Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Biology of "Omnipotence"

Preface:  As the discussion which follows is only one of many potential considerations of the relationship patterns between boys and their mothers, men and women, and men and "Mother" Earth, I want to acknowledge from the beginning that I have not tried to draw any absolute conclusions here. I am sometimes speaking very generally because I do not have the time to go more deeply into all the possible variations on these themes, although I may at another time here, or in some other format, like a book or something!

I share these comments as I am "in process" with the ideas myself, as writing and thinking and intuiting tend to go hand in hand for me. Furthermore, at another time, I will probably go more deeply into the archetypal patterns Carl Jung talks about as they relate to a woman's inner masculine he calls the "animus", and the man's inner feminine he calls the "anima". As John Sanford explains in Invisible Partners (one of my favorite books under 200 pages, by the way), the anima and animus are all too often "projected", so a man does not really see a woman for who she is in her own right, but instead he sees his "projected anima", and vice versa for women in terms of their "projecting" their "animus" onto men.

Needless to say, all that projection business makes discussing "masculine" and "feminine" traits, and "typical" patterns of interaction between them much more difficult, although, not impossible, and again I highly recommend Sanford's book on the subject, as he does a pretty good job of sorting a lot of it out in less than 200 pages.

The other book I will dig into in the future is About Men and Women... by Tad and Noreen Guzie. As another of my favorite books under 200 pages it gives a clear and straight forward introduction/synopsis of the four major archetypal patterns for women, "Mother", "Amazon", "Companion", and "Medium", and for men, "Father", "Warrior", "Seeker", and "Sage".

These books are relevant to what follows in that they address the subjectivity of "perception": How often do we actually see another person as they are without "projection"? Are we actually seeing this Earth/World As It Is, or does it also suffer from the burden of our projections? Is it our "Mother"? Is "Mother" Nature a source of nurturance and blessing on the one hand and then death and destruction on the other? (In Invisible Partners, Sanford describes these as the opposite poles of a single projection.) Or is "Lady Nature" also here to be a "Companion" - which happens to be the feminine archetypal "opposite" of "Mother" (as the Guzie's discuss in About Men and Women...)?

So, again, I'm making some generalizations here because that's as deep as I want to go with it right now. But, I want and need to start somewhere, so this is where I am starting this discussion. And because this is just the beginning, I really am open to feedback when it comes to working out the nitty-gritty details. (Thanks in advance to Paul Chappell for the very helpful feedback he has already given me.)

* * * * * * 

In "The Biology of 'Heaven'" and in "Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part II: The Biology of 'Falling in Love'", I have suggested that there are latent memories as well as biochemical patterns associated with prenatal and early postnatal infancy. To the degree we attempt to duplicate these patterns or recapture these experiences as (at least physically) mature adults, we are setting ourselves up for repeated frustration and disappointment, and basically dysfunctional relating interpersonally. In this blog I'd like to add another possible "story line" that follows from the earliest stages of postnatal infancy as it relates to the "Biology of 'Omnipotence'". I will also offer that trying to perpetuate or regain that particular early emotional/biochemical state can result (or may be resulting) in consequences that extend far beyond our interpersonal relationships all the way to our relationship with this planet and the world as a whole.

As suggested above, this story begins in the first few months immediately after birth.  As Jean Piaget "explains" (via the author's hypothetical "conversation" between Piaget, Erikson, and Kholberg) in Stages of Faith... by James Fowler, "If the psychoanalysts speak of this phase as characterized by feelings of narcissistic omnipotence in the child, we must say it is a narcissism without Narcissus.  As yet, there are no 'self' and 'other.'"(P. 53) I would offer, however, that there is a form of "consciousness" of this early life experience as it is patterned both biochemically and neurologically in the infant's body and brain.

Furthermore, as I suggest in "The Biology of 'Heaven'" where the latent memory of being in the womb coincides with the desire for a state where "All of my needs are being met with No Effort of my own"; likewise, "The Biology of 'Omnipotence'" coincides with our wanting to be in a state where "All I have to do is cry and my needs are met...magically...AND...I do not have to give anything in return". In the "adult" arena, the equivalent would be, "All I have to do is 'snap my fingers' and, Viola! People do what I tell them to do!"

Although I can no longer recall it exactly, knowing what I know about human development, knowing that during those first six or seven months of life there is no sense of "self" OR "other", I can imagine that experiencing the cause and effect relationship between crying and having one's needs met, would make one feel pretty omnipotent. Of course, this would be juxtaposed against the practical realities of being completely dependent and helpless. Furthermore, should crying not get your needs met adequately and consistently, one would probably end up feeling even more vulnerable and biologically "stressed" if not absolutely terrified.

Nevertheless, in such a state, not only does the infant not recognize the existence of their care givers as "others", they are also a long way away from the capacity to recognize that those "others" have needs of their own. Let me make clear though, this does not imply that the child is therefore being inherently selfish when it cries to get its needs met. As stated above, it is, of necessity and by no particular conscious choice of its own, completely dependent on its parents For Its Survival, moment by moment and day by day.  It will actually be several years before a child can begin to assume responsibility for themselves when it comes to meeting basic needs (and only then to the degree the parents allow the child to start developing their skills in those areas).

So let's fast-forward to consider the potential impact of these "postnatal" emotional/biochemical patterns in relationships between (at least physically) mature adults, by looking back at another blog I've written here "Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part I"...

Integral to "The Psychology of Romantic Love" is the idea that our "partner" is our respective and personal "Love God" or "Love Goddess" and our greatest hope and expectation is that they will always be there to shower their love and blessings upon us, whenever we ask them to. Or... maybe we don't even bother to ask, we just expect them to read our minds - as any proper "God" or "Goddess" should be able to do.  After all, this is what it felt like, this is the way it seemed to be when we were living through those first six or seven months of our lives.  On the one hand we thought we were totally in control, but, if by chance, sustenance did not "magically appear" on demand, then we were more likely left to feel helpless, and terrified for our lives. Wondering how many of you out there have ever been afraid of being abandoned by your significant other?

In so many cases, just like with the infant, there is no recognition that the "other" PERSON has love needs and life needs of their own.  Furthermore, having a "need" satisfied does not automatically evoke a sense of obligation to reciprocate.  With regards to infants, that "reciprocation" is not expected because they are so totally undeveloped, with hardly any capacity to exert control over themselves or their actions or feelings in relationship to others. However, as adults we are in a completely different situation, even if, deep down inside, we are, probably, mostly unintentionally and unconsciously...living in the past emotionally/biochemically. Nevertheless, we have a much greater capacity for action, for self-control, for choosing our thoughts and feelings, for taking care of ourselves - far, far more capacity than a newborn baby.

Consequently, without rational re-evaluation of our expectations, people have been, are currently, and will continue to be Profoundly Disappointed in their Intimate Interpersonal Relationships, especially if they keep expecting their partners to relate to them as "Love Gods" and "Love Goddesses"!  And this applies to all of us "common folk" as much as it does to the "super stars" of our culture. Why? Because we have all been born, and therefore, we have all been through pretty much the same experiences from these earliest stages of our lives.

Furthermore, (and here comes one of my big "generalizations") because of the easy shift (at least in heterosexual relationships) from "baby boy and mother" to "boy friend and girl friend" and "man and wife", I suspect that part of the reason men have persisted in having a strong if not compulsive desire to control women (and even "Mother Earth") is because a) Like most everyone else, they want to reclaim those earlier feelings (i.e. the emotional/biochemical patterning) of "Omnipotence", and b) At the end of the day, they generally have the superior physical/technological strength to force their will on women (and "Mother" Earth) if they so choose. 

Even if it is not overt use of physical force, or the threat of physical force, there are all kinds of ways that threat is sublimated into other more culturally accepted means of control.  At the same time, (and here comes another big generalization, though one I think could probably be proven pretty easily with a little data research) on the whole, Male CEO's are running this world, and Controlling and seeing to the consumption of the resources of "Mother Earth" - with, again, it seems to me no sense, or very little sense of responsibility or obligation to Give Anything Back!

Again, I am suggesting here that the "baby boy" in relationship with the "Mother" and wanting to have control, or wanting to think he has control over the "Mother" as his personal source of nurturance and care, is the easiest relationship to transfer to the more adult version of a heterosexual relationship between a man and a woman, as well as with respect to the still great dominance of men in positions of power who control the human and material resources of this planet. It could also be a woman's "baby animus" that engages in those kinds of activities. In other words, it doesn't mean it is the only way those desires get expressed in the world today, though it may very well be the most common. And, by extension and media propaganda, most people in the world tend to identify themselves primarily as consumers in relationship to the earth's resources...just like all of the other plants and animals on this planet. Of note, however, is that the plants and animals cannot really choose to be otherwise, or relate to the planet in a more conscious way than they already do. Human beings CAN.

Also, given the inherent challenges of "survival" for human beings in this rather chaotic and often times unpredictable natural world, as a species, we've had every reason to see ourselves as "separate" from and "superior to" nature and to use all of the means at our disposal to try to control it as much as we could. There is a pattern for that in early childhood development as well, and it is a precursor of our actually becoming autonomous; i.e. "separate from the Mother". (Three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half-year-olds are well known for their egocentric, willful, and controlling behaviors, especially in relationship with their mothers, or primary care-givers. However, again, this is a Normal stage of their development. At the same time, it is not supposed to last the rest of their lives, as it appears to have in the lives of many "adults" living today!) So to the degree that mankind has tried to "separate" itself more and more from the Natural World, it may be that in the Grand Scheme of Things this was necessary in order for us to develop all of our capacities, individually and collectively; to develop our "autonomy" from "Mother" Earth.

Furthermore, as True Adults, we learn to relate to "others" differently. Having moved from "dependence" (child/parent relationships) to "independence" (personal autonomy and self-responsibility) the next step is "interdependence". Interdependence recognizes the respective needs of each person, or each party in the relationship. Mutual understanding and care look to find the best way for needs to be met so that both individuals, or all individuals involved, are sustained, not such that one individual must totally sacrifice their needs in service to the other. In this way we develop the capacity to be companions and friends, as well as "husbands" - prudent and frugal managers of resources.

An example of how this attitude and level of development looks in real life can be seen at Tom Brown, Jr's Tracker/Survival School. I attended two weeks of Primitive Survival Skills classes in New Jersey, a few months prior to my going on my cross-country bicycle trek. There were many young people there who were learning to be true "caretakers" of the surrounding pine wood forests, and that opened my eyes to the actual good that human beings can do to have a very direct, positive, and supportive impact on an otherwise completely natural environment.

Consequently, as I commented in my very first blog here: It is not that human beings are inherently bad, it is not a matter of inherent "character flaws" in human nature itself - our issues are ones of lack of development, specifically emotional and, I would also say, spiritual development. On the whole, and for all kinds of reasons, we are still struggling with "growing up". And, on top of that, even as we do grow up physically and even mentally, to the degree that we can be quite capable of manipulating this environment in all kinds of highly technological ways, it doesn't mean we are emotionally prepared to make Mature decisions regarding how we use all of that technology.

But...I do have hope as I am seeing more and more people getting to the point where they can act like fully mature, fully human Adults - with a recognition of all of their Capacities as Fully Mature Human Adults and a willingness to accept the Responsibilities that such Human Adulthood would naturally imply. 

To close, I would like to offer one other observation: Although being a Source of Nurturance is a very important aspect of The Feminine (as it is expressed in both men and women) and through "Mother" Earth, it is not the Only Way the Divine Feminine expresses itself in or As the World. Sometimes, it is nice to be appreciated not only for what we can give, but, instead, simply for Who We Are (and I think this applies to all human beings, both men and women, and even to All of Life Itself). As I have suggested above, there are those who look to this planet merely as a collection of "resources" to be "consumed", just as infants look to their mothers as sources of sustenance...and...the way most other living beings involve themselves with this planet...with no Sense of Obligation for Giving Back. And, I have to add, even for many who want to help protect the planet For Future Generations of Consumers, they are still short of helping or loving the planet For Its Own Sake.

It is the true "husband" (as defined above) and lover who appreciates their loved one for Just Being Who They Are and wants to preserve and protect the other, not just as a resource for future consumption, but for the value of such a one's mere existence. It is the Truly Mature Human Being who Looks in Awe at this World and at "Lady Earth" in All Her Wonder, and loves Her Just for Being Who and What She Is!

In other words my friends, it is time for more of us to finish Growing Up in every way, as there is a lot of "companioning" and "husbanding" ahead and it is going to take a lot of Fully Mature Adult Human Beings, both men and women, to do it. We can be a Potent force of Good in this world, even if we are not, never really were, and never will be Omnipotent!

So here's to the Dawn of a New Era of Understanding - Happy December 21, 2012 Everyone!!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Levels of Intimacy and Relationships - A Guide from Terry Gorski

In general, the following information comes from Terry Gorski's book, Getting Love Right: Learning the Choices of Healthy Intimacy. In this book he shares his point of view on the different types of relationships that people can have with varying levels of intimacy. (Some of it I have paraphrased from a lecture he gave on the same topic that I had the opportunity to listen to many years ago.) As Gorski explains: It is one of the hallmarks of dysfunctional (unhealthy) relating to believe you either have to be totally, intimately involved with someone, from the beginning, and it has to be seen as a serious or potentially long-term relationship, from the beginning, or you have no relationships at all. In other words, there is no "middle ground" - it's "All or Nothing".

One of the things I have come to appreciate about Terry Gorski is that he pretty much sees the realities of relationships for what they are and he addresses those realities as they are rather than making a lot of moral/value judgments about the people having various types of relationships. He basically says, "Look: It's obvious not every relationship is meant to be a serious long-term, committed relationship. People actually relate at a lot of different levels and for different reasons, and for different periods of time, which includes different expectations and different levels of intimacy."

In the original lecture I heard of Terry Gorski speaking on intimacy, he outlined several different levels of relationship as follows:

a) Casual - the type of relationship you have with the cleaning people at your workplace; in this case you'd have a very low level of intimacy, you may or may not even know each other's names, but you may say "Hi" to each other and interact in a very superficial way.

b) Acquaintance – someone you know a little better than a casual relation, but still with very little regular interaction. Maybe you know each other through other closer friends and relationships.

c) Functional Association - this form of relationship includes people that you work with and possibly people that you share housing with, clubs or social organizations of which you are a member. These are "functional associations" in that the individuals share responsibilities to maintain a given circumstance or to accomplish specific goals. Interactions are more task-oriented. Again this usually involves little or no intimacy in the sense of their being discussions about personal matters; although, it is common (though maybe not necessarily healthy) for those lines to be crossed.

d) Companionship - In a companionship, "the activity is more important than the person". In other words, the reason two people get together is to share an activity that they both enjoy. However, if Joe doesn't want to go see the latest Leonardo DiCaprio movie then you call up Steve and see if he wants to go instead since he also likes Leo. If Steve can't go, you move on to Alan, etc. For heterosexuals, it is probably easier to negotiate "companioning" activities with the same sex; however, negotiating motives and expectations can get a little trickier when companioning with the opposite sex. Same goes for homosexuals only in reverse, i.e. it's easier to companion with the opposite sex than it is to companion with the same sex. It is possible, however, in all cases as long as all parties involved understand at what level they are relating. In terms of intimacy, there may be a little more personal interaction between companions, but again, the focus is usually on the activity rather than the person with whom you are sharing the activity.

e) Friendship - Friendship is basically the opposite of companionship. In a friendship, spending time with the person becomes most important and the shared activity becomes secondary. Friendships involve much more focus on interpersonal communication, sharing of feelings, wants, hopes, dreams, desires, fears, etc. Friendships include emotional and psychological intimacy, but not necessarily physical intimacy. I think it is worthwhile noting that I have already discussed three other levels of relationships and we are just now getting to a level where intimacy becomes a more defining element.

f) Although at this point Terry Gorski would have defined the next level of relationship as a "Romantic Relationship" which would be further defined as "having a sexy friend"; I'd rather define this relationship as a Physically Intimate Friendship (especially given the info I shared in these blogs: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part I and Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part II). I'm beginning to feel whenever you throw "romance" into the mix, you open the "Big Romantic Myth Box" (not unlike Pandora's) and the relationship will be undone by all the cultural and archetypal expectations that come spewing forth as a result. For me, at least, at this point in my life, I would rather have a lover who was first and foremost a good friend than anything mythically "more" than that (which would actually end up being less, as far as I have experienced it).

In further consideration of what it means to be a good friend; I would say it involves being able to maintain a balance of giving and receiving of energy and attention and a mutual meeting of love needs (See Also:Understanding Basic Human Love Needs). You can have friends who meet your love needs for togetherness or companionship, and you can have other friends who meet your love needs for communication or talking, and you can have still other friends who meet your love needs for physical intimacy and/or caring. If you happen to find a relationship where one other person can satisfy many or all of your most important love needs and you can satisfy all or most of their most important love needs, then I'd say that is a good basis for a longer-term, committed, relationship; if practical circumstances support that as well.

In Getting Love Right..., Gorski divides "love relationships" into four types: experimental dating, transitional and committed relationships, and intimate encounters. He says:

"Experimental dating, transitional relationships, and intimate encounters are all short-term relationships that last from several days to several months and are generally not expected to grow into long-term committed relationships. These short-term involvements each meet particular relationship needs. Experimental dating relationships give us new experiences that allow us to gain the knowledge we need to make sound relationship choices in the future. Transitional relationships provide valuable support during the difficult period after the end of a long-term committed relationship. Intimate encounters are unique relationships outside the normal context of our lives that meet our here-and-now needs for intimacy." (p. 91)

(This last statement is one that has sold me on Terry Gorski - the fact that he acknowledges a functional, relational place for "one night stands"! Granted, they're not what I'm really "into" anymore, but I've definitely had my share and I think I would have been able to truly enjoy them for what they were if overriding "romantic/all or nothing" expectations had not already been programmed into my brain by both religious and secular elements of society!)

Gorski continues:

"Two essential factors in all healthy relationships are awareness of your own and your partner's expectations and your honesty of motive. You must first be aware of the type of relationship you are or are not looking for and then be willing to discuss your expectations with your partner in the early stages of the relationship. If you are unsure of exactly what type of relationship you want, you can communicate that, too. Your partner also must talk about his or her expectations. This will give both of you an opportunity to decide if involvement, under those terms, will meet your relationship needs. This is especially important in transitional relationships and intimate encounters, when a misunderstanding of expectations and motive can be emotionally devastating." (pp. 91-92).

I can only say - how true, how true?! And here's some more:

"Although you think you know what type of relationship you are ready for, your relationship goals may change when you become involved with a particular person and your feelings toward him or her evolve. You can never be certain at the outset how a relationship will turn out. Don't be afraid to change your expectations as your feelings change, but realize that if they do, you need to let your partner know and renegotiate the terms of the relationship. Remember, just because you change your expectations doesn't mean your partner will change his or hers.

"These relationship categories are not absolute. They are important primarily to help you clarify the essential nature of the short-term relationships so that you can have a way of determining what you are seeking in a particular relationship and talk about it with your partner. There are times these categories will overlap, and you may find they are less definite in practice than in theory." (p. 92)

Okay - that's probably enough to digest for this blog.

My motives in writing: a) reinforcing these definitions/concepts with myself, and b) offering to my friends and "subscribers" what I consider to be some very practical understanding for healthy intimate relationships. My hope is that they will learn from this information as well, thus increasing the chances for them to also have healthy, functional relationships if they are not experiencing them already. And if they realize that what they have is/are already healthy, functional relationship/s - then this will help to reinforce and validate their experience in a way that all our media propaganda about the "romantic myth of love" cannot.

Understanding Basic Human Love Needs

Several years ago in the context of a "Match.com" relationship, I asked my partner the following questions: How do people really "know" at the beginning of a long-term relationship that it will actually be a long-term relationship? Barring stories from elder relatives, especially those who have been together for say, 25 years or longer, what references do we have for what one might expect at the beginning of a relationship to indicate the long-term future of the relationship? Furthermore, without those kinds of references for comparison, how did either he or I know how to assess our own feelings, and the long-term potential of our relationship?

Since he was not able to offer satisfying answers to any of my questions, I decided to do some research on the internet with "Love" as my search term.

What follows is a greatly paraphrased version of what I found to be one of the most relevant results of that search. It was originally published on a site called "Lovetingle.com", and even though that source no longer exists, I still like to give the authors credit. The information takes the form of an "exercise" in which you (and a partner, if you have one) determine what are your Most Important "Love Needs". Once you've got that figured out, then you can have a more rational discussion about whether or not each of you is prepared to meet your partner's most important love needs, especially at the level of a "Physically Intimate Friendship" (See Also: Levels of Intimacy and Relationships)

From my current point of view, just figuring out what Your Most Important Love Needs are is an essential piece of "home" "work" - the "work" you do on your own, at "home", and it is something everyone should know about themselves before they get involved in any kind of serious relationship. Furthermore, once you have a better understanding of "love needs" in general, you are in a better position to have a conversation about this subject with a potential partner; i.e. you might be able to guide them through the consideration process so that they can come to a deeper understanding of themselves while you are also getting to know them.

In addition, it should be recognized from this discussion that Love Needs are Real, they are different for different people, and they vary in their level of importance for different people. To expect your partner to deny their own love needs because you are not comfortable meeting them is irrational, and not truly loving. In other words, understanding each other's Most Important Love Needs, and each person's willingness and capability for meeting the other's love needs should Weigh Heavily as individuals looking to couple go through their Selection Process (See Also: On Sharing What Is Most Meaningful). As Terry Gorski points out in Getting Love Right: Learning the Choices of Healthy Intimacy, most relationships fail due to Selection Errors!

I am all about learning to make better choices myself, and the consideration below has been helping to guide those decisions in my own case for a long-time now. Hopefully, readers of this blog will find this information useful as well.

So, to begin...Everyone has certain things they need from their relationships, and those relationships can have varying levels of intimacy and commitment. (See Again: Levels of Intimacy and Relationships if you haven't already.) Just like food, water and shelter, love needs are not things you only want. You NEED your love needs to be met to feel "comfortable in your own skin" as a human being. The mutual meeting of love needs is what is critical for any truly intimate relationship to survive, whether or not that relationship includes physical intimacy.

Although by no means complete, here is a list of "love needs" to consider:

1) Talking
2) Love Making
3) Caring
4) Togetherness
5) Loyalty
6) Looks
7) Money
8) Help
9) Family
10) Verbal Awe/Expression

While you read the explanations, be thinking of how important each need is to YOU:

Talk

Unlike the need for sex, Talk is not a love need that is exclusive to an intimate relationship. Keep this in mind: you can experience the feeling of "falling in love" with someone simply by talking to them, because your love need for talking is being fulfilled. If your significant other is not listening and talking to you, and Talk is one of your biggest love needs…you may very well "fall out of love" with that person!

There is such a thing as bad Talk. This happens when the person you are talking to is angry, shows disrespect, or the conversation in general is negative or controlling. This type of bad Talk will hurt a relationship.

When you first started dating someone you were really attracted to, you probably talked all the time. You were both very curious about each other and were finding out everything you could. If you’re like most couples, after a while the Talk slowed considerably. This obviously becomes a problem for the partner whose love need to Talk is high on their love need priority list.

Love Making

This is a need only your partner can meet if you are married or have a committed, physically intimate, monogamous relationship. The need for sex is important for many reasons. Men usually find it physically satisfying while also enjoying the challenge of bringing pleasure to their partners. Women tend to get more out of the emotional part of the emotional-sexual connection, maybe even feeling emotionally closer to their partners during physical intimacy than they do at any other time. Most people who have sex as a high priority love need, will feel better about themselves when they feel genuinely desired by their partners.

There are many different ways to approach physical intimacy. Some people prefer to keep things completely spontaneous, while others may prefer to practice Tantra and/or engage in "planned intimate occasions". If this is a high-priority love need for either partner, then it is important for it not to be ignored merely as a consequence of "life distractions", like children, and work. Having "planned intimate occasions" creates an opportunity to truly let-go of those other concerns for a while and focus on relating intimately. It can also give partners something to look forward to while they are otherwise handling the daily, maybe less pleasurable, responsibilities of their lives.

As with other love needs, it is important to be able to talk with your partner about your intimate needs, what behaviors and actions from your partner make you feel loved and desired. Therefore, talk often about what each of you like and don't like. Ask specific questions; sometimes one partner may feel shy about bringing an issue up, so it’s important to probe. Try to avoid the tendency to expect your partner to read your mind. You are much more likely to get what you need when you are willing to talk about those needs openly.

Also, if one or the other partner has a major problem with or aversion to physical intimacy, and cannot feel comfortable making themselves available to intimacy with a partner for whom physical intimacy is a high-priority love need, then it may be a "deal breaker" for the relationship. The sooner people are honest about that with one another, the better; i.e. it should be taken into consideration as part of the "selection process" referred to above. This does not deny the opportunity for growth and change, but it is also important sometimes to see realities for what they are and manage levels of relationship and expectations accordingly.

Care

Care is showing someone that you love them via your words and actions. Hugging, holding hands, kissing, massaging, or writing a love note all show Care. Actually listening to your partner, without judgment, being compassionate, recognizing their vulnerability, also expresses care. It is important to care if your partner actually feels loved, understood, and appreciated by you, and to acknowledge the differences between the feeling of loving and the feeling of being loved and cared for, honored, and respected.

Togetherness

Going to the movies together, having dinner at your favorite restaurant, golfing with each other, and ordering in pizza are a few examples of togetherness. Obviously, this is doing things as partners instead of on your own. Maybe at one point you only did what the other partner wanted to do (perhaps you weren’t interested in going to an art show but you both went anyway).

It’s important that you both do things together, whether the other partner is 100% interested or not. Alternate your favorite things to do if you have to, just to be together. While it’s necessary for the both of you to enjoy some alone time, you are likely to deepen your relationship while doing things in tandem. If you love going dancing and your husband does not, then he is probably out at a boat show with his buddies at the same time. This is a recipe for disaster if someone of the opposite sex happens to join either of you. Why? Because if you enjoy yourself most while you do these activities but your partner is not there, you risk falling in love with the person who is with you and therefore satisfying your Togetherness need.

(Note: This ties into the idea of being able to share things that are "most meaningful" to each person. It does not mean that you have to share Everything together, but being able to share the Most Meaningful things is important. See again: On Sharing What Is Most Meaningful).

Loyalty

Being loyal in love means building trust, and the only way to do that is to be truthful and open ALL the time. You need to know that you can trust your partner while you’re not together, and that they uphold you in the same manner they would if you were standing right beside them. Unlike the love need to Talk, which could be about anything, the need for loyalty includes discussing very deep feelings and revealing everything important about you. These range from political views, family history to what you did today, what you’re doing tomorrow and any future plans. If your significant other has this need and it is not met or vice versa, security and trust will fade fast. There shouldn’t be anything that you don’t want the other to know about, and if there is, work it out before you get more involved.


Looks

Love at first sight? Only if this is one of your most important love needs. Yes it seems superficial, but the truth is this need can be just as important as the others. Weight, clothing style, and personal hygiene are important factors when thinking about Looks. There is nothing wrong with needing your partner to put effort into their appearance. Perhaps they did when you were first dating and have recently stopped? Regardless of the situation, Looks can be an important issue between two people, and again, it is not something either partner should expect the other to ignore, if it is one of their most important love needs.

Money

Money is another love need that may seem superficial; however the actual money (or lack thereof) is important to the relationship, if it is a need of yours (or your partner’s). It brings the security of knowing that financial stability is there. You might make plenty of money, therefore it is not important to you if your spouse does or does not. If you are not content in the financial department, other areas of the relationship can turn sour quickly. It all depends on what you consider “enough” money. Do you want to be extremely comfortable? Or just get by? People have different expectations of the level of income needed to satisfy their love need for money.

Help

Remember, love needs know no gender. This need has to do with housekeeping, things such as keeping things clean and tidy, cooking and washing dishes. This is often a need that is more important to whichever partner does the majority of these tasks. You may take on a lot of the household responsibility, and feel that your partner does nothing to help you out. If you feel overwhelmed, and are not getting any Help, it can creep up on you and result in bitter feelings towards the other.

If this is a need of yours, you feel happy and comfortable when things are as you want them. When they are not, you feel out of sorts and irritated. Some married couples do these chores together at first but slowly slip into routine of one partner carrying more of the work load. If the most important thing to you is that the house is vacuumed daily and you expect to come into an organized home, often times this can’t be done alone, especially where their are children present.

Family

There are two different parts to the Family need. The first is children. Simply put, you have a love need for your partner to be involved with your children. It could vary anywhere from needing them to take an active role in caring or nurturing, or just needing them to uphold the family values and rules (perhaps you prefer to do most of the day to day parenting). Keep in mind feeding, dressing, or watching the children while you run out to the store is NOT the family love need we are talking about. Teaching and spending quality time helping them grow and learn IS. If this is a love need of yours, you must also agree significantly with your partner on the type and method of parenting, whether or not you will use physical punishment can be a major issue, and a very important one to decide on before you have children.

The second part of the Family love need involves extended family. It could vary anywhere from needing them to take an active role in caring and nurturing, to just needing them to back you up in decision making. Taking trips to see your mother and father, spending Holidays with your brothers or sisters, etc., could be very important matters for you or your partner, especially if either of you experience love deeply in the context of family associations.

Verbal Awe/Expression

The need for verbal awe/expression is important to many. As a human, you naturally want to communicate. Do you love getting compliments? Do you hate to be criticized? If you feel that your partner is not vocal about things they appreciate about you or love about you, then he or she is not expressing themselves in a way that satisfies this love need. Expression is defined as an act, process, or instance of representing or conveying in words. You know your partner loves you, but you want them to TELL you this, or SHOW it to you through actions.

This can be a very easy love need to meet for a lot of people, as many times this is how relationships begin in the first place. But, if this is not done the results can be hazardous and potentially fatal to your relationship.... If you need these compliments and gestures, but your significant other stops doing them after you’ve been together or has a problem doing them from the beginning, it can devastate you. Not only will it make you feel unsure about yourself, but you will begin to question things like their fidelity, their interest in you, your importance to them, and the meaning of the relationship.

The bottom line: People tend to "fall in love" because their love needs are being met. However, if in longer-term relationships, one or the other partner stops meeting the others Most Important Love Needs, then the relationship can suffer and even dissolve entirely as people "fall out of love".

With the information shared here (and in some of my other blogs), people can become more fully conscious of what it means to "love" someone, rather than merely experiencing the feelings of "falling in" or "falling out" of love. In truth, loving is a choice. One of the greatest ways to express love to another person is to actively meet their Love Needs; i.e. to make them Feel Loved by your words and actions, that can actually be targeted in very specific ways as outlined above.

This is what love between ordinary human beings is really all about. And although it may not satisfy all of your needs; i.e. it will not substitute for your need to experience true, personal, spiritual, ecstasy (as I discuss here Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part I), it can certainly go a long way to broadening your capacity to have truly satisfying relationships, with varying levels of intimacy, with many of your other fellow human beings.

Given all of the dysfunction, dissociation, and suffering that is what most people are experiencing these days, being able to work-out our most intimate interpersonal relationships, to be able to find more contentment and satisfaction in those relationships, can go a long way towards making the world a better place, a more peaceful place, for everyone.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A "Bill of Rights" for Interpersonal Relationships

In contrast to seeking "romatic love" (as I discuss in this blog: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part I) I am dedicated to keeping my heart and soul grounded in the real world of ordinary human beings who have more or less ordinary love needs that can only be satisfied by rather simple and ordinary loving.  One has to wonder though, if it were so simple to love this way that any ordinary human being could do it, then why is it so few of us actually do?

My current understanding is that our "ego 'I's" tend to get in the way - they want to be "special," or they want to see their love interest as "special". It may be that people are seeking the "unconditional love" they did not receive as a child, something I address in my TEDx talk here: Get Ready - The World is Waiting. Where there is a biochemical pattern to "Instant Intimacy", we can get psychologically and physiologically addicted to it, so we move from one "Instantly Intimate" relationship to another. Being addicted in this way, we tend to look for "drama" in all of our experiencing in relationship (both positive and negative), and "ordinary loving" just doesn't measure up.

In effect, the "ego 'I'" distracts itself from real loving by pursuing the much more dramatic, Romantic Illusion of Love. And, as fairly recent experience has taught me, it seems as soon as the relationship actually starts to be about Love Itself, and not merely about "ego-gratification", then egoically possessed people will walk (or run) away from those relationships, seeking instead to repeat the dysfunctional/dramatic/romantic, pseudo-loving, relationships with which they are already familiar, and to which they are (mostly unconsciously) addicted.

So what's involved in Real Loving - human to human?  Here is something I've read in "Getting Love Right: Learning the Choices of Healthy Intimacy" by Terrence (Terry) Gorski:  It's called "The Relationship Bill of Rights" and it goes like this:

1.  I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
2.  I have the right to be free from psychological or physical abuse.
3.  I have the right to proper notice and negotiation prior to the relationship being terminated.
4.  I have the right to experience my own thoughts and feelings.
5.  I have the right to tell my partner honestly and responsibly what I am thinking and feeling - even if my partner does not agree - without being condemned for it.
6.  I have the right to have my own life outside of the relationship.
7.  I have the right to continue to learn and to grow.
8.  I have the right to talk openly about and seek to resolve relationship problems.
9.  I have the right to end the relationship if it is not meeting my needs.
10.  I recognize that my partner has the same rights I do.  (Pages 334 and 335.)

(Why do I think these seem like potential lyrics for a rap song? : ))

Although the focus of Gorski's book  is on intimate relationships, I think many of these "rights" are just as important in other types of relationships, with different levels of intimacy.  In other words, these are Fundamental to healthy, functional relationships where there is a commitment to mutual love and respect that takes priority over mere ego-gratification.

If I look back at my relationship with my mother (my first example/experience of a "loving relationship"), I'd have to say there were many of the fundamental rights listed above that she violated.  Granted she was mentally ill, but that did not change the impact of her actions on me especially as a young child. I strongly suspect now that, just like physical abuse, her emotional/psychological patterning with me predisposed me to allow others to violate those same rights in my adult life in other (supposedly) "loving" relationships.  However, in one particular relationship I experienced shortly after reading Gorski's book, I did find the courage and justification to stand up for myself especially with respect to Right Number 5 from the list above. And, ultimately I ended the relationship (exercising Right Number 9) when the other party was not willing to recognize or end those violations.

Since then I have also learned to be much more discerning about what it Feels like to be loved - in effect, to have these basic rights recognized and honored in my relationships with others.  I am also taking even more conscious responsibility for how I relate to others with respect to these rights as they apply to them.  Although I had some intuition of the importance of these rights before reading Gorski's book, reading it definitely served to solidify and reawaken my awareness relative to these issues, and I feel much more capable now of not only standing up for my own rights, but also respecting these rights in my relationships with others.

I hope this offers the same insight and encouragement to others who read this blog. : )

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Relational Revelations from My Study of Electronics

I read recently via Facebook that it is now becoming better understood that the physical human heart is "the strongest generator of electrical and magnetic fields in the body".

Got me thinking about this blog I posted several years ago on MySpace. Thought it would be another good one to share here. For the record, this came out of a Very Heated debate on the Dr. Phil site over one program that involved a man who was engaging in what he called "polyfidelity": open, and mutually agreed upon intimate relations with both his wife and another woman. The people who engaged in the debate on-line were both monogamists and active polyamorists. You think "gay marriage" is an issue? Well, wait until someone really challenges our orientation toward the "cult of pairs"! The husband of Dr. Phil's show did and the backlash was incredible...and interesting as well given the information and life experiences shared by the polyamorists.

Anyway, here are some of my related thoughts...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There are two major ways to connect energy in a circuit, one is in series and one is in parallel.  In a series circuit, if one component fails, then energy will be cut off to all other components in that circuit.  When components are connected in parallel, one component can fail, and the others will still receive energy from the source. 

It is my observation that most people living today think they are "disconnected" from The Source; i.e. God or Divine Consciousness, or however they label It.  In fact much of religious practice is oriented towards "bridging the gap", with all kinds of different ways to go about doing that. Furthermore, since so many of us think we are "disconnected" from that Main Power Source, we are much more likely to engage in relationships where we become reliant on one another to receive the "love energy" that we feel we need.   

But what if that's really not the case?  What if in truth, we are all connected to that Source, it's just that, for all kinds of reasons, we tend to think and act otherwise, or we "resist" It's Direct Influence, the movement of that Love Energy down into and through our lives?   

Because of this resistance, we tend to orient ourselves "in series" with one another.  Each person, each component, relying on the flow of energy through the other to get our needs for Love Energy met.  With that thinking, a "break" in the circuit means "no more flow" of energy. No more love. No more happiness.  

What I have observed is that within any close relationship it is actually quite a challenge to maintain one's Individual Connection to THE SOURCE; especially because it is a spiritual rather than physical connection.  Instead, people tend to start "hooking-up" and "thinking" in "series", becoming reliant on the flow of energy through one person as the source of energy for themselves and being distracted from their Primary Source connection. 

Nevertheless, there is another way to "couple". : ))  And that is to have two components, hooked up in parallel to THE SOURCE and side by side.  In this way the energy moving through one, indirectly affects the energy flowing through the other by what is called "induction" or "inductive coupling".  Consequently, both individuals stay "connected" directly to THE SOURCE and indirectly with each other, but in a way that they can still actually "feel" each other's energy. 

But keep in mind, what they will actually be feeling is the Energy of Love, the Energy of Divine Consciousness Itself being radiated or manifested or Realized (made real) through each of them.  And even if one "component" should leave the "circuit", the other will still be able to feel Love and Energy, because they are still connected to THE SOURCE.  Their experience of "inductive coupling" with their partner may have a certain unique quality to it because of the unique quality of each person (each component) involved, but should one person leave the relationship, it will not be as if Love Itself has left, but only one of Its Many Forms, while THE SOURCE remains constant. 

I think this analogy may be of importance when considering the underlying issues between "monogamists" and "polyamorists".  Where monogamists think that there is one circuit, with the energy to be shared between only two people, or members of the immediate family unit, and "breaking the circuit" cuts off the energy flow for everyone; the polyamorists are working more "in parallel" with each other, where the current still flows in each as they move in and out of close relationship, or intimate association with one another.  Not necessarily something I'm in a position to "prove" right now, but it does fit pretty well into the overall analogy.

I think once someone really recognizes or becomes re-identified with the Truth of their own Lightness of Being, then that opens the door that much wider for Love and Caring to flow freely.  Why hold back?  Why "separate"?  Except that it is a pretty "hard habit to break". : ))  So, it just takes "practice".  Feeling the ego resisting and pulling back, and then exercising the heart muscles by drawing on The Source to Love Beyond and Through that resistance. 

And maybe, at some point along the way, there is no longer any identification with separateness, there is no resistance, The Energy and the Component become One and there is Only Light.

Monday, March 5, 2012

On Sharing What is Most Meaningful

In my previous blog, Overcoming My Addiction to "Falling In Love" I touched briefly on the idea that part of my attraction to young "Joe" was the way he responded to the books I shared with him. He found them "meaningful" in much the same way that I had found them "meaningful." In the case of those particular books, that had been a rare experience for me; i.e. for someone else to find them as meaningful as I did.

And even though the relationship did not become more serious, for all kinds of other reasons, I learned something important about relating in general as a consequence of having this opportunity to "share something meaningful." In fact, I have come to the conclusion now that part of the "glue" that holds relationships together is this mutuality of "shared meaning."

However, in order to recognize how the sharing of meaning might play out in your own relationships, you first have to recognize what it is that is actually meaningful in your own life, and more importantly, to figure out what is Most Meaningful. In other words, you have to do what I like to call your "home work" - taking the time to get to know yourself better, before trying to integrate that "self" into a relationship with another person. If you don't know what is Most Meaningful to you, then a) How will you be able to talk about that with another person, and b) How will you be able to assess if there is any alignment between what you find meaningful and what the other person finds meaningful? Granted, there may not be mutual sharing of All that is meaningful between two people, but I dare say the degree to which people do share what is most meaningful, will have an impact on how long-term the relationship proves to be.

Does what is meaningful to you change over time? I suspect it does, and, in fact, as each of us grows what is Most Meaningful at any given time may vary quite a lot. This may also end up being why relationships end; i.e. one person grows towards something different that becomes particularly meaningful to them, while the other person in the relationship either grows in a direction of their own, or, for whatever reasons, has stopped growing at all. When relationships stagnate, or lose their passion, again, the loss of the Meaningfulness of the relationship, or even of each person's own life, may be the underlying cause.

At this point, I don't think many people are very conscious of what is Most Meaningful to them. In those relationships where shared meaning exists and persists, it probably does more by chance than by conscious recognition. That's why the "revelation" I experienced in my relating with Joe was so profound. It was not something I had ever recalled being directly addressed anywhere else.

I have since, however, become more and more sensitive to the experience of Shared Meaning and how wonderful it can truly be when it Is Shared. The Sharing of Meaning becomes Meaningful in Itself, and it seems being conscious of it only adds more to the experience. I am a bit sorry for having come to this conscious recognition somewhat later in life, but I am Grateful for it now and for the opportunities I have now, and ahead of me, to continue to consciously Share What Is Meaningful and to share what is Most Meaningful with others.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Overcoming My Addiction to "Falling In Love"

As I said in my last blog, I had another story to tell and it goes like this...

Almost four years ago now I was at a little get-together of friends of friends and met this young man named "Joe". He was tall and slender with kind of longish brown hair. Can't remember if his eyes were blue or brown now, but they were definitely "wide open" and curious. We happened to get to talking and the next thing you know I was telling him about masculine and feminine archetypes, anima/animus projection, etc., etc. He was really listening and engaged, so before the evening was over, I went next door to where I was living at the time, and retrieved copies of a couple of books for him to take home with him: The Invisible Partners: How the Male and Female in each of Us Affects our Relationships, by John A Sanford and About Men and Women: How Your Masculine and Feminine Archetypes Shape Your Destiny by Tad and Noreen Guzie. (I did not know it at the time, but "home" was just a five minute walk into the other condo complex across the road!)

As it turned out, he read both books pretty quickly (each of them under 200 pages), and he was very excited to talk about what he had learned the next time we met.

Now...I have to pause here...because, if there is anything that piques My interest it is someone who gets a lot out of reading books, and, in this case, it was someone who was finding something very meaningful in books I also found very meaningful. On top of that, his name was "Joe" just like the first man I ever fell deeply "in love with", and he was kind of tall and lean like that same "Joe". And, okay, the age differences were reversed, but that is a little hard for me to avoid these days given that most men my age have already married or probably are not going to.

However, Joe was involved with a young woman closer to his own age, and so we were "destined" to be just "friends", and I really wanted to respect that...mentally. Emotionally-sexually...man oh man... I was fighting that ol' "urge to merge", and I KNEW IT. You see, this was all happening after I had come to the understanding about "falling in love" that I have discussed in my previous blog.

So, I fought, and I fought, to keep everything "platonic". The next thing you know, my body starts feeling kind of strange. There was this edginess that seemed a little like the tension I associate with PMS, but...it wasn't exactly the same. If anything, it was more intense and pervasive, whole bodily more so than just mental or emotional tension. I was just feeling agitated and I couldn't put my finger on any immediate outside stressors that might have been causing it.

I remember being aware of this as I was washing dishes one evening, wondering what was really going on, and then, all of a sudden, I get that "light coming on" feeling and realized: My body was going through withdrawal symptoms. Even with all of the "buttons" that were being "pushed" while I was interacting with young Joe, I was forcing myself, forcing my body, to not go into that "falling in love" chemical patterning, and It was NOT "happy" with me...and it was letting me know it.

But...once I put two and two together, that was pretty much it. The game was up. I just relaxed as much as I could and let the rest of my "symptoms" run their course.

I've never felt that kind of "compulsion" to "fall in love" in quite the same way since. But, like any former "drug addict", put me in the right situation, and I'll be thinking about it, just like an alcoholic will think about taking another drink when there's a bottle sitting right in front of them. But, I guess you could say I've managed to "stay sober" for these past four years, and I suspect the worst of this particular addiction is over for me.

And, I'm glad for that, because I do not believe...better yet, I know for certain that is NOT what Truly Loving Someone is all about. It is NOT about "getting high"! Sure, it feels good for a little while, but just like with any other drug, the effects eventually wear off, and, worse yet, you can dip even lower than "normal" once you've been up so "high".

Oh, but the Drama - we do so love the Drama of it all - Don't we?! : P

What I've come to appreciate is that what is Real in Love is also what feels pretty ordinary. Not a lot of "highs", but then, not a lot of "lows" either. Instead of a roller-coaster, it's more like taking a casual drive through the countryside - enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, the grass, the wind in the trees, the sounds of birds singing, a sunset, a moon rise, and stars, and your best friend's hand in yours.

That's it. Whether you're washing dishes or taking out the trash or cooking a meal or laughing at a movie; folding the towels, replacing the toilette paper, making a bed, etc., etc. If you are happily sharing those responsibilities with another person, that is what Human to Human love is really all about. All of those little, ordinary, day to day things.

So, don't let the soap-operas, and the romance novels, and the "chick flicks" fool you, or distract you too far away from what might be right in front of you. Othewise, you will miss out on one of the greatest opportunities we all have to share here, one to one, person to person, day in and day out, as ordinary, and yet still really amazing, human beings.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part II

The following blog is actually going to tie-in to two of my previous blogs: 1) The Biology of "Heaven" and 2) Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part I. So if you have not read both of those yet you might want to.

I will sub-title this blog: The Biology of "Falling In Love"

For a quick review: As the movie "What the 'Bleep' Do We Know?" points out, the hypothalamus is our body's own "chemical/drug factory", and each emotion is communicated through the body via a unique chemical or chain of peptides.  Joy, sorrow, embarrassment, anger, ecstasy, anxiety, fear, frustration, awe, fascination, curiosity, sexual arousal, love, etc. etc., etc. - every emotional/psychological state you can imagine has its own unique chemical formula. So what your body feels - what you experience as your emotional state is actually the effects of these chemicals traveling to all of your cells and linking up with appropriately matched receptors on those cells, causing additional biochemical reactions within those cells, etc., etc.

As it turns out, it is just as easy to become "addicted" to the chemical/drug patterning of your own body as it is to get addicted to drugs that you take in from outside of your body.  And in order to satisfy the addictive demands of that patterning, each of us will seek out or be drawn to conditions that cause us to experience the same emotions, over and over again, positive or negative, for better or worse.

Upon further consideration, I realized that (apparently) in the last several years I have been consciously conditioning my body, my hypothalamus in particular, to produce "happy" drugs.  And, in effect, I've become "addicted" to Being Happy, naturally. : )) (And that's why I add emoto-smileys to my writing all the time. : )) (See, I just did it again! : )) (Okay, I'm going to stop now . . . .) Granted, this does not mean I ALWAYS FEEL HAPPY, but it is definitely my Preferred State and a) I really do notice the difference when I am feeling "happy" and when I am feeling something else, and b) I generally know how to get myself back to Feeling Happy when I make a conscious choice to do so.

As I began to more closely observe my emotional states, and especially my desires to experience certain emotional states, I began to wonder:  Where are these desires coming from?  What are the underlying chemical patterns that my body is still "addicted" to and under what conditions did they originate?

My first real insight in answering these questions came as a consequence of a relationship I entered into with someone I met online.  After some time e-mailing back and forth we eventually met, and spent some time together, and not too long after that became intimate, etc., etc. After a fairly short time being in the relationship, I found myself longing to "fall in love", to "let myself" take that "plunge". 

Now, it may seem odd to some of you reading this that I was even thinking about "falling in love" as a matter of conscious choice. You may ask, "Isn't 'falling in love' something that just 'happens' to people . . . unconsciously?"

Most of the time, I would say, "Yes".  However, many, many years ago I read, The Road Less Traveled , by M. Scott Peck, so I was already aware of "nature's little trick" as he described it; i.e. the tendency for our "ego-boundaries" to "collapse" spontaneously under certain circumstances, thus giving us the "feeling of oneness with each other" which might motivate us to mate and produce offspring.  As a consequence, I had started observing this mechanism within myself and had learned a certain degree of control over my "urge to merge". Thus it had become more of a matter of choice for me. However, with my new understanding of biochemical patterning, and the "addictive" nature of that patterning, I began to realize that wasn't the real issue; i.e. "falling in love" consciously vs. "falling in love" unconsciously.  No, the real issue was "Why?" Why did I want to "fall in love"? Why did I want to feel "merged" with my partner?  Maybe even more importantly:  Did I need to feel "merged" with my partner to JUSTIFY loving him? In other words, did I have to feel "in love" in order "to love"?  

Once I got to that question, I already new the answer, which was, "No, absolutely not." I knew I knew how to love without having to "fall in love". Nevertheless, those other "Why" questions remained unanswered.  Why was there this deep longing to feel "merged" with the other person and why was it so closely associated in my mind (and body) with "loving" that other person? Where had I felt that kind of "oneness" before and why was it so compelling? Then the puzzle pieces fell into place...

In the process of writing a research paper on "Childhood Depression", I came across a study of specific family relationship patterns that predisposed children to depression later in life. The one pattern that caught my attention in particular was called "enmeshment"; i.e. when the child is "enmeshed" with the primary caregiver, usually the mother.  In this case there are no significant ego-boundaries between the mother and the child; in effect, the child becomes a mere extension of the mother's or primary caregiver's ego.  As I have alluded to in previous posts here regarding my life story with my mother, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that my mother and I were "enmeshed" - totally - pretty much from the time I was born.

And that was my primary love relationship for the early part of my life right up through adolescence.  It was the context in which I experienced what my mother called love, over and over again.  But, as I think I have tried to explain before, she was not loving me for "me"; she was loving a totally dependent and willing object onto which she projected her own self-image; her own ego; in effect she was only 'loving' herself, which is one of the recognized traits of a narcissistic personality, and that is often associated with schizophrenia.   

I came to the conclusion that my original psychological patterning with my mother was also reflected on a biochemical level, and that pattern was reinforced over roughly 20 years; plenty of time for it to become "addictive", but more so for it to feel "comfortable" and "normal" for me, even desirable.

I suspect the tradeoff for my true emotional and psychological autonomy was a sense of security, although all of that was constantly being contradicted by my mother's paranoid fears. The more I think of what a complicated emotional, psychological mess I was really in, the more I understand why it has been so difficult for me to sort it all out and be able to experience truly functional and loving relationships as an adult . . . but I haven't given up yet! : ))

I have learned from Avatar Adi Da that one way of expressing love is simply to Be Happy around others, whether they are strangers or intimates; to consciously and literally embody and/or manifest Divine Consciousness as Love-Bliss-Happiness in all relationships and under all conditions. And, although I'm not yet perfect at it, that's what I intentionally do on a regular basis now. By recognizing yet another potentially limiting emotional/ psychological/ biochemical pattern in my body-mind, I have also been given the opportunity to transcend it. 

I know for a fact that my relationship with my mother was a fairly extreme version of "enmeshment" and resulted primarily from her having very serious mental problems.  However, what I have come to understand about schizophrenia and other extreme mental disorders is that they are part of a continuum, a continuum which includes greater and lesser degrees of similar patterning.

For instance, it is a very natural and normal phenomenon for a mother to form a very strong bond with her newborn child.  In addition, it is well known in psychology that it takes several months of development outside of the womb before the infant starts to experience itself as being fundamentally separate from the mother.  The length of time may vary significantly with respect to when the mother is prepared to "let go of" that very close relationship with her child and give the child the emotional and psychological space they need to develop as individuals.

In other words, even without abnormal enmeshment, and in the absence of some very unusual circumstance where that bond may not develop normally between the mother or primary caregiver and the newborn, just about every human being will experience a period of time during their infancy when they feel "one" with the "other".

Furthermore, given the food taking and nurturance that is experienced in that context, the "feeling of oneness" carries with it many positive associations. Consequently, it is perfectly natural for each of us to want to repeat that experience, and that desire is reinforced by our biochemical patterning. I dare say this is one of the great foundations of the "myth of romantic love". Even Plato's description of the two halves, male and female, finally finding their "wholeness" in intimate union may stem from Plato's latent memories of "oneness" with his own mother while he, himself, was an infant.

People throughout history and up to the current day identify with this idea because, except for unusual cases where the child does not receive early nurturance, we have all had a similar experience as infants and we all carry within us that latent memory and desire as a biochemical imprint. Furthermore, research into the role of Oxytocin as a primary "bonding chemical" would suggest that there are certainly evolutionary benefits to having a chemical reinforcer for the "bonds" we make with others and the feeling we experience when we have oxytocin flowing through our systems.

Nevertheless, there is So Much More to making a long-term intimate relationship work than merely experiencing a rush of chemicals every now and then. Furthermore, getting to experience that every once in a while does not, and cannot, counteract all the negative thinking/chemical patterning a person might otherwise be perpetuating.

It kind of comes back to how responsible you are for Your Own Happiness - FIRST; as in...How You Consciously Choose to Feel in contrast to how you might wait for circumstances outside yourself, or some "other person" outside yourself to stimulate a particular feeling in you.

If your naturally produced "Happy Drug" is the "cake", then sure, "oxytocin" might be the "icing on the cake." Nevertheless, it's a good idea if you have the "cake" taken care of first, because trying to get by on just "icing" will most likely make you sick! : p

So: Here's to "Love" for Real! Not the fleeting, accidental or circumstantial, unconscious "falling in love" kind.

And if you come to the conclusion that you are "addicted to falling in love" then, stay-tuned, as I have yet another story to share that might just help you with that.

Until Next Time...

Peace! : ))

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On "Loving Yourself"...

This subject came up on Facebook today and I really wanted to give a thorough response as follows. I have decided to quote it here rather than making a Really Long (un-formatted) "comment" on FB.

From: "The New Guide to Rational Living" by Albert Ellis, Ph. D., and Robert A. Harper, Ph. D., Chapter 10 - Tackling Dire Needs for Approval. (There are newer versions but this happens to be from the 1979 Edition, Pp. 94-101 - I wish I could quote the whole chapter, but I'm going to start about half way in.)

...Your accepting yourself and devoting yourself to outside activities may constitute reciprocal goals. For if you really follow your own basic bents and do not overly concern yourself about what others think of you, you will have so little time to spend in self-centered worrying that you will feel virtually forced to find absorbing interests on the outside. By the same token, if you throw your energies into outside activities and actively devote yourself to other people and things, you normally will tend to feel less concerned about what others think of you and, hence, to respect your own values.

Put somewhat differently, if you devote yourself enthusiastically to long-range hedonism--to activities that you consider desirable and enjoyable from a long-term perspective--you will clearly accept yourself because you do what you really want to do and do not falsely follow what someone else thinks you should do. Our clients and associates frequently ask: "I can see that accepting myself rather than desperately needing the love of others constitutes a more realistic orientation. But how will this help me love other people? As I less and less concern myself about whether others approve of me, won't I find it more and more troublesome and unnecessary to give a damn about them--to relate lovingly to them?"

No, for several reasons. First of all, if you direly need love, you will feel so preoccupied with obtaining it that you have as much chance to honor your own choices or to love others as a dope addict has to relate freely and self-confidently to the person who supplies him with drugs.

Secondly, if you surrender your dire need for love, you will still retain, in most instances, a strong desire for acceptance by others. People often wrongly assume that your not direly needing love means the same thing as your feeling love has no value. Not at all. You can easily enjoy well-written stories and plays even though you have no need to do so. Why can you not, then, enjoy and seek intimate relationships without believing that your life depends on them?

Thirdly, when you free yourself from your demands that you receive love, you can better love. You can see more clearly the lovable traits of others; stop hating them when they do not immediately respond to you; learn what you really enjoy in relationship; risk committing yourself to loving, even when you know that a given affair may not work out well; and feel unanxiously free to experience and experiment with loving because you realize that although you may lose your beloved you can never lose yourself.

Another frequently asked question: "Granted that loving has more rewards than desperately needing love, should I therefore give up all my desires for approval and recognition?"

Answer: Certainly not. Complete self-sacrifice or the total surrender of your own desires for approval can prove just as foolish as your obsession with winning esteem of others. Again for several reasons:

1. You act quite normally when you want to express your own unique conceptions of the world to others and want them to take pleasure in some of your expressions. You would hardly seem human if you did not derive some satisfaction from relating to others.

2. Wanting acceptance from others constitutes one of the main essences of desire; and men and women entirely free from desire again do not appear entirely human. According to the Hindu classic the Bhagavad-Gita, the strongest individual "has indifference to honor and insult, heat and cold, pleasure and pain. He feels free from attachment." A few select individuals find this a worthy ideal. But we doubt whether many humans could ever attain it.To lean so far over backwards to get rid of psychological pain that you also eradicate all pleasure does not seem too rational to us. By all means try, if you will, to eliminate your extreme, unrealistic, self-defeating desire; but not desire itself!

3. From a practical view, if you ardently want various things--such as material goods or more leisure--you had better win the approval or respect of certain people such as your parents, teachers, or bosses. Though you may wisely eliminate your inordinate demands that others love you, you'd better sanely retain, in any social group, some wishes for acceptance by other group members.

Granted that having an inordinate need for others' love will serve to defeat your own ends, and that having some wish for acceptance seems eminently sane, the question arises: How can you somehow manage to attain a middle-of-the-road policy in this respect?

First and foremost, by admitting that you do have a dire need for love in many instances; by making a continual effort to observe this need in operation; and by then continually challenging, questioning, and disputing it....

....If you do have a dire need for love; if you accept the fact that you have it; and if you keep challenging, questioning, and disputing it, it will ultimately, and often quite quickly, start decreasing. For remember: It remains your need; and you keep sustaining it.

Other methods you can use to combat and minimize your inordinate love needs include the following:

1. Ask yourself what you really want to do, rather than what others would like you to do. And keep asking yourself, from time to time: "Do I keep doing this or refusing to do that because I really want it that way? Or do I, once again, unthinkingly keep trying to please others?"

2. In going after what you really want, take risks, commit yourself, don't desperately avoid making mistakes. Don't act needlessly foolhardy; but convince yourself that if you fail to get something you want and people laugh at or criticize you for your failure, they may have a problem. As long as you learn by your errors, does it make that much difference what they think?

3. Focus on loving rather than on getting love. Try to realize that vital living hardly consists of passive receiving but of doing, acting, reaching out. And just as you can force yourself to play the piano, do yoga exercises, or go to work every day, you can also often forcibly commit yourself to loving other humans. In so doing, your dire needs for love will probably decrease.

[What follows is probably the most significant part to me...LB]

4. Above all, don't confuse getting love with having personal worth. If you must see yourself as having any intrinsic worth or value as a human (which we would not advise, since we think that any kind of self-rating, positive or negative, tends to bring pernicious results), you'd better claim to have it by virtue of your mere existence, your aliveness, your essence -- and not because of anything you do to "earn" it. No matter how much others approve you, or how much they may value you for their own benefit, they thereby can only give you, as Robert S. Hartman explains, extrinsic value, or worth to them. They cannot, by loving you, give you intrinsic value--or the worth you have to yourself. If intrinsic value exists at all (which we seriously doubt, since it seems a well-nigh undefinable Kantian thing-in-itself), you get it because you choose, you decide to have it. It exists purely because of your own definition. You emerge as "good" or "deserving" because you think you do and not because anyone in any way gives you this kind of intrinsic value.

If you can really believe this highly important truth--that you need not rate yourself, your essence at all (and that you can choose to call yourself intrinsically worthwhile just because you decide to do so)--you will tend to lose your desperate need for others' approval. For you need--or think you need--their acceptance not because of the practical advantages it may bring, but because you foolishly define your worth as a human in terms of receiving or not receiving it. Once you stop this kind of silly defining, the dire need for their approval generally evaporates (though the strong desire to have them like you may well remain). Similarly, if you rid yourself of your dire need for approval, you will find it relatively easy to stop rating yourself as a person, even though you continue to rate many of your traits, and to accept yourself merely because you remain alive and kicking--and for that reason alone "deserve" to continue to exist and to have a maximally enjoyable life.

To underscore this last point about human worth, consider the case of Herbert Flisch, a forty-year-old successful businessman who recognized, after eight sessions of rational-emotive therapy, that almost every single one of his actions for the past four decades had stemmed from his dire need to win the approval of his parents, wife, children, friends, and even employees. At his ninth session he asked:

"Do I understand you correctly to mean that if I stop trying to win everyone's approval and do what I think I would like to do (and what would not at the same time defeat my own ultimate ends) that I'll then love myself because I'll consider myself more worthwhile?"

"No," the therapist replied. "Those of us who have worked to develop this system of rational-emotive psychotherapy have come to realize that worthwhileness proves just as illegitimate a concept as its counterpart, worthlessness; and that, in fact, just as soon as you tend to think in terms of personal 'worth' you must almost automatically tend to think, at the same time, in terms of personal 'worthlessness.'

"Thus, if you consider yourself 'worthwhile' today because you function effectively, make wise decisions, or think bright thoughts, you'll tend to consider yourself 'worthless' tomorrow because you then function less effectively, make some unwise decisions, or think dull thoughts."

"But wouldn't I have no worth if I never functioned effectively?" asked the client.

"No, definitely not. Even if you had mental deficiency and never functioned well, you would then have no extrinsic 'worth'--meaning that others might not find you a suitable companion or employee--but you could have, intrinsically, as much 'worth' to yourself as any other more efficient individual. You would have 'worth', in other words, if you believed you had. But if you believed, as you obviously do, that inefficiency makes you 'worthless,' you would then feel exactly that."

"So I remain worthwhile if I think I do--no matter how inefficiently I may actually perform in life?"

"Yes--except that, as I said before, the very concept of 'worth' has dangers, since it implies the concept of 'worthlessness.' Just like the concept of heaven implies the concept of hell. In fact, the way we usually employ the terms, to have 'worth' really means pretty much the same thing as to behave angelically or heaven-directed; and to have 'worthlessness' means to behave demonically or hell-directed. Doesn't it?"

"In a way, I guess it does. I can see what you mean," said the client.

"Moreover, if you have concepts of 'worth' and 'worthlessness,' even if you avoid extreme self-designations in using these concepts, you will tend to remain preoccupied with varying degrees of 'worth.' Thus, you will tend to say to yourself: 'Today I have great worth; yesterday I had less; I hope and pray tomorrow I can have more'

"This kind of concept of 'worth' (and, hence, of the lack of worth or less worth) carries with it irrational and undesirable aspects of guilt, self-disrespect, self-blame, shame, anger, hostility, and other self-sabotaging emotions. The counter-concept, that you have neither 'worth' because of your effectiveness nor 'worthlessness' because of your ineffectiveness, but that you merely exist, this concept, difficult as it seems for almost all people to see and accept, safely eliminates the notion of intrinsic 'worthlessness' and self-damnation."

"I'll have to give this some more thought," said the client. "But, it does seem to have something to it. However, how does it tie in with self-acceptance?"

"It has a most important tie-in with self-acceptance. For self-acceptance means fully accepting yourself, your existence, and your right to live and to devise as happy a life as you can for yourself--no matter what traits you have or performances you do. It does not mean self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect, or self-regard. For all these terms imply that you can accept yourself because you do something well or because other people like you. Self-acceptance, however, merely means that you accept yourself because you remain alive and have decided to accept yourself. Only a relatively limited number of talented, intelligent, competent, or well-loved people can gain self-esteem or self-confidence. But anyone, merely because he chooses to have it, can gain self-acceptance."

"Does self-acceptance mean that I consider myself worthy or deserving of living and enjoying no matter what I do?"

"Yes, though we don't like the words worthy or deserving, since they imply a rating--that you have to do (or refrain from doing) something in order to feel 'worthy' or 'deserving.' When you have what we call self-acceptance, you make minimal assumptions about your (and other people's) intrinsic worth or value."

"What minimal assumptions?"

"Several: One, you exist. Two, you can probably, by continuing to exist, achieve more pleasure than pain, thus making it desirable for you to keep living. Three, to a considerable degree, you can help minimize your pain and maximize your pleasure. Four, you decide--and this constitutes the essence of self-acceptance--that you will try to live and make your existence as pleasurable and as unpainful as you can make it. Or, putting it another way, you choose as the main purpose of your existence short-range (here and now) and long-range (future) enjoyment. Not achieving for the sake of achieving. Not receiving adoration from others. Not proving your greatness as a person. Not getting into heaven. Just plain damned enjoyment!"

"So instead of my continuing to ask myself, 'What worth have I?' 'How do I keep proving myself?' 'How can I outstandingly impress others?' or 'What do I have to do to ennoble myself?' I'd better, instead, ask, 'How the devil can I avoid needless pain and find out what I truly enjoy in life and do it?' Right?''

"Exactly right! You make the purpose of your existence having a present and future ball--in whatever idiosyncratic and harmless ways you experimentally discover."

"You mean that I may then enjoy myself and accept myself and my existence as more enjoyable. But that I still will not really exist as more 'worthwhile'--only more alive, happier?"

"Right. And you will not, we hope, blame yourself or punish yourself whenever--as an imperfect human--you do something wrong or unwise. You will accept yourself with your foolish thoughts, feelings, perceptions, or actions, and use the experience that you get as a result of these unwise acts to help you enjoy yourself and behave more rationally in the future. What greater acceptance of self (and through that, potential acceptance of and tolerance for other humans) could you then have?"