Tag Archives: Essential

What It Really Means To Be In Love

How to get past your own defenses and learn to build a real relationship?

While many of us may have sensed it intuitively, there is now science behind the statement that “Love is all you need.” A 75-year longitudinal study by Harvard researchers suggests that love is indeed a key to a happy and fulfilling life.

While love seems to be a universally valued attribute, defining it in behavioral terms can be a challenge. As the Harvard study’s lead researcher, Dr. George Vaillant, wrote of his team’s findings, two essential ingredients are proven to correlate with a happy existence: “One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

While many of us believe we would like to be in love, we face many hurdles in taking the actions that allow love to flow freely throughout our lives and relationships. We have many ways of defending ourselves against love and can struggle to give and receive love with ease, openness, and vulnerability.

With love being so closely connected to meaning and fulfillment, it’s valuable for each of us to define love as an action or series of actions we can take to bring us closer to the people we value. In a romantic context, some essential characteristics that fit the description of a loving relationship include:

• Expressions of affection, both physical and emotional.
• A wish to offer pleasure and satisfaction to another.
• Tenderness, compassion, and sensitivity to the needs of the other.
• A desire for shared activities and pursuits.
• An appropriate level of sharing of possessions.
• An ongoing, honest exchange of personal feelings.
• The process of offering concern, comfort, and outward assistance for the loved one’s aspirations.

Love includes feeling for the other that goes beyond any selfishness or self-interest on the part of the loved one. As such, love nurtures and has a positive effect on each person’s self-esteem and sense of well-being. Love never involves deception, because misleading another person fractures his or her sense of reality.

So how well do we meet these standards for being loving? When we think about a relationship that is meaningful to us, we have to ask:

• Do we both behave in ways that nurture each other?
• Do we take actions to make the other person feel good?
• Do we consider what lights that person up, separate from our own interests?

Too often, we think of love as an almost passive state of being, as opposed to a conscious choice we make. When we regard love as something we simply fall into, we can easily slip into routines with the person we value or lose a sense of separateness and respect. Instead, we view that person as a part of us. We then run the risk of creating a fantasy bond, an illusion of fusion in which real feelings of fondness and attraction are replaced by the form of being in a relationship. In other words, we come to see ourselves and our partner as a single unit. We then fall into roles rather than appreciating each other as individuals and experiencing the exciting, loving feelings that result.

A fantasy bond offers a false sense of security—the illusion that we are no longer alone. However, when we connect to someone in this way, we lose our sense of vitality, and we give up significant aspects of our relationship. The behavioral operations of love are replaced with a fantasy of being in love, which does not nurture either partner.

Relationships tend to go south when we stop taking actions that our partner would perceive as loving and instead start looking to our partner solely to meet our own needs. It’s important to distinguish emotional hunger from real love. Have you ever witnessed a parent hugging a child and wondered whether the hug was intended to comfort the child, offering reassurance and care, or to soothe the parent, taking something from the child? When we reach out to our partner, it can be valuable to examine whether our behaviors are for them or for ourselves. Are we looking to them to fulfill us in some way that is unfair to them? Are we hoping they will make up for an emptiness or hurt from our past?

A couple I’ve worked with recently recognized an example of this dynamic. The wife would often compliment her husband, but he rarely felt acknowledged by her words. When she recounted some of the recent comments she made, she noticed that they were less of a reflection of him and more a reflection on her. Statements like: “Aren’t I married to such a handsome, well-put-together man?” Or: “Haven’t I picked a winner?” didn’t capture qualities that were important to him. They were traits she valued in a partner that reconfirmed her own self-esteem and sense of worth.

Love should never be an act of manipulation. It is not a mark of ownership over another person, but the exact opposite—a genuine appreciation of a person as a separate individual. When we see a person this way, we allow ourselves to fully value them for who they are and for the happiness they bring to our lives. We are driven to be generous toward the person, to show compassion and kindness in a way that both they and the outside world would view as loving.

Of course, there are many barriers we put in place that not only keep us from finding this type of relationship but from achieving it with the person we love. One reason we wind up in less-than-loving relationships is the ways we were treated in our past. We may have become familiar with family dynamics in which we were rejected or intruded on, in which case we tend to seek out or recreate these same dynamics in our adult relationships. To become more loving thus means recognizing ways we self-sabotage: How are we recreating past hurts in our current relationships?

As we reflect on these behaviors, we learn a lot, not only about how we interfere with our naturally loving feelings for others but about the negative ways we feel about ourselves. It’s difficult to express love outwardly when we don’t feel our own sense of self-worth. One of the biggest reasons we shut out love is because we feel unworthy or self-denying. Therefore, to have a loving relationship, we must challenge our negative self-concept or critical inner voice. When we do this and take the loving actions that contradict our critical self-image, we enhance our own sense of worth and are able to get closer to the people we love.

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Seven Ways Your Friends Influence You

For better or worse, our friends have the ability to impact our decisions. And oftentimes, we don’t even realize its happening. From the clothes we wear, to the food we eat and even the career moves we make. Check out these 7 ways our friends can influence us.

1. Your Relationship.

While friends often mean well when giving relationship advice, it’s essential to remember that everyone is giving counsel based on their own experiences (and projections) — plus, they’re only hearing half the story. Independence of thought and confidence are invaluable when it comes to accepting the realities of your own relationship. So, if you’re constantly comparing your couple hood to the ‘perfect’ ones you think your friends have (we know we’ve all done this before!), you’re going to frustrate both yourself and your partner and possibly erode your relationship by devaluing it.

2. Your Eating Habits.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant with the healthiest of intentions — a salad followed by grilled fish and steamed vegetables — only to find yourself halfway through a bacon cheeseburger and onion rings? Or, on the other hand, have you ever listened to everyone at your table order a salad with grilled chicken, only to hear yourself echo their order? As it turns out, eating is a contagious behavior.

In fact, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which analysed data from 32 years, found that your chances of becoming obese actually increase by 57% if you have a friend that’s obese, a chance that’s even greater than sharing genes, she says. So if your overweight friend orders dessert, you assume it’s okay to do the same; you’re changing your eating habits to mirror hers. It’s not necessary to stop going out to dinner with these friends in real world scenarios, but these findings do suggest that mindfulness is especially important when dining out. We’d definitely have to agree with that one.

3. Your Exercise Regimen.

One of the best ways friends influence each other is to encourage, irritate, remind, show up, and be there for exercise. Research proves that having friends to exercise with, really improves both persons’ health, even if that friend is just a walking canine companion. Vice versa, if your friends aren’t physically active at all, it’s likely that exercise will become less of a priority for you.

4. Your Self-Esteem.

Think about it: we tend to compare ourselves to the people in our social group, and the social group we wish we were in, so if our friends have more than us (money, looks, things, etc.), then we tend to feel worse about ourselves and our lives. On the other hand, if we have a bit more than most of the people in our group, we tend to feel better about our lives. Obviously, self-esteem should come from within, though, so take a step back and re-evaluate if you find yourself guilty of this.

5. Your Goals & Aspirations.

Did you know that over 80% of women have “frenemies”? In other words, people who don’t have our best interests at heart and actually undermine goal accomplishment. Well, according to professional coach, it’s true. Research from Shelley Gable, called ‘What Happens When Things Go Right?’ says that how our friends respond to our good news can predict whether or not we continue to pursue what matters to us. The only right way to respond is called ‘active constructive responding,” which is an upbeat, engaging response that begs to know all the details.

6. Your Style.

Along with your geographic area, your family, and the media, friends have a big influence on what you wear. The more important fitting in is for you, the greater your friends’ influence will be. So when it comes to your clothes, whatever style it is that you’re used to seeing on a day-to-day basis, the more likely it is you’ll adopt this look for yourself. Why? Because it becomes your visual norm. This could be good or bad.

7. Your Career.

How many times have you heard, or said, ‘It’s who you know,’ when speaking of someone successful? It’s true. In order to succeed in many things, you need to know the people who have the power in that field. Throughout your school years, you build friendships with people who will turn out to be the powerful ones. And when you build good relationships with people who have succeeded, you find mentors and get an extra boost up the ladder of success that doesn’t exist for outsiders.

So tell us, how have your friends influenced you in your life, for better or worse?

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Symptoms Of Severe Depression

First, let’s get some terminology straight. ‘Severe depression’, ‘major depression’ and ‘clinical depression’, are terms that tend to be used interchangeably to mean the same thing.

What these terms refer to is the condition described technically by psychiatrists as ‘major depressive disorder’. Therefore as we discuss the symptoms of major depressive disorder in this article, bear in mind that we are looking at what may also be called:

• Major Depression Symptoms
• Clinical Depression Symptoms, and
• Symptoms of Severe Depression.

The Symptoms of Severe Depression – The Technical Version

A person is suffering from major depressive disorder or (severe or clinical depression) if for most of the day, nearly every day for at least 2 weeks, they have had at least 5 of the following symptoms, including (1) and/or (2):

1. A low/depressed mood.
2. Significantly less interest in and pleasure from usual activities (this is called “Anhedonia”).
3. Significant change in appetite or weight.
4. Inability to sleep or sleeping more than usual.
5. Fatigue, loss of energy.
6. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
7. Lethargy or hyperactivity.
8. Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
9. Recurring thoughts of suicide or death.

Now, let’s break that down a bit.

Step 1

First, it is important to note that low mood and/or loss of pleasure or interest in usual activities (Anhedonia) must be present.

In effect these are the threshold conditions. Doctors are sometimes recommended to screen for depression by asking questions to establish whether either of these two conditions are present.

Step 2

If you are suffering from low mood and Anhedonia, then the next consideration is whether 3 of the other listed symptoms are present.

If you are suffering from either low mood or Anhedonia, then 4 of the other symptoms need to be present.

Step 3

The next step relates to the duration of symptoms. The relevant symptoms must have been present every day for at least two weeks and must have been felt for most of every day.

Of course you may in fact have been suffering for much longer than two weeks or have had more than one episode where the symptoms have been present for at least two weeks. This is really the norm, of course – we don’t usually go to our doctor two weeks and one day after starting to feel depressed.

Step 4

The final step that I didn’t refer to above, but which it is crucial to consider, is that your symptoms must be a change from your normal state and have a significant impact on your day to day functioning. The symptoms must: “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

If you think about it, this is what is at the heart of an individual’s experience of depression. It is the inability to function normally that takes us out of the ‘feeling down’ camp into a whole new arena.

Symptoms of Severe Depression – The Real Life Version

Whilst it is useful for you to know the technical framework that doctors use to assess depression, the criteria may not necessarily reflect your own descriptions about the way you feel. We can all experience different symptoms or express them in different ways, both to ourselves and others.

Depression – what is it?:

“Diagnosis by counting is a totally absurd, and often very dangerous, proposition. When it works, we arrive at a very rough indicator of what may be wrong with us. Too often, the exercise is wholly misleading.”

For this reason, doctors assessing a patient for depression (assuming that are doing a thorough job) should ask lots of questions about the way the patient feels and look for examples of behavior that may or may not fit into the accepted criteria.

Some of the other ways that you might use to describe the way you feel, but which in substance may still fit within the technical criteria are as follows:

• Feeling flat
• Feeling very down
• Feel like I don’t care about anything
• Having to make a real effort to do anything
• Can’t really feel anything any more
• Don’t care about the things I used to
• Feel very on edge
• Feel very stressed
• Very irritable
• Can’t think straight
• Can’t make up my mind about anything
• Don’t feel like I can go on
• Feel useless
• Feel hopeless
• Don’t see any future
• Don’t see the point of anything
• Can’t get out of bed
• Don’t want to see anybody
• Don’t want to talk to anybody
• Can’t sleep
• Can’t eat
• Can’t stop eating
• Don’t have any energy
• Feel exhausted

Other Diagnoses:

If you feel that something is not quite right with your moods or the way that you feel, you need to be aware that there are various different types of depression and other behavioral or mood disorders. So, if your situation doesn’t reflect the symptoms of severe depression, then you or your doctor should consider whether any of the other possibilities might apply.

These include –

• Dysthymia (milder, prolonged depression)
• Bi-polar disorder (formerly manic depression)
• Adjustment disorder with depressed mood (a depressive reaction to a particular event or stress)
• Schizophrenia

Conclusions:

The symptoms of severe depression will usually be very clear to you if you stop to think about how you feel.

But, one of the major difficulties with depression, of course, is that it takes away our inclination to take action to put things right – we can just feel ‘too depressed’ to do anything about it.

That’s why it is essential that you discuss how you feel with somebody close to you, as they may be able to help you get the attention you need.

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Why Being Alone Is Essential: 6 Ways To Enjoy Being Alone

“Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands in distraction… What matters is that one be for a time inwardly attentive.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea.

As a woman, you were probably taught or conditioned to put other people’s needs before your own. If you think that it’s selfish to put yourself before others, you may find yourself focusing a lot on others, filling up your time with busy work, and spending time with friends and family because you don’t want to be alone.

Many women who are so focused on others don’t get to know who they truly are. They don’t tend to look at and know how to address their own issues. And when it comes to love, they tend to attract men who aren’t right for them – men who don’t treat them with love, kindness and respect.

6 Reasons Why It’s Important To Be Alone :

“I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Being alone can seem scary because when there’s no one to distract you, you’re left with fears, insecurities and unsupportive thoughts. If this is how you view being alone, here is another perspective to consider. Being alone is liberating. It’s the place where you can understand your fears and insecurities and how they’ve been running your love life. Being alone lets you hear how your thoughts have been affecting your love life. It is where your answers to love reside.
Here’s why it’s so important to be alone.

  1. Instead of becoming frustrated and resentful towards the person(s) you been focusing your time, attention and efforts, they get to live their own lives the way they’re meant to and learn their own lessons. And you get to do the same for yourself.
  2. Instead of neglecting your own issues, you get to address them and change your life for the better.
  3. Instead of losing yourself in your partner, you get to discover who you are and contribute your wonderful self to the relationship.
  4. Instead of having your identity wrapped up in someone else, you get to be independent from someone else and function on your own.
  5. Instead of living a routine life, you get to expand your comfort zone and discover things about yourself that you never realized.
  6. Instead of leading a life of obligation or setting for less than you deserve, you get to live the life you’re meant to and enjoy the rest of the days of your life.

6 Ways To Be Alone :

“Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Are you feeling stressed out about life and love because you’re doing too much for others or you don’t know how to enjoy being alone? If so, put these 6 practices into your life to feel better about yourself and have a healthier love life.

1. Participate in creative activities.

Discover and do at least one creative activity on your own. For instance, if you like to write, draw or paint, start doing these things.

2. Reflect on your inner self.

Reflect and ponder on questions like, “What are my beliefs? Why do I feel that way about these beliefs?” “Who would I be without my possessions?” “Where would I love to travel and why?” “What inspires me?”

3. Learn something new.

If you’ve always wanted to learn Pilates, how to cook, speak Italian, or play the piano, take classes and learn something new.

4. Take yourself out on a date.

Go on a date by yourself to a museum you love, movie you want to see, restaurant you’ve always wanted to eat at or a place you’ve always wanted to go to.

5. Spend time outside.

Walk in nature, go on a hike, enjoy the sound of the ocean, the sand between your toes, the smell of the fresh air in the mountains, etc.

6. Have a weekend alone.

Turn off your electronic and communication devices (i.e. TV, computer, tablet, cell phone). Music is optional. Catch up on reading your favorite books and magazines.

“Woman must come of age by herself. She must find her true center alone.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

It is actually thoughtful, not selfish, to put yourself before others because in doing so, you become the best version of you. When you are at your best, you are able to give your best to others. Everyone around you benefits from you putting yourself first.

Remember, when you are alone with no distractions from getting to know your true self, you get to learn, appreciate and love yourself. The more you know how to be alone and enjoy your alone time, your beautiful essence will draw towards you, men who are loving, kind and treat you the way you deserve to be treated.

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Accepting Who You Are And Learning To Love Being Alone Are Essential To A Happy Life

Over the course of time, you will learn that many people you thought would always be there will soon disappear. You will be let down time and time again, and eventually discover that the only constant in life is change.

With each passing day, people begin new relationships, while others end old ones. There are relationships that end well, and there are relationships that end poorly, with contrasting emotions leading the way. Some of these relationships will be major turning points in your life; some of them might either completely destroy you, or save you.

Putting trust into a person and giving them your dedication is one of the scariest things in life. Devoting your time and emotions, revealing your most personal qualities and background, and believing that this one person will not betray you or shame you for any of it, is a courageous step to take.

One secret could define your friendship; one mistake could end it all. It takes years to build trust and seconds to break it. The reason forming a relationship with someone and building the foundation for that relationship is so difficult is because once we have been hurt, we will never forget that pain – no matter what.

I have watched many of my own personal relationships come to a halting close. New chapters in my life have been slowly written time and time again. My social circle went from many, to a few that are worthy of my trust and loyalty. It took numerous occasions and difficult realizations for me to learn to accept the things that have happened in my life, and to accept what it is now for what it is.

Accepting who I used to be and the mistakes I made as that person, and not letting those mistakes define who I am today. Forgiving those who hurt me and who affected my life in negative ways. They were all fears to conquer, but I overcame them with perseverance. These were the first steps to my salvation.

The next step was realizing that it is okay to be alone. Growing up, if I did not have something to do on a Friday or Saturday night, I was blasting “I’m Just a Kid” by Simple Plan, crying in the dark and cursing off every single person that didn’t ask me to hang out. I’m happy to say that I’ve come a long way since then, and I have learned to appreciate solitude. Sitting in the middle of the ocean on a surf board and just letting the waves take me away, or sitting in a field alone and looking at the stars for long periods of time, are some of my favorites thing to do in the world.

“I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.” – Oscar Wilde.

I have also realized that getting lost in thoughts and in physicality is a beautiful thing. Over the years, I have learned that losing yourself and finding your way back makes the experience that much better. No matter what age you are, when you have a problem, or what that problem is, just go for a walk or drive and get lost. You will have sorted out your mind and troubles by the time you find your way back.

There is no better time than now for you to allow yourself to be happy. It is time to embrace yourself and all that you have to offer. Be alone; give yourself the chance to learn about yourself, expand your soul and allow yourself to grow. Enable each chapter of your life to help you become a better you. Press forward, putting one foot in front of the other, until you are finally so overwhelmingly confident that you can look back, and see that you have climbed mountains.

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Why Is ‘Break Up’ So Painful?

Falling passionately in love with someone is one of the most exhilarating feelings, as if you had wings and you are flying high in the sky, feeling the wind romantically blowing through your hair. And usually, when love ends, it feels as if you’ve been dropped like a rock in mid-air. You scramble to grab a hold of something … anything, as you witness your body falling at great speeds, and then shattering on the earth below.

Whether we’re talking about breakups, or facing the reality of a one-sided romance, it is painful. So much so that it disrupts our normal flow of experiences, causing us to not function normally.

With so much emotion invested and our identities tied in with these experiences, it’s no wonder that this is the number one topic requested by readers. Over the past year, I have regularly received email from readers sharing their own takes on painful breakups; tales of guilt, of fear, of regret, and of resentment. Although the stories were different, the underlying message was universal and one in the same, “I am in so much pain from not being with this person – what can I do?”

Sometimes, the pain of lost love is so intense that it can shake our beliefs about romance and relationships. When these emotional bruises are not understood and have not healed properly, they become invisible baggage that drag with us into the next relationship. This article focuses on the healing process from “love lost”.

The Origins of Love and Pain:

I believe that love is a universal energy infused in all forms of life. It is something that lies within the core of every one of us. When we are in a state of conscious awareness, the intense feeling of love and connection is clear and undeniable. When we are in this state of clarity and inner peace, our thoughts and actions are based in love and truth.

Within the depths of our souls, we are all connected by this unifying and essential energy of life – love. We occasionally experience glimpses of this deep connection through various and accidental happenstances, such as:

  • A gratifying and intimate conversation with another person. Sharing and expressing your thoughts honestly and openly.
  • Creative expressions such as playing music, writing, drawing, dancing, cooking, designing or even computer programming.
  • Meditation, prayers or communing with your chosen religious group.
  • Communing with nature during a hike, a walk or while sitting by the bed of a river flowing beautifully in front of you.
  • During sexual orgasm.

When we fall in love with another person, we are essentially experiencing the love that was within us all along. The person is merely acting like a mirror reflecting our soul back at us. Technically, we can’t “fall” in love, because we are already made of love. The other person, much like a musical instrument, is the catalyst allowing us to recognize the beauty that’s already within us.

Because of our lack of understanding that love resides within us, and that we actually have the power to invoke it on our own, we credit it to the other person for giving love to us. This feeling is so strong and extraordinary, that we become addictive and possessive. We want to capture it and keep it fixed, so that we can – at last – keep this heightened feeling forever.

The desire and dependency to keep this form fixed, becomes a source of self identification that artificially justifies who we are as physical beings. We become attached to the fixed idea of how our relationship should go and our ego quickly becomes the main investor in this fund of a relationship.

The truth is that, everyone and everything is in a constant flow of change. The changes in us and in our external circumstances are inevitable and undeniable. When we change, the dynamics of our relationships change – not just romantic ones, but also friendships, family ties, and our relationships with co-workers.

Over time, some relationships strengthen and some grow apart. When people grow apart, it doesn’t mean that either one of them was a bad person, but rather that they’ve learned all that they needed to from the other person, and that it’s time to move on.

When it’s time to move on, we hold onto this invisible box that contains an idealized and fixated form of how things should be. We unconsciously and instinctively fall into the false believe that we must stop the love when we are no longer romantically involved.

Because we attribute love as being ‘to’ this other person external to us, pain happens when we forcefully try to kill the love, which is actually within us.

Let’s repeat: Pain happens when we forcefully kill the love that’s within us.

When we forcefully try to kill the love within us, it physically feels as if someone has stabbed a knife into our heart, and a sharp pain surfaces in our chest area. In reality, we are that someone doing the stabbing, because we are trying to sever our innate connection to love and our soul is now bleeding. Our soul is crying for help, asking us to stop the stabbing, to stop the pain.

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