Life Giving Love

bimba“What if everything you know about love is wrong?” asks Dr. Barbara Fredrickson. Fredrickson, Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina, and author of Love 2.0, Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection, doesn’t want to rain on your Valentine’s Day parade. Nor do I. But like Fredrickson, I’d like to upgrade your definition of love, especially if you’re feeling heartbroken or lonely, discouraged or in despair.

To begin with, let’s consider the rapture of “romantic love”. Most people I know (or see as a therapist) want to experience this exquisite kind of love. It’s understandable. Romantic love feels insanely delicious. Pleasure hormones surge when we fall head-over-heals. Dopamine pulses through our bodies, producing ecstatic feelings. Norepinephrine, like adrenaline, revs up our heart rate and makes our palms sweat.

This chemical process convinces us that we must have romance in our life to feel alive. The highs are just too good to think otherwise; at least that’s what our body says. And according to science, this makes perfect sense, given that the chemical high of love is the exact same chemical process that takes place with addiction.

But what if romantic love is just a daydream for you right now? Or what if you’re feeling brokenhearted after a break-up or in an age-old marriage that doesn’t cause your heart to melt like it did long ago? Should you turn to drugs and alcohol to get a quick fix, have an elicit affair to spice things up, or hook up on Tinder for a meaningless tryst? Hell no! You know you’re better than that. So what can you do that is emotionally healthy?

Connect with a caring person who wants to truly connect with you. Infuse your interaction with warmth and openness. Look at each other; really see each other. Feel each others’ presence and then notice the positive feelings that begin to arise.

PBcover_tiltedThis experience, what Barbara Fredrickson defines as Love 2.0, is a connection characterized by a flood of positive emotions that you share with another person – any person – friend or lover, sibling or spouse, child or parent who cares for you and you for them. Dr. Fredrickson’s research has shown that we experience “micro-moments of positivity” that ooze life-giving love hormones when we invest in each others’ well being and extend mutual care. But here’s the catch: we have to connect in person. Phone calls or Skype won’t do it; nor will Tinder or text messages. Feelings don’t compute in technology. The magic only happens when we meet face-to-face.

Grant it, Love 2.0 is less potent or alluring than rapturous kind of love, yet the chemicals that our bodies produce are exactly the same as what you get when you “fall”. So what do you have to lose by upgrading to 2.0? The whoa-is-me attitude. A burden of grief. Complaints and compromises that keep you stuck in misery. And think what you’ll gain. Happiness. Health. Vitality. And a really cool vibe that just might get you noticed by an extra-special someone who might one day be your Valentine 🙂 So give it a try, why don’t you? To learn more, check out Chapter I from Love 2.0.

 

 

 

 

“You Complete Me” or Do You?

Sappy doesn’t come close to describing this famed scene from the movie, Jerry Maguire, yet screenwriter, Cameron Crowe, draws us in, capturing the magnetic, head-over-heals, “You-Make-Me-Feel-Brand-New” kind of love. We all know that romantic love is just a phase that comes and goes. Robert A. Johnson, Ph.D., Jungian analyst and author of We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love describes it well…

This [romantic love] is a psychological phenomenon that is very specific. When we are “in love” we believe we have found the ultimate meaning of life, revealed in another human being. We feel we are finally completed, that we have found the missing parts of ourselves. Life suddenly seems to have a wholeness, a superhuman intensity that lifts us high above the ordinary plain of existence. The psychological package includes an unconscious demand that our lover or spouse always provide us with this feeling of ecstasy and intensity.

If only our lover would meet our unconscious demands forever. Blissful! If only they’d read our minds and always conform to our deepest desires. Heavenly! But wait. If this ecstatic experience was never-ending, then falling in love wouldn’t feel so special or be so purposeful.

You see, romantic love IS a path to completion, but not in a Jerry-Maguire-kind-of-way. Johnson describes romantic love as the mask behind which a powerful array of new possibilities hide, possibilities waiting to be integrated into conscious. When we allow our lover to see behind our mask, to see all of who we are in an authentic, non-defensive way, we create the possibility to heal old wounds and develop more of who we truly are. But we must choose this path, for it doesn’t appear naturally. Naturally, we veer in the direction of habitual patterns of thought, feeling, and action, but with help from a trusted lover, we can see all of who we are, most especially the parts we’ve been too afraid to face (including painful emotions, obsessive thoughts, or addictive behaviors).

Author Gary Zukov describes this life-changing union as a Spiritual Partnership, a relationship that is substantive and meaningful, one created through shared commitment, courage, compassion, and conscious communication and action. Creating this type of loving exchange isn’t easy, but it is incredibly worthwhile. According to Zukov, it requires you to choose words and deeds, moment by moment, that will create joyful and constructive consequences even when painful or violent emotions roar through you.

This partnership isn’t about someone making you feel brand you, it’s about YOU re-making yourself brand new with the help of someone who, as John Legend sings, loves all of you. (You’ve got to watch this beautiful music video! No harm in treasuring romantic love, even if it does wear off over time).

To learn more about the benefits of creating this powerful connection, read a free bonus chapter of Zukov’s book, Spiritual Partnership: The Journey to Authentic Power, or review his Spiritual Partnership Guidelines.

Wishing you an authentically loving Valentine’s weekend.

The Chemistry of Love

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed. — C.G. Junglovers

Why do we fall in love with one person rather than another? That was the question posed to renowned anthropologist Helen Fisher by Match.com in 2004. Why an anthropologist? you ask. Interestingly, studies have concluded that romantic love isn’t an emotion. It’s a drive. According to Fisher, romantic love is one of 3 basic brain systems that evolved for reproduction. The sex drive evolved to get you out there searching for a mate; romantic love helped you focus on one person at a time; and attachment kept you bonded long enough to raise a family.

By 2004 research had concluded that chemistry leads us to love, but science had yet to crack the code on why we fall for one person rather than another. Match.com asked Fisher to figure this out. She agreed to help them create a new dating site, Chemistry.com. To begin, she drew on her knowledge of how personality traits sync up with four brain chemicals: dopamine, serotonin, testosterone, and estrogen, and then categorized them into distinct personality types.

fisher

  • Explorers are driven by the dopamine system. These types are novelty seeking, energetic and restless.
  • Builders produce greater amounts of serotonin, a chemical  associated with calmness, cautiousness, and tradition.
  • Directors are fueled by testosterone, a chemical linked to intellectualism, straightforwardness, and tough-mindedness.
  • Negotiators produce more estrogen, making them more imaginative, emotionally intense, and desirous of intimacy.

Next, Fisher developed a questionnaire to determine the personality types of nearly 40,000 Match.com subscribers. She needed to prove that each type thinks and acts differently; and she did. Now her goal was to see if a person’s unique temperament dictated who they chose to date. Do opposites attract? Or do we prefer people who think and behave like us?

If you’re chuckling to yourself (or cursing under your breath), you’re probably in a relationship with someone who has a different style than yours. Fisher found that Directors are drawn to Negotiators, and Negotiators to Directors. On the other hand, Builders and Explorers, gravitate to partners who are more like themselves. To date, over 7 million individuals have completed Fisher’s questionnaire to help themselves find the “perfect” match. Some even resulted  in marriage. Last year, 17% of internet matches led to marriage. Good news, don’t you think? Yet still, the divorce rate in the U.S. hovers around 50% and the average marriage lasts 8.8 years. So if the chemistry is right, why do the flames of love expire?

Science continues to search for answers. One answer, paradoxically IS chemistry. As with any fire, embers need to be stoked. When the sparks of romantic love fade—approximately 18 months to 3 years into a relationship—couples need to stir things up. Additional brain studies have found that novelty and excitement keep romantic love alive. Research from New York’s Stony Brook University found that couples who regularly do new and different things together are happier than those who repeat the same old habits. The theory suggests that new experiences activate the dopamine system and mimic the brain chemistry of early romantic love.

So, instead of planning a romantic dinner this Valentine’s Day, go rock-climbing or scuba diving (exciting), visit a new city or music venue (novel), climb a mountain or take a tango lesson (energizing). Explore new frontiers in the bedroom, or better yet, role-play at a secluded hideaway (tantalizing). Take risks with your lover, again and again, so that chemistry of love can continue to work it’s magic.

To learn more ways to keep love alive, check out this cool infographic, The Secrets of Happy Coupling.  And, if you need help in opening your heart to love again or rekindling the flames in a tired relationship, call me for a complimentary consultation @ 678-360-6018.