Archive for March, 2011

Do You Have a P.E.A. Brain?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

     What is a P.E.A. brain?  It is not a tiny pea brain.  An important difference. You experience a P.E.A. brain if you have an intense infatuation with another human being.  You are constantly thinking about that person, wondering what that person is doing, anxiously excited to see and be with him/her. You become obsessed with that person. You feel swept away “in love”.  What a phenomenal feeling!

     P.E.A. is the acronym for the biochemical phenylethylamine. P.E.A.  is similar to an amphetamine, a powerful stimulant, causing a natural “high”. It feels so good, you want to keep it forever. But, alas, it does not last. The body builds up a tolerance for it.  It takes more and more of it to produce that special kick.  It wears off completely, anywhere from eighteen months to four years max.  Thus, the end of the passionate feeling you have for the other person.

     Some relationships have been built mostly around the P.E.A. explosion between two people, or at least one person had it.  Unfortunately, too often when the P.E.A. diminishes, so, too, does the relationship. There is nothing else to build on or to sustain it.

     Do you know about, or have you experienced  “attraction junkies”.  These folks crave the intoxication of “falling in love” so much that they move frantically from one relationship to another.  The adrenaline rush of the “chase” or “catch”, coupled with the P.E.A. stimulation, is challenging and exciting.  Committed and enduring relationships are not their style.  Beware of these “chemical crazies” for they will charm you and then desert you.

     So, what keeps a relationship going?  You can be with a loving partner for the next stretch run if the next set of chemicals kick in.  These chemicals are endorphins (similar to morphine) and, unlike the rush of P.E.A., these endorphins are soothing, giving the lovers a sense of security, connection, and contentment. This leads to a deeper intimate attachment. P.E.A. is more individualistic, more selfish.  Dr. Mark Goulston of UCLA  describes it this way: “Early love is when you love the way the other person makes you feel. Mature love is when you love the person as he or she is”.

     The essence of this message is to alert you to be aware of a P.E.A. driven relationship and to be in one that has the potential to reach one loaded with refilling endorphins. The former may well flame out because it dries up or is a poor fit. Be sure to be in one that has the ability to move to an enduring committed relationship. Because of this chemical complexity, and other vital components for a good marriage, it is important to get professional help from someone who understands before you enter into your vows or blow the relationship that you now have.

      As the song says, “love makes the world go round”.  Just be sure it is truly love, not a P.E.A. driven high.

You Have a “Story”: Willing to Share It?

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

      One of the privileges I have with my profession is to know the heart and soul of individuals through the telling of the stories of their lives.  I am honored to be trusted for people to share the story of where they have come from, what their current situation is, and hopes for the future.  As a confidante I listen with empathy and objectivity, without judgment. Each story is fascinating and stimulating.  To be a trusted ally in helping a person, couple, or family make greater sense out of life is a meaningful way to contribute to society.  I am grateful for the opportunity.

     I would like to enlist your help.  People need to talk in depth to another person and be heard and supported.  I wish you would reflect more on your “story” and share it with people who are interested and will listen.

     What do I mean when I ask you to reflect on your “story”?  I mean the tale of your life.  You are an interesting person and have much to share.

1. Who were your parents?  What were they like?  Grandparents? Current status?

2. Do you have siblings?  What kind of relationship have you had? Currently?

3. Where did you grow up?  Moved where?  Why?

4. What schooling and training do you have? Good choices? Did you do well? Enjoyed?

5. What have been your career choices? Accomplishments?  Disappointments?

6. Are you married?  Happily?  Previously?  What happened?

7. Do you have kids?  What is the quality of  your relationship with them?

8. Who have been your friends?  Lovers? (be selective in sharing that!)

9. Who has been there for you?  Let you down?

10.How have you changed over the years – physically, emotionally, spiritually?

11.Who are the special people in your life currently?

12.Regrets?  Hopes?

13.What do you worry about?

14.What are you grateful for?

15.What is your next challenge?

16.What is one sentence that could describe how you want to be remembered?

17.Are there other elements of your life, past and present, that are significant for you?

     All of us need to create an environment where people can feel freer to share their “story”, and where people ask others to talk about their life.  Too many conversations are superficial and lame – leaving a void, an emptiness. People want and need to connect – in depth –with others.  Tell your story, invite others to share theirs.  Good things happen when one person lets another person know the depth of his or her life!

     Sidney Jourard wrote in his book The Transparent Self that “self disclosure begets self disclosure”. Carl Rogers, the father of Humanistic Psychology, had a wonderful quote: “That which is most personal, is most universal.”  Sharing the depths of our humanity helps all of us break down the barriers and prejudices that divide us and brings us closer to a uniting communion.

     Tell your story.  It is a liberating, connecting, and enjoyable experience!

How Do You Handle “Space” In Your Relationship?

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

      The word “space” is used often in relationships.  It is a loaded word.  “I need space” is a sentence that elicits strong reactions from the receiver of the message.  “What are you saying?” is the usual retort. Clarification is usually needed.

     Space or distance is a tricky variable in relationships – from the dating stage to the “it’s been a lot of years together, honey” stage.  People have different needs in a relationship relative to how emotionally close and/or how much time one needs with or separate from the other.  Space is about both physical and emotional closeness.  Also, that need for space may change over the years for a number of reasons.

     In the early dating period of a developing relationship, when one person says “I need some space”, s/he may well be saying I’m on my way out of this relationship.  Translated, it usually means “s/he just isn’t that much into you.”  Take the hint and move on.  If the person really did not mean that, s/he will rush in to clarify.

     Some people are “clingy” and want the other person to be physically and emotionally present an awfully lot.  These people are, or are perceived to be, very needy, with a lot of affirmation required.  They can wear out people.

     Other people prefer to spend much of their time alone, with limited emotional closeness.  They appear to be very self sufficient.  Sometimes that aloneness hides one’s fear of letting anyone in too close.

     Where do you fit in on this continuum?  Which type comes closest to describing you?  There is not right or wrong here – just personal style and preference.  There are reasons for each orientation and preferred styles. What matters here is the match.  Two excessive “clingers” will drive each other nuts.  Two “loners” will end up being pretty lonely, when they allow themselves to feel.

     The most important fact here is to have a compatibility of styles that can co-exist and be additive to the relationship – and can adjust appropriately over time.  Most people don’t change their “clingy” or “loner” orientation very much.  The tendency, however, is for men over time to get more “clingy” and women to develop more of “loner” style at least in relationship to the marriage.  (Outside of marriage women tend to enjoy their women friends more; men enjoy their men friends less.)

     In summary, how much time a couple spends together, and how emotionally close they are, is an important reference point determining the quality of the relationship.  How do you handle your “space” issue?  Talk with your significant other about it; it could be enlightening!

How “Alive” Are You? Take the Attached Quiz and Find Out!

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

     Springtime is here.  Nature proclaims that this is a time for new beginnings.  Colorful blossoms burst forth into the environment saying “look and me – and smile”.  It is a time of new energy ending winter’s dormant period.  Aliveness beckons.

     What about you?  You are a part of nature.  To what extent does the energy force of life thrust you forward?  Have you been dormant for a short or long time?  How “alive” are you?

      Dr. Harville Hendrix has developed an “Aliveness Quotient” – an instrument to help you assess your feelings of aliveness.  Are you willing to give it a try?  If not, perhaps you ought to go back to reading the Obituaries since you may be heading there yourself faster than what  may be desirable.

     Rate each of the following areas from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest:

1. I wake up feeling rested.   2. I feel alert and awake. 3. I am content.  4. Life excites me.

5. I enjoy a good meal.  6. I laugh a lot.

7. I am aware of pulsating energy in my body.   8. I feel joyful.

9. I am happy most of the time.  10.Sometimes I sing spontaneously.

11.I experience intense orgasms.  12.I see colors vividly.

13.I taste what I put into my mouth. 14.I am relaxed.

15. I enjoy dancing. 16.I enjoy moving my body.

17. I feel all my feelings intensely. 18.  I feel vitally alive.

19. I have creative ideas.  20.My memory is good.

21. I live in the present.  22. Music turns me on.

23. Sometimes I feel ecstatic.  24. My sex life is satisfying.

25.Many things interest me.

     When you are finished, add up all your points.  If you scored between 75-100, you have a high aliveness quotient, according to Dr. Hendrix.  If you score is 40-75, you are at the medium level.  A score below 40 is low and indicates your life energy is constricted.

     My guess is that Dr. Hendrix has not put this instrument through rigorous scientific inquiry to determine its validity.  Your capacity needs to be considered. The point here is to raise questions for you to ask yourself in order to raise your awareness as to how “alive” you are.  If you are real brave you may want to ask a significant other person in your life to “rate” you.  You can return the favor, especially if you get a low score!

     Oprah has a great perspective expressed in these words: “I believe that when you stop renewing yourself, and no longer open to change and the possibilities that continually unfold, you stop being alive and are just getting through the years.”

     No matter what your chronological age is, you still have the choice to keep a “spring” in your life by being alive and bringing life’s pleasure to yourself and those that are important to you. Over time try to ignore the “Fall back” and Winter’s dormancy.


What Do You Say To, Or About, Your Spouse?

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

     When I do marriage counseling I usually begin by asking each person to tell me some of the positive attributes of the other.  Each one then says some very nice things.  They remember momentarily special qualities that were present at one time and were some of the reasons that they came together and married.

      Then I ask them why they are seeing me – and the other side of the coin shows its face.  Each person goes on and on saying what is wrong with the other.  It is amazing how what had started out so tender and sweet has become harsh and bitter. (All couples don’t do this.  Some couples come in recognizing that they have a decent enough marriage – but some issues have arisen, some tweaking is needed.  I wish more couples would do this so that less damage would be done during the downfall. The earlier a couple addresses their issues, the better chance of long- term marital success.)

     Spousal comments greatly affect the quality of the relationship. I wonder what the comments between spouses would be if they knew there was a hidden recorder present.  For sake of discussion let’s presume that there is such a hidden video recorder that records the statements uttered by each marriage partner.  After recording the machine analyzes whether it was a positive or negative statement, and how high or low it was on the praise meter.  For example what number do you think would be assigned to the following statements?  (The scale is 0-10, with 10 the highest.)

1. Thanks for taking out the garbage. 2. I wish you would pick up your stinky shorts. 3. That was a wonderful meal. 4. I wish you would bathe more regularly. 5 Are you frigid? 6. You are a wonderful parent. 7. I wish I had married your brother! 8. Why did you let your body go? 9. I love being married to you. 10. You are a lush just like your old lady. 11. Why do you cut me down in front of other people?  12. Your breath smells. 13. You’re as mean as yo Daddy. 14.You are so handsome. 15. You eat/drink too much. 16. You’re as beautiful as the day I married you.  17. Your beer gut gets in the way of our lovemaking. 18. You’re so stupid. 19. I can see why your ex divorced you. 20. I’m so fortunate to share my life with you! 

(Please feel free to add your own)

     The emphasis here is that what comes out of your mouth to your spouse is either positive or negative, with varying intensity, and either enhances or hinders the relationship. Those observations that are positive should be aired. Everyone appreciates a compliment. All negatives do not need to be shared; some restraint is warranted, especially related to things that can’t be changed.  If a negative needs to be offered, kindness optimizes the probability that your spouse will hear and address the issue.

Bottom line: look for the positive in your spouse and sincerely share it.  It is a better way to help a marriage thrive!