Archive for May, 2016

“Love: The Quintessence Of Being”

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

John J. Stathas, Ph.D., LMFT

A head’s up. This article is intended for a minority of people, meaning those who are desirous and capable of exploring theoretical explanations of who you and the evolving world are in essence. This is heady stuff offered to the few who have requested such an offering. You are welcomed in for this exploration. This writing is an excerpt of a paper I wrote in proposing my own theory of personality development, the title of which is “Love, the quintessence of being”.

Being is life, spirited energized existence. Being is both source and completion, a process. All life, beings, share in Being (Ontology) in varying degrees of consciousness depending on the particular evolutionary state of development existent. The degree of consciousness and the choices made facilitate or regress the expansion of one’s being-ness.

All beings emanate from, and culminate in, the all, Being itself. Being is evolutionary in character. Julian Huxley in his preface to the book Phenomenon of Man, says that ‘the universe in its entirety must be regarded as one gigantic process, a process of becoming, of attaining new levels of existence and organization, which can properly be called a genesis or evolution.’ The evolution of being is unitive and consciousness expanding. Teilhard de Chardin, a paleontologist, states ‘Fuller being is fuller union … . Union can only increase through an increase in consciousness, that is to say in vision.’ Theologian, Piet Schoonenberg, uses similar concepts as he writes, ‘Every connection of the visible or invisible world can be understood only as giving or receiving a share in Being … . A person doesn’t merely have consciousness, he is consciousness. Growth is an intensification of being.’

Love is the energy source of being’s relationship and expansion. Teilhard puts it this way, ‘Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being. Love is the within of things which alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them by what is deepest in themselves.’

Depending on the level of being extant, consciousness, and the choices made, to that extent is a person actualized. Being has potential to be actualized. The motivation for this actualization stems in large part from one’s needs. Abraham Maslow has written eloquently about the hierarchy of needs, beginning with the most basic needs for survival through the ultimate of transcendent self actualization. Each level of needs being met shapes and facilitates the growth into the higher form, while powered by the energy source of love. He states, ‘All experience is testimonial to this fact that love actualizes and non-love stultifies.’

To choose not to love is to choose to not be a creator and unifier of being. Philosopher Andre Ligneul states that “every blow at dignity, every lack of respect for the person, whatever its form, is deplorable because the universe is thereby deprived of a certain fullness of being that this person would have contributed to it, had he himself not been prevented from reaching the fullness of his own being”.

Nikos Kazantzakis, the Greek writer, describes the process of personal and universal actualization in these terms, “We are all one substance (being) involved in the terrible struggle of turning matter into spirit.”  A noble goal!

Respected Reader, the substantive core of the above theory is that all beings are in the process of evolution. The direction, pace, and end result is based on an awareness of what is going on, making informed choices based on loving intent and action. As one evolves to a higher and higher plane of existence, consciousness expands, and one participates through love more deeply and energetically in Being. This process expands the person and universe toward a higher plane of existence moving toward a full potential actualization.

I offer this as one person’s raison d’ etre for living a life of purpose, attempting to raise consciousness and the capacity to use the love energy available in co-creating an evolving universe with a deeper connection and unification of all beings.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

“Bottom Fishing” Relationships Don’t Endure!

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

John J. Stathas, Ph.D., LMFT

While reflecting on what to write for this article I asked myself, “What is the most frustrating/disappointing situation you are presented as a therapist?” A number of situations came to mind. I decided on “bottom fishing”. What is that you may ask?

“Bottom fishing” is my term for people who enter into a relationship with an individual that is clearly beneath what such a person is capable of choosing/”catching”. The person chosen does not measure up to the higher quality of the chooser.  Thus, the relationship is very unsatisfactory. So, why does that happen?

One of the main causal factors as to why people “bottom fish” is low self esteem. Low self worth can come from a variety of causes, but the number one reason usually is that s/he comes from a dysfunctional family where his or her basic nurturing, supporting needs were not met. If your parents did not appropriately meet your needs of love, validation, safety, motivation, etc… you often end up feeling “something is wrong with me. It can’t be my parents.”

The second major reason for low self esteem relative to mate selection, often related to the first reason, is an abandonment issue. If one of both of your parents, or some other significant person in your life, “abandoned” you by not being physically or emotionally present, you have “abandonment” issues. If you are abandoned you feel worthless, not good enough. Therefore, you have low self esteem, believing you are not special, and not worthy of attracting and keeping someone special. Thus, you “bottom fish” and find someone who is so glad to have someone special like you and in no way would abandon you. That person is feeling really lucky! Meanwhile you have a false security and unfulfilling life because this person does not have the capacity to bring sustained happiness to you.

A third reason for low esteem which fosters “bottom fishing” is an overprotective “helicopter” parent. Such a parent, with usual good intentions, makes the child growing up feel inadequate and incompetent. The parent tends to “smother love”, sheltering, and making decisions for the child that the child needs to start making for him or herself. These children grow up feeling insecure, dependent, and needy with low self worth.

A fourth reason for low esteem affecting relationship selection is sexual abuse. Individuals who have been sexually abused usually develop low self worth. They have been “used” and degraded. Thus, who would want such a person? These people either “bottom fish” or have such high defensive walls that no person may enter into their romantic realm.

What’s the answer? If you have low self esteem , own it.  This is difficult. Who looks in the mirror and says “I have low self esteem”? Looking at your current and/or past relationships may give you a hint. What kind of people have you chosen to enter your heart? Good choices? Worked out well? A good friend who tells the truth may help enlighten you. Usually, however, it takes a competent therapist to assess and remediate such a condition.

Be heartened. It is possible to understand the reasons low self esteem leading to “bottom fishing” and to raise it so that you may more confidently seek and find a partner more befitting of your true worth. You deserve that!

Relationship Evaluation Opportunity!

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Well here it is, just what you’ve been waiting for – a chance to evaluate your relationship, as seen through your eyes and that of your spouse/significant other! What is your first gut feeling when you think about doing this? Dread or positive expectation? That feeling should give you a head’s up sense of what your relationship is. Regardless of your initial thoughts, please move forward and check out what this evaluation is all about. It could well be helpful in a number of ways.

For those of you still present, give this a try. I will present the categories (feel free to add more) and I ask that you and your partner write down a score between one and ten, with ten being the highest, of how satisfied you are in that particular category. Also, write down a number that you perceive your partner would write down. Do this privately and later share your numbers and the reason you put down your number and the number you think s/he would put down. Understand?

  1. Work/career. If retired, let the number reflect the satisfaction of this state of being.
  2. Management and participation in household responsibilities.
  3. Everyday expression of gratitude for the effort put forth.
  4. Everyday expression of affection.
  5. Sexual satisfaction.
  6. Meaning of life’s purpose and spirituality.
  7. Parenting
  8. Leisure and recreation.
  9. Finances
  10. Health
  11. Social life and friendships.
  12. Quality of time spent together.
  13. Fun together.
  14. Optimism about the future.
  15. Other that comes to mind.

Well, after reading this, are you willing to do it and ask your spouse/significant other to do it also? If not, why not? If yes, why? The goal of this “quiz” is to raise your awareness, Respected Reader, of your thoughts in regard to your relationship and find out the perception of your partner. With this raised awareness, increased valuable communication may well develop – if handled well by both.

Give it a shot because, as one of my mentors, Socrates, says, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. I believe that. Do you?

Treat Your Lover Like A Dog!

Monday, May 16th, 2016

“Treat your ‘lover’ like a dog!? What? Okay, here is the genesis for such an audacious statement. Recently I told a client that he was an inspiration for an article based on his behavior. He is essentially a sensitive man. He deeply loves the dog he shares with his significant other. He is kind, touchy-feely, playful, and aware of their dog’s every need. Very attuned.

BUT, with his significant other he has his defenses high. He has some residual emotional hurts from his past, both from family and a previous relationship. Thus, he displays few of these fine attributes with her. She sees him interact with their dog and yearns for this sweet sensitive in-tune, nurturing guy to treat her similarly. But, alas, it does not happen. In vain she waits. His defenses are not coming down. She is feeling hurt and starting to show her resentment. Unfortunately this anger just pushes him further way- raising his distancing defenses even higher.

People choose to have a dog. They love their dog. Nothing wrong with that. “ A dog is a man’s (woman’s) best friend.” People sleep with their dogs, cuddle them, play with them, exercise with them, etc… doing whatever is necessary to make sure their dog feels “loved”. Again, nothing wrong with that if you are a dog person. The problem is that often your significant other is second to the dog and doesn’t feel special or loved.  The dog is getting the best stuff!

Look at Facebook, Instagram, or other social media outlets and you will see dogs are often the most displayed images by many people. Spousal displays are less often seen. This often is indicative of the “love life” priority of the poster. There has been many a session that I conduct where one of the spouses says s/he is second to the dog. What a crummy feeling!

One time I had a couple in counseling who had only been married six months. The woman’s chief complaint is that she wanted the dog that he brought into their marriage to be out of the bed. I asked him if he could do that for her. He said no and explained that he had the dog before her and she was special and staying in the bed. They divorced.

I will continue to shout out that your spouse, significant  other, needs to be number one in your life – getting your best stuff. If you can’t, or won’t, do that, get help or get out.  People need to love and be loved.

Dogs are great in households where everyone wants them, and no one is allergic to them. They “love” you no matter what. However, too often they are an easy escape from doing the sometimes hard work of bringing down your defense barriers and raising your capacity for vulnerable intimacy with your mate.

Go ahead, take the big risk and treat your lover like you do your dog. S/he will be grateful!

The Many Benefits Of Living An Awe-ful Life!

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Heads up, Respected Reader. I did not ask if you have an awful life. I wrote awe-ful. These two words are night and day different. Awful is horrific, terrible, bad, etc… . Let me tell you about the wondrous things about experiencing a life more awe-ful.

Awe has both psychological and spiritual benefits. One cannot be good without the other. I first came across awe many years ago when I was an avid reader in the seminary. Rudolph Otto in his 1917 book “THE IDEA OF THE HOLY”, wrote that the experience of the numinous, the sacred, the holy is the basic core of religion. Otto says that this numinous experience, a “mysterium tremendum, has three elements: “awefulness (inspiring awe), overpoweringness (that which inspires a sense of humility), and energy (creating a sense of immense vigour).”  This experience is transcending.

Recently scientists have discovered that certain experiences in nature engender awe, fascination, and the feeling of being in the presence of something greater or outside the self. Their research findings have demonstrated that connection with nature facilitates not only awe, but also feelings of closeness with others, thus increasing or activating generosity and the propensity for connections and connectedness vital for the functioning of human existence.

Taking this thought further, recent research is showing that feelings of awe during encounters with art, nature, and spirituality have an anti-inflammatory effect, protecting the body from chronic disease. More specifically researchers have found a correlation between the feelings of awe and lower levels of cytokines, markers that put the immune system on high alert by triggering a defensive reaction know as inflammation. A certain amount of inflammation is valuable in fighting infection and disease. However chronically high levels of cytokines have been linked to a number of health problems, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, and autoimmune conditions.

Berkeley scientist, Dacher Keltner, says “That awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions – a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art- have a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.

This study joins a growing body of evidence suggesting positive emotions play an important role in promoting physical health. Researcher Jennifer Stellar states, “Folding these kinds of positive experiences into your daily routine may be more important for health than we previously realized.”

Respected Reader, I totally am in agreement with these findings. I have experienced many moments of awe through diverse experiences. They have transcended me to spiritual heights, brought me feelings of joy, and a sense of connectedness with all that is good in the universe. I have a number of methodologies that I regularly incorporate into my personal life and offer those clients who have requested such insight.

What might be pathways to an awe-ful life for you? May you find some so that you can experience a more spiritual and healthier self!