Authored by Brianna Wies in Medium. In his book Lost Connections, Johann Hari talks about his decades of work in the fields of trauma and mental health and why he believes that the root of almost everything we suffer through is a severed connection we never figured out how to repair.
At one point, Hari talks about an obesity clinic where patients who were overweight to the point of medical crisis were put on a supervised liquid diet in an effort to try to save their lives. The treatment worked, and many of the patients walked out of the clinic hundreds of pounds lighter and with a new lease on life—at first. What happened later was a side effect no doctor predicted. Some of the patients gained back all the weight and then some. Others endured psychotic breaks and one died by suicide.
After looking into why many of these patients had such adverse emotional reactions, the doctors discovered something important: The time when each patient began overeating usually correlated with a traumatic event they had no other coping mechanism for. Hari summed up the findings like this: “What we thought was the problem was very often a symptom of a problem that nobody knew anything about.”
Connection is the experience of oneness. It’s having shared experiences, relatable feelings, or similar ideas.
Of course, the implication is not that every single overweight person is suffering some kind of subconscious trauma. Many of the ongoing problems we cannot resolve are, in fact, symptoms of deeper problems we may not be aware of. In fact, Hari analogizes this to the smoke of a burning house: You can keep waving away the clouds, but without putting out the fire, your efforts will be futile.
The biggest problem in most people’s lives is trauma, and trauma is what creates a damaged ability to connect with others. “Trauma” is not a term reserved for the most severe and unrelenting atrocities one can experience. Anytime something scares us and we do not get over that fear, trauma is created. When we don’t believe we have the resources or abilities to cope with a certain problem or stimuli, we create adaptive behaviors to deny or avoid it.
It’s not the trauma itself that causes the most long-term damage; it is how the trauma wreaks havoc on the psyche and prevents reintegration into a normal, healthy life where other people and unknown situations are seen as benevolent.
You’ve probably heard this before in different ways: The opposite of addiction, is not sobriety, it’s connection. The foremost pillar of happiness is a sense of belonging and purpose. Cultures that are more communal are more mentally healthy as a whole. People who are alone often die earlier and get sicker before they do.
We are a tribal species. There is no way around this despite what many highly individualistic cultures may want us to believe. No person is an island unto themselves. We are born through connection, and it is through connection to others that we accomplish virtually everything else in life. We do not just prefer healthy relationships; we need them.
Connection is so important, but it is so often overlooked and there are few resources available to teach people how to foster real connection in their lives. But there are a few essential ideas that can help.
Continue reading here: Connection Is a Core Human Need, But We Are Terrible at It
By Alain de Botton: IT’S one of the things we are most afraid might happen to us. We go to great lengths to avoid it. And yet we do it all the same: We marry the wrong person.
Partly, it’s because we have a bewildering array of problems that emerge when we try to get close to others. We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well. In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: “And how are you crazy?”
Perhaps we have a latent tendency to get furious when someone disagrees with us or can relax only when we are working; perhaps we’re tricky about intimacy after sex or clam up in response to humiliation. Nobody’s perfect. The problem is that before marriage, we rarely delve into our complexities. Whenever casual relationships threaten to reveal our flaws, we blame our partners and call it a day. As for our friends, they don’t care enough to do the hard work of enlightening us. One of the privileges of being on our own is therefore the sincere impression that we are really quite easy to live with.
Our partners are no more self-aware. Naturally, we make a stab at trying to understand them. We visit their families. We look at their photos, we meet their college friends. All this contributes to a sense that we’ve done our homework. We haven’t. Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.
Continue reading here: NYTimes.com
By Ken Page L.C.S.W., Psychology Today
You know who would be good for you. So why aren't you attracted to them?
We can’t force our sexual attractions. Most of us have learned that the hard way.
Yet, as I describe in my book Deeper Dating, there’s something profound that most of us have never been taught: Although our sexual attractions can’t be controlled, they can be educated. This post will share some ways to cultivate sexual and romantic attraction to people who are kind, respectful—and available. Even if you’re relentlessly attracted to bad-boys or bad-girls, or to unavailable people, you can still develop this capacity. And these are not gimmicks; they are the lifelong skills of romance and intimacy—the very same skills you'll use to keep passion alive in your next serious relationship.
The Attraction Spectrum
Every time we enter a room full of people, we make choices based upon our attractions: Whom do we notice? Whom do we pass over? Deb, a young stockbroker from Chicago, once told me:
“You know, it’s almost magical. I can go to a party, and there’s always one person I’m most attracted to. If I date him, within a few weeks or a few months I discover he has the same emotional qualities as my previous partner. But when I first saw him from across the room, I had no idea at all that this would be true!”
Our attractions are forged in the deep space of our being, born of countless, often unknowable forces. When we encounter someone for the first time, our psyche and heart begin an astonishingly complex scan, picking up obvious cues like physique and facial structure, but also noting myriad subtle cues such as body language, facial expression, the contour of the lips, the nuance of the voice, and the muscles around the eyes. We instantly process this information without even knowing it. All we feel is desire or the lack of it.
Scientists tell us that a silkworm can smell one other silkworm moth of the opposite sex from six-and-a-half miles away. Our mating instinct may not be that developed, but nature has programmed our romantic radar with the sensitivity to find just the right person to trigger whatever emotional circuitry we need to work through.
All of us are attracted to a certain type that stops us dead in our tracks, be it a physical type, an emotional type, or a personality type. Let’s say that there is a "spectrum of attraction," from 1 to 10; the people at the far end aren’t physically or romantically attractive to us at all, but those at the upper end are icons—they’re compellingly attractive, leaving us weak in the knees and triggering both our longing and our insecurity.
Written by Shelly Bullard, MFT
"We are approaching a period of time when relationships are ready to go through a major redesign. The current paradigm isn’t working. People are unsatisfied in love; people don’t know how to make relationships work.
And, believe it or not, this isn’t a bad thing. Because when systems break-down, that’s when they change. I believe that’s what’s happening in the area of intimate partnership. The break-down is forcing us to move towards conscious love.
So what exactly is a conscious relationship?
It's a romantic relationship in which both partners feel committed to a sense of purpose, and that purpose is growth. Individual growth. Collective growth as a couple. Growth that makes the world a better place.
As of now, most people get into relationships to satisfy their own personal needs. This might work for a few years, but eventually the relationship fails us, and we end up unsatisfied as a result.
But when two people come together with the intention of growth, the relationship strives towards something much greater than gratification. The partnership becomes a journey of evolution, and the two individuals have an opportunity to expand more than they could alone. Deep satisfaction and long-term fulfillment arise as a result.
So if you’re someone who feels called to take your experience of romantic love to the next level, below are four qualities that characterize what being a conscious couple is all about. Welcome to the path of the conscious relationship. This is next-level love ...
1. The conscious couple is not attached to the outcome of the relationship - growth comes first.
Not being attached to the outcome of the relationship does not mean you don’t care what happens! It also doesn’t mean that you don’t have fantasies about how the relationship will turn out.
What it means is: you’re more committed to the experience of growth than you are to making the relationship “work.”
The reality is, we’re here to grow. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. When growth stops, we automatically feel like something’s gone wrong. Because it has. Without growth, we aren’t fulfilling our soul’s purpose.
Unfortunately, relationships today tend to stifle growth more than enhance it. This is one of the main reasons we’re failing at romantic love.
We want our partners to act in a certain way, we repress ourselves to please others, and soon enough, we feel small, oppressed and puzzled about who we’ve become. This, inevitably, makes the relationship feel like a cage that we want to break out of. But the unfortunate truth is: we’ve caged ourselves.
The conscious couple values growth more than anything else because they know this is the secret to keeping the relationship alive. Even though growth is scary (because it takes us into the unknown), the couple is willing to strive towards expansion, even at the risk of out-growing the relationship. Because of this, the relationship maintains a natural feeling of aliveness, and love between the couple does, too.
2. Each person in the relationship is committed to owning their s#*t.
Conscious couples know that we all have wounds from the past, and they understand that these wounds will inevitably be triggered, especially in a relationship. In other words, they expect to feel abandoned, trapped, rejected, overlooked and any other shitty feeling that arises when we bond closely with another person.
Most of us still believe that relationships should only feel good, and when bad feelings surface, something has gone terribly wrong. What we fail to see in this situation is that these shitty feelings stem from our own faulty patterning! These issues are not caused by our partners; they’re caused by our beliefs.
The conscious couple is willing to look at their past and current issues in relationships because they know that by facing these beliefs systems, they can evolve into a new relationship-reality. Dysfunctional patterns will dissolve, but only when we take responsibility for them, first.
3. All feelings are welcome and no internal process is condemned.
In a conscious relationship, there’s room to feel anything. Not only that, there’s room to express those feelings and fantasies to your partner. This is edgy territory… it’s not easy to do. But it’s also one of the most healing things we can experience in a partnership.
It’s rare to be completely honest about who you are, and to stretch yourself to let your partner do the same. You may not like what you hear; in fact, it may trigger the hell out of you. But you’re willing to be triggered if it means your partner can be authentic.
Like I already said, we’re used to molding and changing ourselves to please people we love because we don’t want them to stop loving us! This stifles the love out of our connections.
The only option is radical honesty: revealing parts of ourselves that are hard to share, and letting our partners do the same. This leads to feeling known, seen and truly understood — a combination that will automatically enhance your love.
4. The relationship is a place to practice love.
Love, ultimately, is a practice. A practice of acceptance, being present, forgiveness, and stretching your heart into vulnerable territories.
Sometimes we treat love like it’s a destination. We want that peak feeling all the time, and when it’s not there, we’re not satisfied with what the relationship has become. In my mind, this is missing the whole point of love.
Love is a journey and an exploration. It’s showing up for all varied nuances of your relationship and asking yourself, 'What would love do here?'
The answer will be different every time, and because of this, you’ll get to grow in ways you never have before!
The conscious couple is fiercely committed to being the embodiment of love. And through their devotion and practice, love shows up in their lives and relationship in ways they would’ve never imagined before."
By Marisa Donnelly: I think it’s safe to say we all want connection. Maybe not in this exact moment. Maybe not as the most important, crucial aspect of our lives. Maybe not before we find ourselves or what we’re truly passionate about. But at some point on our journey, we long to intertwine our soul with someone else, to trust, to let them in, to have a person to laugh with, share dreams with, choose and grow with. We all want to find someone to believe in this crazy thing called love with.
But we mess up when we look so desperately for it. When we put our relationship status as the center of our lives. When we spend all our time obsessing over the couples around us, who we’re loving or loved by, where we fit.
We mess up when we make the search for a person take priority over the search for ourselves.
The thing about love, is that it’s a blessing—not a necessary component. We don’t need love to be who we are, and yet, it’s one of the most beautiful things about being human. Where we go wrong, though, is when we think romantic love is everything, when truly, love is all around us.
The problem, then, is not that we’re incapable of finding and keeping love, but that we’re searching for it in the wrong places and making it become our definition, instead of a piece of who we are.
When it comes to romantic love, the heartwarming truth is that this type of love comes to us when we release, relax, and let it happen.
When we stop searching for love, we find it. When we stop analyzing ourselves, changing every little thing, worrying over when we’ll find ‘the one’ or if we’ve fallen apart from them, we discover that love is natural—not forced.
When we quit thinking that we’re running out of time, we find joy in every moment. And the person we’re meant to be with finds us and compliments that joy with his or her own.
We’re not going to find love if we’re continually stressing over it. If we’re discrediting our own hearts because of past relationships. If we’re thinking we’re somehow less, simply because we haven’t discovered ‘forever’ as quick as the person next to us.
Love isn’t something that bends to our rules. We can’t simply wish it to happen. We can’t expect it. We can’t prod, or poke, or push, or make it become exactly what we want it to be. And why would we, anyways?
Love is beautiful as it happens, when it happens. And it will happen. We just have to trust.
We have to trust fate, trust timing, trust God, trust the universe, trust the law of attraction and how it will bring good things to us if we choose to believe.
But stressing yourself out about love? Constantly worrying over who your person will be? Speaking words of unworthiness to your heart, simply because you haven’t found a significant other by a certain time? This is self-sabotage. And will do nothing to help you find the relationship you deserve.
One day love will find you. But you have to be patient. You have to be strong. You have to focus on all that you are, all that life has to offer beyond a partner, so that when you stumble into each other, you’ll both be the best versions of yourselves.
You have to stop searching so desperately for it.
And let it come.
The theory "Men are driven to make women happy and women desire to wholeheartedly love men" evokes conversation because it's an exploration. It's an idea that has spun many deep thoughts, like this one with Life & Relationship Coach, Bryan Reeves.
I’m ready for a committed relationship. I’m ready for epic love. As Carrie Bradshaw described it best, “Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t–live–without–each-other love.”
That’s the lie I’ve been telling myself for many years. But micro romance after micro romance, that “real love” was nowhere to be found. Instead, I found myself constantly in situations where I was pining for more time, attention or commitment from men who weren’t willing or able to give it. This was my norm – dating men who kept an emotional distance was my comfort zone. Living there mirrored my childhood dynamic with my parents, and that little wounded girl who learned at a young age “I am not enough” would go through life overcompensating by proving and over-giving in order to win love.
The primal drive to be seen, accepted and loved resulted in me developing many talents – singing, dancing, writing, achieving, doodling – various avenues to win more of that prize I was seeking. I would even bust out my talents on dates – “see me, love me, choose me…” the little girl hoped.
Here's an unfortunate little truism, taken from a recently published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships: "It is not possible to have friends without first making friends."
Look, I'm very much in favor of having friends. I even have some myself! It's just that the making friends part -- the ambiguous zone between meeting someone new and comfortably calling them a friend -- is, if we're all being honest, kind of awful: the small talk, the worrying about coming off as either too needy or too disinterested, the pretending not to size each other up while really sizing each other up.
There's a reason everyone likes to complain about how much dating sucks, and yet we rarely talk about how forging new friendships is just another variation of the same awkward dance.
“I don’t know if I’ve learned anything yet! I did learn how to have a happy home, but I consider myself fortunate in that regard because I could’ve rolled right by it. Everybody has a superficial side and a deep side, but this culture doesn’t place much value on depth — we don’t have shamans or soothsayers, and depth isn’t encouraged or understood. Surrounded by this shallow, glossy society we develop a shallow side, too, and we become attracted to fluff. That’s reflected in the fact that this culture sets up an addiction to romance based on insecurity — the uncertainty of whether or not you’re truly united with the object of your obsession is the rush people get hooked on. I’ve seen this pattern so much in myself and my friends and some people never get off that line.
But along with developing my superficial side, I always nurtured a deeper longing, so even when I was falling into the trap of that other kind of love, I was hip to what I was doing. I recently read an article in Esquire magazine called ‘The End of Sex,’ that said something that struck me as very true. It said: “If you want endless repetition, see a lot of different people. If you want infinite variety, stay with one.” What happens when you date is you run all your best moves and tell all your best stories — and in a way, that routine is a method for falling in love with yourself over and over.
You can’t do that with a longtime mate because he knows all that old material. With a long relationship, things die then are rekindled, and that shared process of rebirth deepens the love. It’s hard work, though, and a lot of people run at the first sign of trouble. You’re with this person, and suddenly you look like an asshole to them or they look like an asshole to you — it’s unpleasant, but if you can get through it you get closer and you learn a way of loving that’s different from the neurotic love enshrined in movies. It’s warmer and has more padding to it.”
~ Joni Mitchell