Illustrator and Animator: Andrew Bernier

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Andy Bernier

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.


TC
“This is TC. He always wears that hat. ALWAYS.”
Craig
“I haven’t seen this awesome dude in a long time. Thought I’d draw him. If you don’t know Craig, you’re missing out. If you do know Craig, you know that everyone else is missing out. #sketch #drawing #portrait #digitalpainting #norwegian”

‘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.”

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Reflections on a Chicken Nuggets Box

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.

Are Happy Endings Possible? A Spiritual Perspective

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.

piotr final“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.

ying yangOne 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.

diagramEach 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.

sould and selfAs 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.

ZChar 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.

9780451219497_p0_v1_s260x420Sylvia 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.

 

Don’t Trust Your Gut

repress all the feelsIn 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.” 99760-harness-the-unique-strengths-of-your-female-brain1-250x300

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? 377b1-images-1

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.

It’s Not Cheating, It’s Just Sex

5d6d8-break-up2While 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.”

5d1da-frustrationIf 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.

fe2a9-onlinedating1This 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:

  1. Loneliness
  2. Unable to communicate with their partner about problems
  3. Not made to feel desirable enough
  4. Lack of appreciation by husband
  5. Husband too self absorbed and full of hang ups
  6. Lack of romance and excitement in bed
  7. Need to escape the routine in their life
  8. Wanting to feel as powerful in their personal life as at work
  9. Bored with the routine
  10. 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.

2e1c3-polyamoryWhile 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.

d4bd3-lo2262Love 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.

11353-ethical_slutThe 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

  1. Personality
  2. Attractiveness
  3. Brains
  4. Humor
  5. Good Body

Women’s Long-term List

  1. Personality
  2. Humor
  3. Sensitivity
  4. Brains
  5. Good Body

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.

Groom looking at his wifes wedding ring c 1949. 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.”

Want more like the above? Take our poll and visit the Yellow Bricks Love and Psychology page.

Portraits and Prose: The Ideal Relationship

brenna final portraitWhat 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:

  1. Name:
  2. Age:
  3. Relationship status:
  4. Describe your ideal relationship in two sentences:
  5. 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.

Kelley final portrait 2

Please share your ideals!

The Four Phases of Love: It’s All About Chemistry

The following article was first published in RWA/NYC’s January Keynote’s Newsletter  (2014).

Couple kissing in restaurantWe 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.


 

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.”

 

 

Joseph Campbell on Faking Orgasms: The Truth About Myth and Love Conquers All

[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.
Yeah.
That guy.
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 true in 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.
It’s hard.
And embarrassing.
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.

The Enlightened Lover: 4 Attachment Styles Demystified in 60 Minutes

Dearest Subscriber,

Thank you for being a subscriber and for expressing an interest in Attachment!

I am super excited to share an upcoming training opportunity on the subject, as it pertains to adult, romantic relationships.

This training is also worth 1.0 CE contact hours for LCATs in New York State (scroll to the bottom for more detail on that).

Any questions, feel free to hit “reply.”


Are you looking for a passionate partnership with someone who excites you, and is interested in a loving, ENLIGHTENED, soul-deep relationship?

Yet, no matter how hard you try, you always seem to find yourself back in those same old patterns, with partners that…

  • Don’t appreciate you, and take your generosity for granted
  • Show up with fireworks one day, and then disappear without explanation the next
  • Treat you like an intimate partner, but don’t give you any physical intimacy
  • Or they only seem to be interested in sex, but exclude you from other aspects of their lives
  • Avoid labeling the relationship and make you feel neurotic for needing it
  • Behave in a needlessly secretive fashion
  • Ignore you for weeks then text “miss you” at 2am

Or maybe your partner is…

  • Intrusive and over-controlling
  • Monitors every move you make
  • Has high demands and never gives you any space
  • Takes everything personally, and over analyzes everything you say
  • Interprets most situations in the negative
  • Presses for too much too fast
  • Doesn’t respect your boundaries or a need for space
  • Expects you to read their mind, and blows up when you don’t
  • Is hot one minute and cold the next

And with all of this, maybe you start to doubt your own judgement.

Maybe you’ve been classified as “sensitive” or empathic or anxious.

Maybe somewhere along the way you’ve learned to distrust your OWN FEELINGS.

Maybe you have simply ‘settled’ all your life, tending to those around you.

Maybe you feel vague and chameleony about life, uncomfortable with standing out and being seen and heard.

Perhaps your environment caused you to WILT and self-forget…

That ends NOW.

Gain valuable insight into how your style of loving could be helping or hindering your relationships, when you attend this FREE TRAINING and webinar…

THE ENLIGHTENED LOVER: 4 ATTACHMENT STYLES DEMYSTIFIED IN 60 MINUTES.

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REGISTER HERE: https://goo.gl/HvYrdX

For example, which one of these sounds like 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…

-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…

Than this FREE training is perfect for you!

REGISTER HERE: https://goo.gl/HvYrdX

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…

REGISTER HERE: https://goo.gl/HvYrdX

Don’t you think it’s time to stop struggling with the same behavioral patterns, social conditioning, and mindset blocks you’ve always had?

Transformation is rarely linear, sometimes progress feels like fear, and TRUST is a verb.

Wherever you may be on your romantic journey, let this FREE TRAINING be the first step towards CONSCIOUSLY CREATING a love life that makes your heart SING, and help you to TRUST THE PROCESS!!

REGISTER HERE: https://goo.gl/HvYrdX


CONTINUING EDUCATION OPPORTUNITY

For all you creative arts therapists, this training is worth 1.0 LIVE CE contact hours for LCATs in New York State.

If you are interested in obtaining the contact hours, you will need to pay a $35 fee to take the assessment and evaluation, and receive the certificate.

To learn more, you can go here.


Hope to see you there!

Warmest regards,

Briana MacWilliam

TheAbundantHealer.net
CreativeArtsTherapiesOnline.com
BrianaMacWilliam.com

2 Reasons Why Anxiety Pops Up Out of Nowhere

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My Darling Subscribers,

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.

  1. What are some clinical book recommendations on attachment theory?
  2. 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:

  1. The body being the first organizer of experience
  2. 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 🙂

Warmest regards,

Hope to see you there!

Warmest regards,

Briana MacWilliam

TheAbundantHealer.net
CreativeArtsTherapiesOnline.com
BrianaMacWilliam.com

(Day 3 of 3) The Cure for Procrastination: Treating Work Like Play…

Dearest Reach-for-the-Stars Subscriber,

As we start turning out minds and hearts towards the task of setting our goals and resolutions for 2018, I invite you to day three of our exploration of procrastination.

The major insight we have gained so far:

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.

On day one, we explored forgiveness and self-compassion as the first of three useful approaches to counteracting the negative effects of procrastination.

On day two, we examined a few different tips for breaking up large, overwhelming tasks into bite-sized portions.

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.

Here’s a glimpse of my schedule…

  • Mondays I do all the preparatory and maintenance work for my online school, CreativeArtsTherapiesOnline.com. 
  • Tuesdays I have group supervision, and commit myself to new consultations or my own professional development.
  • Wednesdays, I dedicate the entire day to teaching at Pratt Institute.
  • Thursdays, I dedicate the entire day to private practice and seeing individual clients.
  • Fridays are all remote sessions, whether it is psycho-educational coaching, coaching the trainees in my ABUNDANT HEALER program, or new consultations.

I am NEVER bored.

Admittedly, sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. But its like…

You know when you have a good workout, and your muscles feel a bit sore for a couple days after?

But you don’t really mind. And if you complain about it, its really more like bragging,  because its proof that you accomplished something.

I had a gym instructor once say to me, “pain is just fear leaving the body.”

Yeah.

It’s like that.

Everyday, even if its a long one, feels more and more like fear taking its leave.

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!

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!


REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

Hope to see you there!

Warmest regards,

Briana MacWilliam

TheAbundantHealer.net
CreativeArtsTherapiesOnline.com
BrianaMacWilliam.com

P.S. JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP!

(Day 2 of 3) The Cure For Procrastination: Bite-Sized Portions

maxresdefaultResearch that claims three things can improve your situation, if you are a chronic procrastinator…

  • Forgiving yourself.
  • Breaking your tasks up into bite-sized portions.
  • Treating work like play.

Yesterday, we explored the evidence supporting forgiving yourself, as a way to overcome chronic procrastination. If you missed it, you can catch it here, on my blog.

Today, I would like to take a closer look at ‘Breaking your tasks up into bite-sized portions.’

pushing-task-boulder-over-procrastination-hump

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!

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

Hope to see you there!

Warmest regards,

Briana MacWilliam

TheAbundantHealer.net
CreativeArtsTherapiesOnline.com
BrianaMacWilliam.com

P.S. JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP!

(DAY 1 OF 3) The Cure for Procrastination: Forgiving Yourself

Dearest Subscriber,

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…

Procrastination!

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…

1. Dreaming Big
2. Procrastination

If you missed it, you can check it out here, on my blog, to learn more about how dreaming big can trip you up.

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…

  • Forgiving yourself.
  • 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.’

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?”

Amen!

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!

 

These AMAZING trainings that are still available to you for our open enrollment period, December 1rd, 2017 to January 3rd, 2018.

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

Hope to see you there!

Warmest regards,

Briana MacWilliam

TheAbundantHealer.net
CreativeArtsTherapiesOnline.com
BrianaMacWilliam.com

P.S. JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP!

New Year’s Resolutions…Why Aren’t They Resolved Already?

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, we have this tendency to set BIG, lofty goals for ourselves…things we couldn’t POSSIBLY complete, even in a year’s time.

Either because they are too many, too much, in too short of a time, or because they tackle aspects of our mental end emotional selves that we aren’t ACTUALLY ready to face, or lack the tools to address CONSISTENTLY.

I have found two things tend to impact our ability to follow through with our goals and/or resolutions, and that is…

1. Procrastination
2. Dreaming Big

1. Procrastination.

Researchers have found TRUE procrastinators actually struggle with emotional regulation, not their priorities; they feel shameful about a fear of not succeeding, and would rather appear lazy, than incapable.

The solution?

  • Forgiving yourself.
  • Breaking your tasks up into bite-sized portions.
  • Treating work like play.

(Stay tuned for my next post where I back this up with evidenced-based research!)

2. Dreaming Big.

Dreamers have a tendency to get lost in fantasy (which is also a trait of true procrastinators) who are GREAT at visualizing the big picture, but NOT so great at visualizing each step it would take to climb that glorious mountain.

The solution is to visualize yourself CONSISTENTLY doing SMALL action steps that lead up to that pinnacle point.  And then DECIDE and COMMIT not just to the dream, but the itty bitty steps.

Now,  my private Facebook community of 380 therapists and healers, is for DREAMERS who are DONE procrastinating, and willing to learn the necessary steps to climbing their own personal Mt. Everest.

In this group, we support each other and uplift one another with a resounding…

“YOU CAN DO IT!”

Right after our last Facebook ads training, our abundant healer, Kristen Boyer, managed to attract over 100 clients to her private Facebook group, in only 10 days. 

Here is a bit of her journey in the program, and how she is experiencing this new influx for her practice…

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 3.30.08 PM

What would you do with 100 new, potential clients in only 10 days?


THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!

  • Why do you keep yourself small?
  • Why do you keep telling yourself “I’ll do it tomorrow?”
  • Why do you keep insisting that you don’t DESERVE it?
  • Why do you have to be an “expert” to explore and share what only YOU can personally know, in your experience?


How long are you going to let all the rich material and content that you are just SITTING ON , collect dust?

When is it going to be time to STEP INTO YOUR POWER and your SOUL ASSIGNMENT?

When are you going to LET GO of your scarcity attitudes around money, and realize you have to spend it, to make it?

Who better to invest in you, than YOU???!!!!

Forget 2017.

Seriously.

“So long, 2017, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

Time to STOP focusing on the negative.
Time to STOP REPELLING your abundances with anxiety, fear, and doomsday predictions.

This is  YOUR LIFE.

This is YOUR STORY.

No one is going to write it but YOU.

And the best way to take one small step towards BEST SELLING AUTHORSHIP, is to book a free consultation with ME!

Which you can do here.

This is a FREE business coaching session in which we take a look at your business and devise a plan of approach that might have you collecting $9000 in revenue per month…like me 🙂

Alternatively, check out these AMAZING trainings that are still available to you for our open enrollment period, December 1rd, 2017 to January 3rd, 2018.

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE TRAINING

Hope to see you there!

Warmest regards,

Briana MacWilliam

TheAbundantHealer.net
CreativeArtsTherapiesOnline.com
BrianaMacWilliam.com

P.S. JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP!

[Guided Meditation: Learn to Receive] Releasing Shame, Guilt & Fucked Up Stories

Screen Shot 2017-12-16 at 12.21.05 PM
Dearest Subscriber,
A couple of our new private Facebook group members, for THE ABUNDANT HEALER: 90 DAYS TO SKYROCKET YOUR CAREER signature program, reported for the initial intake questions…
 
“I just started my journey as a therapist and I feel I block abundance by not believing I can have it…I would like to learn how to allow myself to receive.”
 
“Sometimes I feel guilty charging for something I am naturally gifted in.”
 
And I felt that was SO P0WERFUL and ON POINT when it comes to the MAJOR blocks people have to abundance.
 
There are A LOT of stories we tell ourselves, about why we can or cannot have something.
 
And many of them get wrapped up int two things, in my observation…
 
1. What we think about our own deservedness
2. And what we think other people think about our own deservedness.
 
And as therapists and healers we have this propensity to get caught up in the idea that “being of service” means we have to sacrifice our quality of life to be “good servants.”
 
But the problem is, that keeps you small.
It keeps you begging after guilt.
It keeps you bent over shame’s knee.
 
And I guarantee you, whatever esoteric source of infinite energy and intelligence you believe in, is NOT served best by you begging and bent over anyone’s punitive ideas about right and wrong, good and bad, or what you are and are not deserving of receiving.
 
If you learn nothing else from this post, remember these three points I would like to DRILL into your brain and heart…
 
1. STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER PEOPLE AND THEIR STORIES, WHETHER THEY ARE FORTUNATE OR UNFORTUNATE!
2. YOU DON’T OWE ANYONE ANYTHING!
3. NO ONE ELSE OWE’S YOU ANYTHING!
 
…Outside of respect and basic human decency in our social contracts. And if you accept this, you have to accept two more things…
 
1. YOU ALONE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR CHOICES.
2. OTHER PEOPLE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIRS.
 
We have built these physical and psychic webs of guilt and shame and obligatory responsibility around social and cultural constructions that have infiltrated our subjective experiences to the point of self sabotage and abandonment.
 
And so, we are left with a scarcity mindset, because as is within, so is without, and when you waste time scrambling around to prove yourself worthy to people, you leave your home base unguarded, unfortified, and vulnerable to attack.
 
STOP ASKING FOR PERMISSION TO LIVE YOUR LIFE THE WAY YOU WERE MEANT TO LIVE IT, FROM PEOPLE AND INSTITUTIONS THAT ARE FUCKED UP!
 
You might love them. You might respect them. You might aspire to acquiring something they have one day. But guess what?
 
They can also be FUCKED UP.
 
And fucked up people, places, things, social and cultural mandates will NEVER be able to give you the permission and validation you seek.
 
Only YOU can do that.
 
Today’s guided meditation is going to help you do two things.
 
1. Locate wherever this guilt and shame is residing your body.
2. Kick it out, and replace it with a willingness to receive your BIRTHRIGHT.
 
I pray I am not alone in my sentiment on this.
 
Please leave your comments on what comes up for you below. I would love to read it!!!!

 

JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP FOR THERAPISTS AND HEALERS READY TO STEP INTO THEIR SPIRITUAL AND FINANCIAL SOVEREIGNTY!

JOIN HERE: https://www.facebook.com/groups/362755377474811/

Warmest regards,

Briana MacWilliam

TheAbundantHealer.net
CreativeArtsTherapiesOnline.com
BrianaMacWilliam.com