freedom of choice.
Before you sever a connection to a loved one–for any reason–make sure you are operating under freedom of choice, and not explicit knowledge based on ill-informed, implicit experiences. In other words, examine your ego and the extent of it’s pride. What if sometimes a bad relationship feels good because it’s what you know, and a good relationship makes you feel shitty because it challenges self-destructive patterns, and nothing hates to be disproven like a cyclical negative thought?
Remember, both implicit knowledge and explicit knowledge are equally subject to censure. And you cannot tease out reality from fantasy, unless you place both under a microscope. What is important to you in a relationship? What do you share that is unique and special and beyond prideful reproach? And most importantly, why?
A reasonable person might assume analyzing pivotal moments in childhood will resolve his troubles, turning talk therapy into a treasure hunt for the explicit past. Autobiographical memories are useful, but “explicit memory is not a shrine.” People rely on the rational mind to solve problems, and are naturally baffled when it proves useless to effect emotional change. Recounting a timeline of your past alone will not navigate you out of these muddy waters. You have to engage in relationships, see what comes up in the present, and be able to withstand the discomfort of when your wires cross with your partner’s–long enough, at least, to determine the origin of the conflict, and whether or not it is rectifiable. Keep in mind, those wires can change, but not when left alone in isolation.
I’d like to end with a quote that summarizes it best for me. In her book, THE STRUGGLE FOR INTIMACY, Janet Geringer Woititz states,
Knowing what you don’t want does not mean you know what you do want. You need to learn what a healthy relationship is. You need to learn how to achieve one…Struggle is inevitable. Discouragement is inevitable. However, so is –sharing, loving, enhancement, joy, excitement, companionship, understanding, cooperation, trusting, growth, security, and serenity. The choice and the challenge are yours.
While chastising me for harboring fanciful ideas about sexually faithful men, a good friend once said to me, “There are only two kinds of men. Those who treat their wives and their mistresses well, and those who don’t. You decide which one turns you on, then you decide which role you want to play.”
“I don’t believe that,” I responded. “There are men who are devoted to their wives.”
“Miserable men who wish they had the balls not to be. Tell me, does your Prince Charming day dream about internet porn?”
“You’d prefer to be a mistress?”
“When I’m with a married man, I know two things, almost for certain. One, exactly who else he’s fucking. And two, that I’m the only thing he’s thinking about. A married man might spend time with his family, but he’s thinking about the next opportunity he’ll have to fuck me. All day, he thinks about the things he’ll do to me. And all night, even when he’s fucking his wife, he imagines all the things I’ll do to him. I’m his escape. I’m where he really wants to be. Single men don’t give me their undivided attention. And there are too many unknowns.”
“Why not just marry someone you want sexually?”
“Marriage kills sexual attraction, but it provides a sense of security. Most men value security above their sexual needs. They need a mommy to take care of them and their kids. Which is fine with me, because I get all the benefits without doing all the work.”
My dear friend is not alone in her assessment. Jokes abound about the drudgery of marriage. Oscar Wilde once said, “A man who marries his mistress leaves a vacancy in that position.” The Spanish word for “spouse,” esposas, also means “handcuffs.” Why are married women usually heavier? Because single women come home, see what’s in the fridge, and go to bed. Married women come home, see what’s in bed, and go to the fridge.
It is the sacrifice of the libido that makes possible the greater joys in life: family, connectedness, and a sense of purpose. Or so the story goes. But what man wants to sacrifice a biological imperative to be with the woman he loves? What wife wants to spend her life feeling unloved and apologizing for never being enough?
In 1988, the then governor of Colorado, Roy Romer, called an extraordinary press conference during which he admitted his wife of forty-five years had been aware of and accepted a long-running extra marital affair that had become publicly known.
“What is fidelity?” he asked the surprised reporters. “Fidelity is what kind of openness you have. What kind of trust you have, which is based on truth and openness…In my family, we’ve…tried to arrive at an understanding of what our feelings are, what our needs are, and work it out with that kind of fidelity.”
If there is a bigger point of contention than sexual fidelity in a significant relationship, it is yet to be discovered. A 2006 study showed that infidelity was the most cited cause for divorce in a survey of 150 cultures. Of course, people often lie about these things, disregarding the sanctity of the mighty survey (tsk, tsk), but the most consistent data on infidelity comes from the General Social Survey conducted by the National Science Foundation, which has tracked opinions about American social behavior since 1972. The data shows in any given year, about one out of ten married people say they have had sex outside of marriage. In most Western and European countries, 50-60% of males are estimated to have been unfaithful at least once, and in places like Sweden or France, the number rises to 70-80%. As a rule, these numbers are lower for women the world over, with the exception of France, where 87% of women have had sex outside of a current or past relationship.
The prevailing assumption is if a partner steps outside of the relationship, there must be something essentially wrong with it. In opposition to this suggestion, Easton and Catherine Liszt, authors of THE ETHICAL SLUT, assert “It is cruel and insensitive to interpret an affair as a symptom of sickness in the relationship, as it leaves the ‘cheated-on’ partner–who may already feel insecure—to wonder what is wrong with him…Many people have sex outside their primary relationships for reasons that have nothing to do with any inadequacy in their partner or the relationship.”
Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, authors of SEX AT DAWN, point out couples with open marriages generally rate their over all satisfaction (with both their relationship and with life in general) as significantly higher than conventional couples do. They are able to recognize “additional relationships need not be taken as indictments of anyone.”
Proponents of monogamy argue these are fanciful ideas, which saw their rise and fall with the free love of the sixties and early seventies, resulting in detrimentally loose boundaries and communes rampant with sex abuse. It is also worth noting, perhaps the desire for extra marital sex has little to do with innate drives, and more to do with increased accessibility.
Professor Douglas Kenrick at Arizona State University found that men who were shown images of sexually attractive women, rated their own real-life partners as less attractive and more dissatisfied with them, then with men who were shown images of average-looking women. Those who saw the more attractive photos also described themselves as less committed, less serious, less satisfied, and less close to their partners. Even the men whose partners were considered very attractive were still less satisfied with them after seeing the pictures of the sexually attractive women. In short, ignorance is bliss.
This is significant when you consider both our distorted standard of beauty, and the increased accessibility to that standard through social media and the internet, especially internet porn, which has been identified as the root cause of increasing instances of impotence and sexual dysfunction in men ages 18-30. For more, check out Gary Wilson’s presentation, “The Great Porn Experiment,” in which he describes the detrimental effects of unending novelty. Gary states, “Internet porn is killing young men’s sexual performance…the problem isn’t psychological, its physical changes in the brain. Their brains have become numb and are sending weaker signals…leading to a drop in libido…in the end, making it impossible to get an erection. It’s a classic addiction process: gradual desensitization.” But men in their twenties aren’t recovering their sexual function after quitting internet porn as well as older men, because older men were already developed sexually before the invention of high speed Internet.
Novelty is at the root of it all, at least for men. A man might claim he is in love with one woman, but he needs sexual variety. And not the kind a girlfriend can simulate by buying a remote vibrator or investing in black leather. No. A woman can do a lot of things, but she can never be the one thing a man truly desires: a different woman. Not necessarily a better-looking one. Not one that is funnier or smarter. Not even one that is better in bed. Merely different. Not only does a man’s testosterone rise significantly after only a few moments of talking to a new attractive woman, but there is a release of dopamine (the pleasure chemical) with novel stimulation. In fact, according to Williams Masters and Virginia Johnson, with Dr. Kinsey’s agreement, adding a newer, younger partner can reverse a man’s waning sexual interest in his long-term partner.
Women’s motivations for cheating are various and infinitely more complex. A poll taken of divorce lawyers in the United Kingdom in 2008 showed the top ten answers women gave when asked why they’d had an affair were:
Unable to communicate with their partner about problems
Not made to feel desirable enough
Lack of appreciation by husband
Husband too self absorbed and full of hang ups
Lack of romance and excitement in bed
Need to escape the routine in their life
Wanting to feel as powerful in their personal life as at work
Bored with the routine
Opportunity was offered at the right time
Of course, an affair doesn’t necessarily mean anything significant in terms of a woman’s emotional commitment, or where a man intends to invest his resources. It’s “just sex” after all. It doesn’t mean the “cheating” partner is dissatisfied with the sex in the relationship (though this is more likely for women). Just because one partner’s needs might be less popular than the other’s, doesn’t make them any less important, if both parties are to feel recognized and honored in the relationship, free from feelings of shame and guilt.
While the “prevailing script” for mature adult behavior is for the wronged party to pick up and leave at the slightest indiscretion, there is a wealth of literature out there suggesting couples try giving “flexible sexual boundaries” the good old college try, before throwing away what is otherwise a healthy and loving partnership. Ryan and Jetha beg the question, “Is abandonment of one’s family the ‘adult’ option for dealing with the inherent conflict between socially sanctioned romantic ideals and the inconvenient truths of sexual passion?”
If you happen to find yourself asking the same question, you might keep in mind, love is located in different areas of the brain, depending on gender. So unless you plan on falling in love with the same sex the next time around, or think the issue of sexual fidelity is unique to your relationship and will never come up with a “better” partner in the future, think again.
Scans taken of over 3,000 “madly in love” college students reveal gender differences in brain activity. When asked to look at a picture of their lover, women showed greater activity in the parts of the brain related to memory, emotion, and attention, as well as in the septum—also called “the pleasure center.” Men showed greater activity in the visual cortex, including one area responsible for sexual arousal (Fischer & Brown, 2004).
Notably, men might have fewer illuminated areas than women, but when viewed in color, those areas are more intensely active. This could account for the propensity for men to fall “in love at first sight,” more aptly described as “lust at first sight.” In general, these variations in brain activity across gender lines are supposed to aid humans in perpetuating the species. Men are better equipped to determine fertility by scouting an attractive hip-to-waist ratio, and women are more discerning of behavior and character, to determine if he would be a good father and provider.
Love and lust are also located in different areas of the brain, at least initially. A subsequent study in which individuals looked at erotic imagery while having their brains scanned, revealed none of the “in-love” brain activity. Activity was found in the hypothalamus and amygdala, part of the Limbic system of the brain involved with instinctual needs such as hunger, thirst, and arousal (Fischer & Brown, 2004). It is important to note the four phases of love when considering this information, however. Because once lust turns into love, our instinctual drives eventually arrive at a chemical crossroads, for both men and women.
According to neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Amen, there are four phases of love—attraction, infatuation, commitment, and detachment—each phase with its own chemical trigger. Sometimes when the infatuation chemicals drop off, people mistake the lack of intensity and euphoria with falling out of love. Also, because they feel the withdrawal from infatuation chemicals, they seek other partners or stimulating substances to re-create that feeling.
Whether you are a monogamist or not, this cyclical pattern of relating can be destructive if left unexplored. When we fall in love with someone, eventually they will become imbedded in the Limbic part of our brains (their smell, the touch of their skin, the sound of their voice, the beat of their heart, etc.). When we cannot interact with our love object as we are used to, that part of the brain becomes inflamed, looking for him or her. This inflammation is associated with low serotonin levels which leads to depression, trouble sleeping, feeling obsessed, loss of appetite, and wanting to isolate ourselves. Additionally, a deficit in endorphins, which modulates pain and pleasure pathways in the brain, may be responsible for why we feel physical pain during a breakup. Your heart, quite literally, aches.
But before you go diving into Limbic depression because your hubby fell in lust and it must mean he doesn’t love you anymore, remember, men are better equipped to differentiate lust from love… Then again, they also use and perceive lust as an expression of love. Allan and Barbara Pease assert, “For men, love can be love, and sex can be just sex, and sometimes they happen together.” And if that isn’t confusing enough, “Men express themselves emotionally through sex” and perceive a woman’s lusty interest (or lack thereof) as a sign of love (or it’s absence).
If that’s the case, how is a woman supposed to know if it’s “just sex” versus an expression of love, if her partner is using the same act to express two different things (as most men are apt to do)? And why should a woman believe a special act when performed without meaning doesn’t degrade the value of the act when it’s performed with her? I thought women expected men to be mind readers. Oh, he who casts the first stone.
The authors of SEX AT DAWN and the ETHICAL SLUT would assert this perspective is derived from a “deprivation economy,” rising with the advent of agriculture and divvying up farmland, in which love is considered limited and must be cornered and defended. They would argue the “other encounter” doesn’t mean “nothing,” just something different. The more love you give, the more there is. And that doesn’t make it any less special between you and your partner; in the same way parents are supposed to love all their children, but still manage to play favorites. The authors also suggest long-term marriages develop into a bond much like that between brother and sister. And once that level of intimacy is achieved, an anti-incest mechanism kicks in, making us less in lust with our spouses, while more deeply in love. Ryan and Jetha state, “Like every other kind of hunger, sexual desire tends to be smothered by its satisfaction”(p. 301).
Perhaps the most important thing to consider before throwing your relationship under the bus of ‘socially sanctioned romantic ideals,’ is what you actually need out of a committed relationship. On the bright side, men and women tend to value the same things when considering a long-term commitment, though different glues hold them together.
Allen and Barbara Pease assert, although men and women differ on short term dating goals (i.e. men have short term dating goals, while women have only long-term dating goals), when it comes to long-term commitment, men and women tend to see eye to eye.
Men’s Long Term List
Women’s Long-term List
Importantly, “commitment” is not necessarily defined by sexual fidelity, though it is considered concurrent with feelings of love. For a man, it would appear feelings of love mean a willingness to commit his resources to one “primary” partner. In other words, he decides this woman has priority access to his time, money, emotional life, and could possibly bear his children. He’s willing to provide these things because she meets all the bullets on his Long Term List, but above all, he respects her. No, it’s not a lusty or very romantic word, which says a lot about how men view marriage.
In the past, traditional marriage afforded women social status and financial security; it would be foolish and imprudent to leave a good provider for a quiet indiscretion. But nowadays, women are hunting and gathering for themselves, with a third of women in the United States earning more money than their husbands. And while these high earners still prefer men with greater resources, those resources aren’t gonna keep her in line the way they used to, if she ain’t feeling the love.
Men view commitment with a sense of duty and respect (again, in their minds, neither of these concepts are defined by sexual fidelity). A woman might ask her husband, “Don’t you love me, baby?” And he’ll reply, “Of course, honey. It’s my job.” Women view commitment with a sense of romance and self worth. This might explain why women are typically the ones to end a marriage, regardless of who did the philandering.
A man might sleep with another woman, or his wife might sleep with another man, but if he doesn’t perceive either event as a threat to the status quo of their day-to-day activities, and it doesn’t diminish his respect for her as a person, he sees no reason to rock the boat. A woman, on the other hand, more often than not, sleeps with another man because she’s dissatisfied in the relationship (unless she’s among a certain thirty percent of women in their forties). And if her husband sleeps with another woman, it’s a direct assault upon her self worth. The love is gone. The relationship failed. In her view, the commitment is fractured and/or essentially flawed. Where did she go wrong?
German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Geothe observed, “Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing. A confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.” Proponents of monogamy, Allan and Barbara Pease assert the problem is that a woman’s expectations of a man are unrealistic and often lead to disillusionment. Men might be susceptible to Internet porn, but women are equally vulnerable to unrealistic standards of masculinity on television, in social media, and in the highest selling genre the book publishing industry has to offer: Romance (i.e. porn for women). Ryan and Jetha point out, “Women who spend their time reading romance novels are the most dissatisfied with their lives, however studies show they experience more frequent orgasms.”
In conclusion, when it comes to the subject of sexual fidelity, women will struggle with a man’s ability to dissociate sex from emotional intimacy, and men will feel frustrated with a woman’s propensity to intertwine two obviously disparate things (except when they’re not). But perhaps with trust and honesty we can strive to accept what we do not understand. Determining your expectations for commitment and love, and communicating those things without judgment, is essential before entering into or ending a long-term partnership. In confronting the ‘inconvenient truths of sexual passion’ remember men and women express their sexuality in different ways, though both deserve equal consideration and sensitivity. Be sure to allow enough time for dopey brain chemicals to run their course before making any drastic moves. And above all, after all that, “to thine own self be true.”
What is your ideal relationship? Can you describe it in two sentences?
I have started a portrait series where I ask my subjects to give me two lines describing their ideal relationship, however they interpret the question. Then I render a selfie of their choice, illustrating their statement. I am hoping to reach a goal of 50 women and 50 men before next year.
Contributions are greatly appreciated! If you are interested in participating, please message Yellow Bricks through the “Submissions” page, or through the below contact form, in the following format:
Describe your ideal relationship in two sentences:
Once I have received the above, I will reach out by email to request your favorite selfie in jpeg format, with a minimum resolution of 300 dpi.
The following article was first published in RWA/NYC’s January Keynote’s Newsletter (2014).
We all know how important it is, that first meet-cute. For a romance novel, it is arguably the make or break component of the entire book. Typically, our heroes and heroines become star-crossed at a moment of conflict (if you want your book to sell), and that conflict is complicated by an undeniable physical attraction. A sensual chemistry that is impossible to ignore, struggle as they might. But what is the root of this chemistry? What makes one person feel dumb struck, and the other hold back? Is there such a thing as love at first sight? According to neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Amen, there are four phases of love: attraction, infatuation, commitment, and detachment.
Attraction: Attraction is a craving for sexual gratification and is primarily driven by male and female hormones (testosterone and estrogen), the chemical nitric oxide, and potentially pheromones. Men tend to be attracted to symmetrical, fertile, healthy, younger-looking women (big surprise), and the visual system is sensually dominant in men. Studies have shown when men are exposed to pictures of beautiful women, their limbic system fires up (controlling emotion and motivation) and their pre frontal cortex heads south (abandoning the areas controlling judgment). In other words, beautiful women make men stupid. Interestingly, when women were exposed to images of attractive men, their brain activity showed no changes in judgment, though they may have reported an equal level of interest. Women are more concerned with how a man thinks and acts. So despite the myth of the fairer sex being “overly romantic” (or overly emotional), according to Dr. Amen, men are more likely to fall in love at first sight, than women.
Infatuation: Infatuation is not so much of an emotion as it is a “motivational drive” fueled by the chemicals involved in the brain’s reward system; epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and phenylethylamine (PEA). Epinephrine and norepinephrine are produced in the adrenal glands, spinal cord and brain and are considered excitatory neurotransmitters causing an “adrenaline rush” after the initial phase of attraction. Dopamine is associated with pleasure, motivation, and concentration (“Why can’t I get him out of my head?”). Serotonin is the “feel good” chemical producing feelings of satisfaction with a partner. And PEA is an adrenaline-like substance known as the “love molecule” that initiates the flood of chemicals, creating that euphoric feeling.
Commitment: After a period of six months to two years, the brain eventually downshifts from infatuation into a desire to commit (otherwise, people would collapse from maintaining a lust-crazed state). Oxytocin and Vasopressin are the chemicals involved in this drop off. Oxytocin is related to feelings of closeness and being “in love.” Higher levels of oxytocin are also associated with increased feelings of trust. Vasopressin is involved in regulating sexual persistence, assertiveness, dominance, and territorial markings. Notably, while men might be attracted and fall in love more quickly than women, this chemical switch-over into committed feelings is more likely to occur in women first.
Detachment: Sometimes when the infatuation chemicals drop off, people mistake the lack of intensity and euphoria with falling out of love. Also, because they feel the withdrawal from infatuation chemicals, they seek other partners or stimulating substances to re-create that feeling. When we fall in love with someone, they become imbedded in the Limbic part of our brains. When we cannot interact with our love object as we are used to, that part of the brain becomes inflamed looking for him/her. This inflammation is associated with low serotonin levels which leads to depression, trouble sleeping, feeling obsessed, loss of appetite, and wanting to isolate ourselves. Additionally, a deficit in endorphins, which modulates pain and pleasure pathways in the brain, may be responsible for why we feel physical pain during a breakup. You’re heart, quite literally, aches.
So, yes. It is possible to fall in love at first sight, but it is more likely to happen to men. Unfortunately, men are less likely to commit before a woman (how’s that for a horny, thorny rose?). While bonding chemicals are essential for a relationship to develop, Dr. Amen also emphasizes that communication and mutual support are essential for pushing initial attraction into the realm of commitment. But if you happen to find yourself caught up in the “fishhooks” of detachment, be sure to stay healthy and avoid idealizing your past partner. As Dr. Amen states, “Being well is not only the best revenge, it’s the best way to be.”
[The following article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of RWA/NYC Keynotes newsletter.]
I faked an orgasm. Yes. I confess! I squeezed my kegels, breathed rapidly, and moaned like I was really feeling it. I even threw in some nail-scratching and ass-grabbing for effect. Why did I do it? Or, more importantly, why have I confessed?
Believe it or not, Joseph Campbell comes to mind.
Every author and screenwriter’s go-to guru about myths, psychology, history, art, story structure, and stuff. Dare I associate this voice of an age, with my subpar coitus? If the title of this post is any indication, than you already know, I dare.
Having been accused of being a hypocritical liar after I laid my sins bare, this quote struck a particular chord with me. In MYTHS TO LIVE BY, Joseph Campbell states, “Lies are what the world lives on, and those who can face the challenge of a truth, and build their lives to accord are finally not many, but the very few. It is my considered belief that the best answer to this critical problem will come from the findings of psychology …specifically those that have to do with the source and nature of myth.” Three questions come to mind: What is truth? What is a lie? And what is myth?
How many times have you heard someone tell a story, and in response another says, “Oh, that’s just a myth?” This would seem to suggest deception is the ‘source and nature’ of a myth; equivocal to a lie. Western society, revering rational thinking and hard sciences over mystical or “magical thinking,” would seem to concur. Unless you can touch, taste, see and/or shoot it, it doesn’t exist—and that’s the truth.
But western society says one thing, and does another (what I affectionately refer to as “mind fuckery”). For example, the United States is the grand ol’ melting pot, land of liberty, justice, and freedom for all— except for poor people, gay people, and illegal immigrants. Girls should learn to be independent, have self-respect, and high self-esteem—so long as they strive for a size two and have lips like Angelina Jolie. And in seeking romantic fulfillment, when you stop looking for love, that’s when Prince Charming will find you.
Um, is that rational, let alone true?
It’s a myth (says the romance writer) and a powerful one at that. Case in point: everyone knows what I mean when I say “Prince Charming.” Men roll their eyes while Old Spice commercials flicker across their minds. Women sigh while dreaming of square jaws, cowboy hats, and big bank accounts. But as Campbell points out, if we are to ascribe strictly to the notion that only the most rational can be considered “real” and thus “true,” then we are ignoring not only the internal life of man, but also the “life sustaining” moral equilibrium myth provides. A myth is a myth, and not a lie, because we all relate to it on some level. It carries a grain of salt. Rings truein an esoteric melody. Organizes us emotionally. Helps us endure what is “real.”
So by saying “Prince Charming” is a myth, I am not saying it’s a lie. What I am saying is it represents a particular psychic structure that we all understand in the context of romantic fulfillment. On occasion, when I am enraptured with the myth myself, I manage a smidgen of optimism. And optimism gives rise to wonderfully touching and unique bonding experiences. Optimism has also provided me with a great opportunity for ruminating on the original two questions, “Why fake an orgasm?” and “Why confess to it?”
I faked it because I didn’t want to spoil the myth.
I’d been on a few great dates with my partner. He was a good kisser, smart, attractive, financially stable—the whole nine. He did almost everything right. If I’d have only opened my stupid mouth and uttered a sexy, “left… right… harder… softer… that’s good…clockwise is so much better…biting there is off limits…” I could’ve achieved the big O.
But if I said something that meant he didn’t already magically know what would make me feel good, and thus he must not be “the one.” And if I were to instruct someone who wasn’t “the one,” on how to pleasure me, I would be giving the keys to my bonding chemicals to someone I am not meant to be with, but to whom I would become physically addicted—a recipe for mind fuckery (just listen to any Maroon 5 song).
Been there, done that.
My therapist thinks it was a fear of not getting my needs met once I voiced them, and then feeling rejected. In the past, when I have tried to voice my needs in a sexual situation, I was often met with defensive reactions and egotistical anger. If I was not pleased, there was obviously something wrong with me.
I think its six one way and half a dozen the other.
Whether speaking up meant he was not “the one” or it meant there was something wrong with me, either way, the myth would be destroyed. The romance ruined. If I just kept my mouth shut, there was a chance the missing “O” was a fluke, and the result of using a condom or where I was in my menstrual cycle.
Maybe blaming it on a desire to perpetuate a myth sounds like a cop-out. But scoff all you want, myths are powerful things. They are what encompass our sense of awareness as human beings and differentiate us from animals. Campbell states, “It is that of the individual, conscious of himself as such, and aware that he, and all that he cares for, will one day die. This recognition of mortality and requirement to transcend is the first great impulse to mythology.” The takeaway is that while myths are so powerful because they stir feelings about life and death, it is not physical life and death, but that of the heart and soul.
“Real” life does not necessarily encompass the truth of one’s inner life. “True” life is what writers refer to as the “heart” of their characters, and it can survive them even after death. The movie, Thelma and Louise, is a good example of this. Thelma and Louise have decided to die. And to the very end we want them to renew their faith in humanity, to believe in love again, which they find in their own sisterhood. Even as they sail over that cliff, we cheer for their emotional rescue. That’s Heart. The same concept can be seen at the end of Gladiator. Death was the only way to honor the heart of the story (myth). And it satisfies us, because we have maintained our moral equilibrium. Sure the hero died, but justice was served and hope is still alive.
So what myth did I perpetuate by faking an orgasm? Initially, I thought it a two-fold reaction. On the surface: “Love conquers all” (so long as I remain in denial). Just below the surface: “My needs are unattainable” (so I’ll shut up and take what I can get).
But why confess? Why was I comfortable to live on the surface in the heat of the moment, but not a week later?
Perhaps I ultimately had a three-tiered reaction. On the surface: “Love Conquers all.” Just below the surface: “My needs are unattainable.” And at the core of the matter: “Love still conquers all.” Maybe deep down, I refuse to give up on the idea that there is a Prince Charming tailor made for me. And I know I will never find him in truth, or in reality, if I never admit to my needs. And that ain’t easy.
My confession, I believe, was a test of my inner mettle and perhaps of my partner’s true heart. Of course, tests are not the way to go about starting a healthy relationship (mind fuckery and all that), but they do make for a good hook into a story…or not. As I mentioned, my partner called me a hypocritical liar and bowed out. Once again, there was something wrong with me.
Yet, myth and optimism still reign supreme, falsely contracting kegels and ass-grabbing aside. Next time, I’m not going to fake it. Because there’s no way to know for certain he isn’t “the one” unless I admit my needs. And a true Prince Charming would take direction, and love me for it. Now that’s a real test.
I’d like to finish by sharing a shred of proof I voraciously cling to. This year, at the National Conference for the Romance Writers of America, Kristin Briggs was a keynote speaker. She gave a wonderful speech that made us laugh and cry, citing romance novels such as GONE WITH THE WIND as pulling her through the hard times. She ended by thanking her husband (sitting in the audience) for “all the great sex.” My immediate response was to howl, then tweet her quote including the following hashtag; #HopeSpringsEternal. I think Campbell would agree.
Hello, My name is Briana MacWilliam and I am a creative arts Therapist, reiki practitioner, author, educator and online entrepreneur.
Its my soul purpose to teach other therapists, coaches and healers how to scale their businesses beyond the 1:1 business model, online.
My signature program: THE ABUNDANT HEALER: 90 TO SCALE YOUR PRACTICE ONLINE teaches you how to create, launch, and scale online group coaching courses and/or passive income funnels, even if you have never made a dollar online, created a single lesson, or have no marketing list-in record time.
Most of what I am seeing in the responses of new members coming in to the group revolves around…
-not making enough money
-struggling to find consistent, high paying clients
-struggling with an overload of clients who pay with insurance, or low sliding scale fees
-not knowing how to market yourself and attract SOUL CLIENTS, which are clients that are MEANT to find you, so you may ascend together through the work you do together
Everyone’s situation is different, but often times, as therapists and healers, we tend to experience some of the same frustrations.
Does any of this sound familiar?
You’ve had some success in starting a small private practice, but the referrals are few and far between, and high paying clients are even more scarce.
“I’d love to work with you, but can you do a sliding scale?”
“This is amazing; would you accept a trade for your services?”
You love the autonomy but it has its price; you feel isolated and out of the loop, wanting to be a part of a community but not sure where you fit in.
You thirst for a mentor that appears grounded, has had financial success, and is still authentic, approachable, and respects your boundaries
You’ve done a ton of training but something is still missing; you feel like you have plateaued in your practice and/or in your skill sets.
Or maybe you work for an agency that undervalues your skills, and everyday feels like an uphill climb, battling bureaucracy while trying to financially support your soul purpose
You have to justify the important service you offer as “real work”
You’re afraid to tell people what you do, because they might box it into “woo-woo”
And the bills keep piling up.
You don’t have to tell me…it’s rough out there!
In my experience as a creative arts therapist and healer, there are four common woes that lower our energy and enthusiasm as practitioners. For the purposes of this exploration, I’ve assigned each of them a character type.
The Magician. How many times have you gone to work, and instead of feeling like an effective therapist, you feel like an entertainer, worried about what trick you’ll have to have to pull out of your hat for the next group? And sometimes it’s even a surprise to yourself what you manage to come up with! Other times, particularly for coaches and healers, clients come to you for immediate, “fix-it-now” solutions and expect you to magically solve all their problems in one 45-minute session. The craving quality of their energy leaves you feeling drained and inadequate, maybe even bordering on burned out.
The Paper-Pusher. Do you ever feel like what was supposed to be a job to help people heal has turned you into a sleep-deprived paper-pusher? You always have one eye on the clock and the other on a check box. What precious time you have to spend with clients gets buried under audits, progress notes, treatment plans, supply orders, invoices, receipts, sign in sheets, insurance claims, and so on. Or if you are in private practice, you may struggle to promote yourself effectively, and feel overwhelmed by bills, audits, progress notes, receipts, supply costs, newsletters, technology and more. It’s nearly impossible to do the work you were meant to do with so many seemingly unimportant administrative concerns getting in the way!
The Squeaky Wheel. Maybe the client interactions your job are great, but the bureaucracy of the agencies or institutions you might work for overshadow any joy you might derive from them. Or maybe it’s impossible to find a decent, affordable work space that accommodates all your necessary accoutrements and bobbles. Your superiors (or their superiors) don’t respect boundaries, and don’t understand the value of what you do. Every little request feels like an uphill battle and a challenge to justify your contribution to the whole. And so you either become a squeaky wheel, or have your space commandeered as a storage closet, or your time slot is usurped by some opportunistic upstart.
The Lone Wolf. Or, perhaps, in private practice, you feel isolated and stuck on how to stay relevant and/or take your expertise to the next level. Like a wolf, you derive pleasure and purpose from feeling part of a pack, but the unique nature of what you do and how you think, leaves you feeling like the odd one out in the communities you belong to.
If any of these sound familiar, I promise you, you are not alone!
To my mind, each of these characters are constrained by one common flaw, whether you are working on your own or for an institution or agency: They all rely on a 1:1 business model.
And 1:1 business model is characterized by one thing: serving only one client at a time.
Or maybe its a handful of people in a small group, or a bunch of people in a larger space, but still, your reach will always be constrained by three things…
Fact #1: Space is great. If you can find a wonderful space, more power to you. But space these days, is not necessary, in fact, it’s actually a hinderance…when compared to the extent of your reach online. If you are willing to consider working remotely, this opens up tremendous possibilities for you (especially if money is an obstacle to obtaining space).
Fact #2: Time is a more precious commodity than money. I’ll say that again, YOUR TIME IS MORE VALUABLE THAN YOUR MONEY. And amazingly, with the ability to translate your skills online, you can make MORE money, for LESS time. Plus, if you take space out of the equation, you can get even more time by cutting out the commute, and saving dollars on rent.
Fact #3: To make money, you have to spend money. But too often we spend our money while feeling terrible about it, riddled with fear. We worry that it was ill spent, or we won’t make the money back on our investments. Additionally, a lot of therapists and healers have scarcity attitudes, and so they just don’t know how much money they need to invest back in their businesses to make an impact. And they are SUPER gun shy in the realms of social media and paid advertising.
But guess what? If you want a steady stream of what I call, “soul clients” you’ll have to shift your money mindset.
In my program, THE ABUNDANT HEALER: 90 DAYS TO SCALE YOUR PRACTICE ONLINE, I teach you how to do just that.
We also teach you how to create, launch, and scale online group coaching courses and/or passive income funnels, even if you have never made a dollar online, created a single lesson, or have no marketing list-in record time.
Now, if you are interested in attracting more abundance, clients and cash flow, all while honoring your Soul Purpose, you can book a FREE consultation with me, or download my super sexy 9-step framework for building an abundant practice.
I look forward to learning more about how I can help you scale your business!
And just a heads up, Early Bird enrollment opens in April for the program. So keep your eyes open for a registration link for a FREE mindset challenge we have coming up in honor of the open enrollment period. This whole month I am going to be showing up here live to help you start shifting your mindset and envisioning yourself stepping into the online stratosphere.
Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, Author, Educator & Reiki Practitioner
I happen to moderate a private Facebook group called Healing Attachment Wounds, which provides psychoeducational content to over 1,300 members, on attachment related issues.
Specifically, the group is for individuals who are ready to regain their ability to navigate life in a new way – by what FEELS TRUE. To stop being held back by comparing, doubting, waiting for something to improve.
The underlying premise is you CANNOT make radical transformations, or attract financial, romantic, familial, spiritual, or professional abundance into your life ALONE.
And you certainly can’t do it with the same behavioral patterns and mindset you’ve always had.
But mindset is often what trips us up on the path to finding love and spiritual alignment.
Upon entering the group, members report…
-“I still believe I can find the love I crave so badly.However my open mindedness has got to reach a limit at some point.I don’t want to become so jaded that I don’t end up finding it.”
-“I struggle with anxiety, fears around intimacy, trust issues, healthy boundaries.”
-“I hate being alone and i never feel good enough. I also don’t know what makes me happy anymore.”
-“I struggled with the ability to see what I deserve.”
-“I am hurting and trying to understand how it would never work for the both of us and let go gracefully.”
I have noticed stories of pain, feelings of rejection, confusion around what happened, and a desperation around figuring out how to fix or make things better, on the newsfeed as well.
But I just want to remind everyone, this group is more than just a place to share your pain, its also a place to be inspired and to learn more about how to expand your consciousness and create space around these experiences so that they don’t become your scars, but rather lines that demarcate the greatest transformations of your life.
Socrates said: “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
But wisdom is not the result of accumulated experience. Oh, no. Experience alone can leave you feeling as if you’ve been through a meat grinder, but it is wonder that puts that experience into context, and inspires you to get back up again.
After we have experienced a major loss of an attachment figure, we may lose touch with our sense of wonder, or, on the other hand,, become uncharacteristically– more open to it.
In today’s video, I wanted to further explore this concept of wonder, responding to three questions…
“What is wonder?”
“What is wonder’s relationship to pain?”
“How can wonder help me take charge of my life, again?”
and recommend 3 exercises for embracing it in your life, after loss.
First, let us ponder the question, “What is wonder?”
To my mind, wonder is a willingness to learn from despair. It is wonder that allows us to realize that ultimately nothing is lost and we are always connected. For a moment, we are snatched away from ourselves transfixed by the wonder of the universe.
Imagine hiking up a mountain, your feet are sore, you’re sweating, you were tired, you thirsty, and perhaps you are regretting your decision to climb the mountain all!
But then you get to the top and you look out at a tremendous Vista, and you get a wondrous sense of accomplishment. As big as this feeling is, alongside it there is equally this feeling of being small as you stare out at how large the expanse is before you.
Many things that you felt were important seem to melt away. They will come back, but for a moment you willingly release them. And in that empty space, there is room for a possibility. There is room for play. There is room for freedom from control or being controlled. And that is wonder.
It’s like after you’ve taken a big inhalation, there is a long exhalation, and you’ll notice, at the end of it, there is a pause. A a few beats of your heart that demand no oxygen, and in the moment of suspension we still just enough to hear the whisper of our soul.
The sense of wonder speaks of our hunger to be moved, to be engaged and impassioned with the world and take pleasure in it, attuned to it and fascinated by it. Grateful for it.
It’s our desire to feel radically alive rather than bored and disinterested, or so caught up in the toils and troubles of daily life that we miss out on its multitudes of marvels.
It’s our desire to part the curtain and get a load of the grander scheme. A desire to make known The Nature of Things.
Wonder compels us to continually seek out these enlivening moments. What David Whyte calls “the conversational nature of reality.”
It is in that space that we we discover our essential artist. That aspect of ourselves that never forgot how to create things. But never quite excepted the expressions “I can’t draw,“ or “I can’t do this, I can’t do that.”
With creative acts we get in touch with our source energy, and that provides the apparatus through which funnels the fulfillment of all desire. And it is our connecting to Nature that sparks creativity.
In fact, journalist and researcher Marghanita Laski found that the most common triggers for transcendental ecstasies come from nature. In particular, her survey revealed that water, mountains, trees, and flowers; dusk, sunrise, sunlight; dramatically bad weather and spring were often a catalyst for feeling ecstatic. Laski hypothesized that feelings of ecstasy were a psychological and emotional response that was wired into human biology.
And so this leads to our first exercise to help you recover your sense of wonder, after loss.
Exercise #1: Name at least one aspect of nature that awes you; that overwhelms you with its beauty or power.
Now, you might ask, “What is wonder’s relationship to pain?”
It is through periods of strife, or what we might call contrast, that we best appreciate wonder. Because wonder and despair are two sides of the same coin. When you open yourself up to one you open yourself up to the other. If you are able to find Grace on the other side of despair wonder and creativity are The fruits of that restoration.
As deeply as you dive, is as high as you will rise. Christina Baldwin says, “As far as you are willing to venture into the shadow so far you may venture into the light.”
I used to worry about releasing my pain. There was a part of me that felt if I were happy then I would have nothing left to write about. That my creative expression would become watered down or trite. That the seeds of my most intriguing art products were found in suffering. And worst of all I would betray the parts of myself that we’re still loyal to when I had lost.
But are there not as many love songs as there are sad songs? And are not both as equally as beautiful, moving and valid?
Still most of us develop a pretty extensive vocabulary for describing our pain. But the true robust quality of our experience cannot be expressed without developing an equally expensive vocabulary for joy, ecstasy, love, and transformation.
Exercise #2: Identify at least one creative work -a song, a painting, a dance, a story, a movie, a poem, etc.- that moves you, that you find beautiful, and that sprung from pain. Then identify something beautiful that moves you just as equally, that sprung from joy.
Lastly, you might ask, “How can wonder help me take charge of my life again?”
If we remain in the dark place yes, we are human in our rawest form, but we attract and become sensitized only to that which convinces us that our victimhood. Or our aloneness, of our isolation. Of our essential unworthiness.
If we are able to cultivate a vocabulary for that which wonder makes accessible to us, then, yes, we are raw but instead of one option there are now two, close down further, or split wide open.
I had a professor who wants told me, “a broken heart is an open heart.“
If we decide to close down further we ultimately die a very slow death. There is an atrophy that occurs in our hearts. If we open up further we not only survive but we live.
Maybe we don’t notice right away that we have turned some kind of spiritual corner and that a new life has begun. But, nonetheless, Regeneration and hope has creeped in, like the the sunlight slowly warming a room.
And so it is wonder that allows you to live to endure, and to assign meaning to your experiences. To assume authority of your life and again take charge of it.
End it is that pursuit, and cultivation of meaning that ultimately returns to us our sense of efficacy. It’s what gives us control of our lives again.
Of course, we all are getting along through life as best we can, but have you decided on that?
Exercise #3: So right now I’d like you to write down one decision that you will make tomorrow morning when you wake up. One small decision about your day. About how you will move through that day no matter what happens.
You might even think of it as a social experiment.
For example,“I decide to be kind to anyone that is rude to me today.“
Or, It May be a decision to reduce your stress responses:“Whenever I feel anxious or upset, I will attend to my breath and count to five breaths before I respond to any given situation.”
Or maybe it’ll be a decision to improve yourself care practices: “I decide to make one healthy food choice, for every unhealthy food choice I make.”
I recommend making it a small thing that you could implement pretty easily, and ultimately witness the authority that you do have to make a decision and see it through.
As you get good at stacking your decisions like this, you can make them bigger and bigger intentions.
How will you start taking charge of your life, with one little decision, tomorrow? I’d love to hear what your decisions are in the comments below.
If you’ve ever wondered…
*”How do I know if my feelings are real?”
*”How do I stop wanting for someone that I KNOW is terrible for me?”
*”How do I stop self-sabotaging, when it comes to my love life?”
*”How do I learn to trust my gut, when it got me into this mess?”
“How do I approach my relationships from a place of consciousness and personal responsibility?”
*”How do I quiet the inner judge and learn to embrace myself with love?”
*”How do I stop trying to save my partners from themselves?”
*”How do I make myself more comfortable with emotional intimacy?”
The 5- Days to Ignite Your Love Light challenge is perfect for you!
A.”I don’t like being confined by labels. Whatever me and whoever are up to, is our own business. Labels set you up to fail because they create unrealistic expectations, and that’s not reality.”
I refer to individuals with this kind of attachment style as Rolling Stones (in the literature, this is considered an “avoidant attachment style”). Rolling Stones are typically hard workers, get the job done. While they typically have a low tolerance for vulnerability and emotionality in themselves, they are both drawn to, and afraid of, those characteristics in their partners.
B. “When my partners out with their friends, I wonder what they’re up to and feel kinda left out. Why wouldn’t I be invited? Why do they have to shut me out of that part of their life like that? If we’re ‘together,’ we should be together!”
I refer to individuals with this kind of attachment style as Open Hearts (in the literature, this is referred to as an “anxious attachment style”). Open Hearts are extremely loving, supportive, and generous in their partnerships. They often want to spend all their time with you. They are loyal, enduring, and are the first to show up when you need someone. As a result, sometimes they can become people pleasers that over extend themselves and wind up feeling depleted, abandoned, and resentful.
C. “I give my partner their space, and do my own thing too. It only seems to strengthen our relationship because we really respect our mutual need for independence and private time. When we come together again, we have so much more to share on an intimate level.”
I refer to individuals with this kind of attachment style as Cornerstones (in the literature, this is referred to as “secure attachment style”). Cornerstones are typically stable and consistent partners who do what they say, and say what they mean. They are not afraid of intimacy, nor of giving their partners some space. They understand the gray areas in life, and so they also tend to be de-escalators, when it comes to romantic conflicts.
D. “We like to hang out together and do everything together. We’re so connected, we finish each other’s sentences. That is, before it goes sour and my partner usually turns into a drama queen, or starts ignoring me for no reason.”
I refer to individuals with this kind of attachment style as being the Spice of Life (in the literature, this is referred to as “disorganized or anxious-avoidant attachment style”). Spice of Lifers typically feel their highs and lows with depth and poignancy, to the point where they are probably sick of being told they are too “intense.” They are often creative, charismatic, empathic and can read a room like nobody’s business. They may, at times, wield this power over others in the form of manipulation. However, this is usually motivated by a deep need for understanding and connection, while at the same time struggling with a fear of rejection, abandonment, and losing control of themselves.
Each one of these “attachment styles” comes with its own strengths and pitfalls.
There is no right or wrong way to be, but sometimes the VERY sensitivity that is our gift, can also choke us with fear, self-doubt, and thin boundaries, when it comes to love.
Knowing your attachment style and the style of your partner can unlock a WEALTH of information about how to find and build the kind of PASSIONATE, SUPPORTIVE, and SPIRITUALLY NOURISHING relationship you may be looking for.
-What if you didn’t have to be overwhelmed with anxiety and fear in relationships?
-What if you weren’t afraid to be fully emotionally present, or felt smothered anytime real intimacy presented an opportunity to you?
-What if you didn’t have to control every little aspect of the relationship?
-What if things flowed with ease, and pleasure and play was the norm between you and your partner?
-What if sex and emotional intimacy were experienced and celebrated as a unified and sensual spiritual experience?
If you’re ready to…
-BREAK FREE from unhealthy patterns of living and loving…
-Leave behind the FANTASY of perfection that keeps us IMPRISONED in a perpetual cycle of pain, abandonment, rejection and longing…
-Step into TRUE LOVE, in all its beautiful messiness…
After attending this FREE training, you will be able to identify…
-The 4 Attachment styles and how they may be helping or hindering your love life -8 Mindful tips for working with insecure attachment -1 Experiential exercise using creative arts therapies approaches, to start healing insecure attachment
If you’re intrigued, and ready to take charge of your love life…
I have the privilege of moderating a private, psycho-educational Facebook group of over 800 individuals who authentically show up every day to share their stories, provide support and feedback to each other, and ask GREAT questions.
I have recently committed myself to showing up every day in the group, for 30 days, to provide a live stream video to either address member questions, or share new information on something that interests me.
Two questions popped up recently and I thought they were good questions, so I wanted to share my response with you.
What are some clinical book recommendations on attachment theory?
Why does anxiety pop up out of nowhere?
For a quick overview, my favorite CLINICAL books include…
Attachment Psychotherapy by David Wallin
Trauma and the Avoidant Client by Robert Muller
Interdependent Minds, by Murray and Holmes (no attachment theory specific, but a good read for couples struggling with such issues)
With respect to the question, why does anxiety pop up out of nowhere?
I chose to discuss this primarily from a psycho-spiritual perspective.
And it revolves around two things:
The body being the first organizer of experience
The role of the transcendental self
I invite you to watch the video above to get the full explanation.
Please leave me your questions and comments below and we can answer them too!
If you would like to join our private group, you can do so HERE.
Be sure to subscribe if you want more content like this in your feed 🙂
Today, I would like to explore ‘treating work like play’ as a way to avoid procrastination, and its ill effects.
Treating Work Like Play…
Chronic procrastinators have perpetual problems finishing tasks, while situational ones delay based on the task itself; that is, when people view a task in an unpleasant manner (“It will be tough, boring, painful…”), they are more likely to put it off.
Research suggests adding a touch of playfulness to the task, may be just the ticket.
For example, Tice and Ferrari (2000) teamed up to do a study that put the ill effects of procrastination into context. They brought students into a lab and told them at the end of the session they’d be engaging in a math puzzle. Some were told the task was a meaningful test of their cognitive abilities, while others were told that it was designed to be meaningless and fun.
Before doing the puzzle, the students had an interim period during which they could prepare for the task or mess around with games, like Tetris.
And guess what happened?
Chronic procrastinators only delayed practice on the puzzle when it was described as a cognitive evaluation.
When it was described as fun, they behaved no differently from non-procrastinators!
Anything you enjoy, you’re naturally going to do a better job with and give more of yourself to. So, making your tasks are something you look forward to, rather than simply a responsibility, is essential.
Sometimes its hard to find enjoyment in our work, however. Even if we enjoy the interactions with our clients, the bureaucracy of the agency we work for might be toxic, or there may be that one supervisor that seems to have it in for you.
Here are few small, practical suggestions to help make these situations more enjoyable…
1. Create a communal ritual.
In my first hospital job, everyone started out hating rounds and staring at the clock until it was over. Then a new unit chief was hired, and suggested that twice a month we would do a potluck brunch, during rounds, on Fridays.
At first, most people were lazy and there would be 5 boxes of munchkins on the table. Over time, however, people started bringing in their secret recipes and traditional family foods. And opened up about the stories behind them.
The boost to morale was phenomenal!
There was a lot more laughter and light-heartedness amongst the staff, and even though rounds would go an extra hour long, the work flow actually became more efficient and productive.
2. Make gift giving a regular thing.
This doesn’t have to be extravagant.
At one of my jobs working at a brain research and diagnostic facility, I shared a similar taste for dark chocolate with my clinic supervisor and front office manager.
The facility looked down upon sugary foods, however, because it promoted a particular kind of diet to support brain health.
Fair enough…but we still liked dark chocolate!
So, every so often one of us would leave a surprise chocolate stuffed in a desk drawer or hidden behind the computer screen with a little note of appreciation.
It would always make me feel good to both give and receive those sweet treats!
3. Bedazzle your workspace.
And by ‘bedazzle’ I mean glue rhinestones to the walls (or cubicle partitions) in snowflake patterns…
Just kidding! (…or not.)
Decorate your work space so that its a place you enjoy being. Pin up motivational quotes, pictures of tropical beaches, art work, or maybe a photo of your pet.
You might even keep any cards, thank you notes, or email from clients or coworkers that made you smile (HIPPA compliant, of course).
Above my desk, I have a “The Doers Manifesto” and this always keeps me motivated and on task.
4. Radically change your attitude towards “work,” even if it means leaving your job.
The biggest thing I did to turn my struggle with procrastination around, was leave the-nine-to-five and go into business for myself.
Since then, I’ve never “worked” a day again.
It actually makes you sound super boring when someone asks you, “What do you do for fun?”
And you honestly have to say, “My job.”
The other night, I was on a first date, actually, and the gentleman seemed surprised by my answer. He then asked me to expand on it.
I was delighted to.
Fifteen minutes later, when I finally stopped waving my hands around and decided to take a breath, he asked, “So…does this ever turn off?”
Apparently he wasn’t QUITE as enthralled by the connections between successful sales funnels and chakra energies.
I have a lot of control over my time. I can work on a thing for an hour or two and if I get tired of it, I can move onto another thing.
I have actually built into my schedule time broken up into little bite sized portions.
Today, I would like to take a closer look at ‘Breaking your tasks up into bite-sized portions.’
Cuz Breaking Up is Hard to Do…
It used to be that psychologists thought people who procrastinate have a faulty sense of time, but recent research suggests procrastination is linked to emotional regulation.
There’s no single type of procrastinator, but several general impressions have emerged over years of research.
Chronic procrastinators have perpetual problems finishing tasks, while situational ones delay based on the task itself; that is, when people view a task in an unpleasant manner (“It will be tough, boring, painful…”), they are more likely to put it off.
A perfect storm of procrastination occurs when an unpleasant task meets a person who’s high in impulsivity and low in self-discipline.
One of the things we talked about yesterday is the tendency of the procrastinator to seek short-term escapes to relieve feelings of tension, stress, shame, guilty and so on, but this hinders the procrastinator’s ability to absorb any meaningful insight or lessons from sitting with the tension.
Sirois and Pychyl propose the idea that procrastinators comfort themselves in the present with the false belief that they’ll be more emotionally equipped to handle a task in the future.
Sirois believes the best way to eliminate the need for short-term mood fixes is to find something positive or worthwhile about the task itself, and to break it up into smaller tasks that are manageable and more achievable.
How do you do that?
In addition to breaking up a big task in to bite-sized portions,
here’s a summary of 4 of Dr. Lombardo‘s suggestions…
1. Stop catastrophizing. One of the biggest reasons people procrastinate is because they catastrophize, or make a huge deal out of something.
2. Focus on the benefits, and why its meaningful to you. If you’ve been putting off cleaning out a closet, imagine walking into the closet when it is decluttered and how good that will feel.
3. Set realistic deadlines. You need to schedule when you are going to work on a project and block out that time, just as you would an important meeting. And be realistic about your routines; if you know you’re a night owl don’t plan to get up an hour early to start that new exercise routine–you’ll be setting yourself up to fail.
4. Optimize your environment. Your environment can help or hinder your productivity. During your scheduled block of time for working on a particular task, close your email and IM, turn off your phone.
So as you creep towards 2018 and start to consider those oh-so-important New Year’s resolutions, consider these tips to help you stay on track!
And make sure you check your email, or back here tomorrow, for when we explore how treating work like play, can cure procrastination as well.
Furthermore, I encourage you to check out the amazing discounted offers and FREE trainings I have below, to help expand your horizons and make AMAZING and GROUNDBREAKING changes in your life, in 2018.
As always feel free to replay with questions, comments, concerns, and high fives!
First of all, greetings during the holiday season!
I hope you are finding ways to stay warm and take stock, whether its with family and friends, or taking time out to hibernate and rejuvenate in solitude.
I tend to do a little bit of both.
Here’s a picture of me and my third day in this sweat shirt, trying to figure out holiday filters and not succeeding very well (obviously).
Here’s a picture of me and my sister on Christmas Eve, when I bothered to shower and actually had a great time going out to dinner and singing Karaoke, until I lost my voice (I do a mean Janis Joplin, “Piece of My Heart.”)
And this is a picture of my son, who called me on Christmas day to show me his fangs and tell me how much fun he was having at Disney World with his Papi.
Today, I’d like to share what I have learned about one thing that seems to plague people when it comes to this time of year, when we take stock of what we’ve done, and start turning towards what we want to accomplish…
As 2017 winds down, I find myself reflecting on my resolutions from last year, and what I aim to accomplish in the next year.
And a few things have popped up for me, when it comes to the reasons why we do or do not accomplish the things we set out to, at the beginning of every year.
In a previous post, I mentioned that there are two things that can get us into trouble when it comes to following through on our goals and resolutions, and those are…
Today, I intend to make good on my promise to follow up with evidenced-based research that claims three things can improve your situation, if you are a chronic procrastinator…
Breaking your tasks up into bite-sized portions.
Treating work like play.
Over the next three days, I would like to take a closer look at all three of these.
Today, let’s start with ‘forgiving yourself.’
Researchers and psychologists define procrastination as the voluntary delay of some important task that we intend to do, despite knowing that we’ll suffer as a result. And an inability to manage emotions seems to be its very foundation.
“While everybody may procrastinate, not everyone is a procrastinator,” says APS Fellow Joseph Ferrari, “to tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, ‘cheer up’.”
Sympathizers of procrastination often say it doesn’t matter when a task gets done, so long as it’s eventually finished. Some even believe they work best under pressure.
But one study published in Psychological Science back in 1997 revealed the costs of procrastination far outweighed the temporary benefits. Procrastinators reported higher cumulative amounts of stress and illness.
True procrastinators didn’t just finish their work later — the quality of it suffered, as did their own well-being.
Why would procrastinators put themselves through that?
“The chronic procrastinator, the person who does this as a lifestyle, would rather have other people think that they lack effort than lacking ability,” says Ferrari.
In other words, procrastinators would rather be thought of as lazy, than incapable.
To my mind, this is actually perfectionism and fear of failure, which is ALL underscored by a deep-seeded sense of shame; a feeling which procrastinators are notorious for avoiding, by seeking out short-term escapes from the consequences of their actions (or inaction).
For example, a group of students were told a woman went on vacation and didn’t use sunscreen. When she came home she had a suspicious mole, but delayed in going to the doctor.
Procrastinators are likely to say things like, “Well at least she caught it before it got worse.” This statment releases the tension of the moment, opting for a rationalization that offers some mental and emotional relief.
Whereas non-procrastinators say things like, “She should have gone to the doctor sooner.” This statment takes in the tension of the moment, and makes it an applicable lesson; insight is derived from the discomfort.
So what is the solution for procrastinators?
Forgiveness and self-compassion.
A research team, led by Michael Wohl, reported in a 2010 issue of Personality and Individual Differences that students who forgave themselves after procrastinating on the first exam were less likely to delay studying for the second one.
They believe that procrastination is really a self-inflicted wound that gradually chips away at the most valuable resource in the world: time.
“It’s an existentially relevant problem, because it’s not getting on with life itself,” Whol says. “You only get a certain number of years. What are you doing?”
This is YOUR LIFE.
This is YOUR STORY.
No one is going to write it but YOU.
Make sure you check your email tomorrow, or come back here, for when we explore how to break down tasks into bite-sized portions, in order to make them more digestible.
And in the spirit of seizing the day, I encourage you to check out the amazing discounted offers and FREE trainings I have below, to help expand your horizons and make AMAZING and GROUNDBREAKING changes in your life, in 2018.
As always feel free to replay with questions, comments, concerns, and high fives!