Truth Joy Beauty

Just my thoughts and reflections about living and loving in the post-post modern age.

Archive for the category “Love & Relationships”

Why new relationships suck balls*

*Originally posted on the now defunct truthjoybeauty.blogspot.com

I have recently entered into a new relationship. The relationship is with someone I know very well and have loved for a long time and I guess, this new phase of our friendship has just a natural progression. And, in retrospect, this is not like any other relationship I have entered into. It is not based on lust or sex, although both are present. We are already past the first flush of romance because we kind of never had that stage. Our love moved from friendship to intimacy via confusion and distraction in a kind of circuitous route but somehow, I always felt we would get there.

Well now we are here. Well, almost here…just a few more stops before we reach destination; Happy Ever After Land! Who knows. With any luck, that’s where we are heading. But, for some reason, now that I am almost at where I dreamed I would be for so long I am having a rash of anxiety. Maybe it’s because we are not out of the woods yet. Maybe it’s because I have not been this close to something this good in a long time and I am afraid that someone or something is somehow is going to take it away from me, just as I’m getting used to the idea.

Maybe because it took us so long to get to this point, that this new reality seems unreal to me. I don’t quite trust it, not quite yet and perhaps, understandably so. The irony of it is however that I was so sure of it before. He was unsure for so long, or not quite ready to take that leap and I was the one who reassured him that it would be fine, time and time again but now, I’m the one needing the reassuring. I was so brave, confident and ready to dive in before but now… well to be honest I’m an anxious mess! Logically I know I should just relax and accept this fortuitous turn of events.  He is finally saying the words I have longed to hear him say for so long… and I am hearing them, but they just don’t seem really real, yet.

Love. It is such a scary, freaky ride. I keep telling myself to get back in the “Love Zone” and just trust my intuition which has got me this far. Logic is also telling me to chill the f**k out; This man loves you and has told you so. He has not rushed into things or taken this union lightly so what does that tell you? He is a measured and thoughtful man. A rare breed who does not take matters of the heart lightly. This is why you love him. This is why you waited for him, because you knew he was worth waiting for.

When everyone was telling you to give up, when all reason and sense told you to give up and even when you finally did, (on several occasions) you didn’t really. There was always a kernel of certainty inside that told me he would not let you down when it really mattered. You were always certain hat he wanted this as much as you did.

But. There is so much that can go wrong. We have all been hurt and have hurt in turn. I admit, I am as frightened as I’ve ever been. But too proud to admit as much, to him and until now… to myself. To almost have something you want so badly is almost as worse as having no chance at it at all. Still, is not risk the nature of love? It is a risk. There are no guarantees, no contracts (apart from marriage and even that is not nearly as firm as it used to be) and there is always a risk associated with putting all your eggs in another man’s basket (ha, pun wasn’t intended but I’m going to leave it in). Bottom line is I have no choice but to trust this. I chose him and he has chosen me. We are both pretty smart people, nothing to worry about. Nothing at all….

Relationships..they suck balls but where would we be without them!

However it’s entirely natural to feel anxious at the start of a new relationship. New relationships involve change and all change, even positive change is anxiety provoking. Especially if we have been hurt before. But it’s generally a good anxiety. The anxiety of stepping out of your comfort zone in order to pursue something which will possibly and hopefully enrich your life with meaning, joy and love. Now isn’t that something worth going out on a limb for?

John Lennon sums up this feeling in this song, Don’t Let Me Down. from The Beatles album, Let it be.

Porn addiction – it’s not just you. Truth, reality and hope for addicts and partners.

In 2014 I wrote a serious article with a slightly tongue in cheek heading called  Is internet porn the beginning of the end for the human race?  Now while I admit, I may have been exaggerating slightly, the premise of the article was clearly not entirely without justification. It may seem a little far fetched but if, as I saw tonight while out at dinner, parents are using screens to placate/regulate a child’s behaviour out in public then what does that really mean for that child and their ability to engage with other humans later in life? What happens when, as a society, we are more comfortable relating to a screen or to another human being through the medium of a screen, than we are when faced with a flesh and blood human. One that you can’t simply swipe away when convenient?

How does this relate to porn addiction? Well for many years the debate on porn was centered around the notion that succumbing to the temptation of porn signified some kind of moral failing. From a religious/Christian point of view, it was a question of sinfulness.  A sign that one has allowed oneself to become infected with one or more of the seven supposed deadliest of sins, lust and/or gluttony. Or, from a feminist point of view, porn is seen as the vile exploitation of women as sexual, one dimensional objects with no humanity other than form. Exposure to pornography was seen as something that was detrimental to our morality and incremental to men’s seemingly unquenchable appetite for all things sexual. Yet as Naomi Wolf ironically points out in her article, The Porn Myth in actuality, the end result of too much exposure to pornography has had the effect, not of turning men into sexually ravenous beasts, but the complete opposite; sexual and emotional anorexics who can no longer relate authentically to a real life woman or get aroused by one. As it turns out, excessive viewing of pornography in this digital age turns men off, not on.

As numerous studies now show, repetitive and compulsive viewing of internet porn by men, (and a growing number of women) induces the opposite effect than one might expect, and just like a person who is addicted to a substance grows increasingly desensitized to the drug whilst continuing to crave it more and more, a person who is addicted to pornography finds he/she ends up on pretty much the same, well trodden treadmill. Intensely wanting something that can no longer provide the temporary relief and stimulation it once did.

Recent research implies that internet pornography is as addictive as certain drugs and affects the brain the same way. But, porn’s special hook is that it taps into that human need for attachment by adding into the mix hormones that are normally associated with bonding, love and connection. In effect, a porn addict becomes more attached to porn than anything or anyone else in their life. As a consequence, relationships, marriages, work and soon enough, the relationship with the self begins to suffer.

Porn addiction, like any addiction goes through stages – however, unlike most other addictions, the physical effects of porn addiction are virtually invisible, and the psychological and emotional effects are quite subtle, at first. In-fact, many porn addicts may seek treatment of a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, OCD, as well as physical ailments, stress, other addictions and finally sexual performance before anyone “thinks to ask about their porn viewing habits”.

But more and more studies clearly link issues related to sexual performance, including as I mention in my previous post, erectile dysfunction in men in their late teens and early twenties, (something that was almost unheard of 10 – 15 years ago) back to extensive viewing of internet porn. It is only when they can no longer get an erection, or ejaculate even with porn that some men start to make the connection between their excessive viewing of porn and other issues in their life. Often this is the only thing that eventually get’s their attention. (Their partners, if they have partners, may have known for some time that something was happening, or rather…not happening!)

This sorry state of affairs is bad news for both porn addicts and partners of porn/sex addicts, many who spend night after night lying in bed next to a partner that never seems to be ‘in the mood’ for sex. The result can be devastating to marriages, relationships and the self-esteem to both parties. The secretive nature of most men’s porn addiction may also mean that some partners may not know that they are in a relationship with a porn addict or even if they are aware of their partner’s porn habit, they may not make the connection at first either. Or they may not know the extent of their partner’s porn viewing. The damage this causes relationships is thus far unmeasurable.  One site states that 56% of divorces in the U.S. involve one party having an obsessive interest in pornography among other staggering statistics.

So, is the news all bad? Well, no. Latest brain research shows that the brain is actually very flexible, and  malleable, kind of like plasticine. In-fact the term for the way the brain can change itself, based on what is experienced is called neuroplasticity. This is good news. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the same way you get yourself into a sticky situation is largely the same way to get yourself out of it. While the allure of internet porn may have lost its charm many clicks ago, the habit that it has created will be hard to break. Hard, but not impossible. For men who have lost the ability to relate to women, emotionally and physically, and for partners of addicts there seems little alternative, other than to dissolve the relationship, which let’s face it, is fairly likely. It can’t be much fun to be in a relationship with a porn addict. However, chances are that if you leave a relationship with one porn addict, you are more than likely to run into another just as addicted, or on his way to being so, seeing as in America at least, sex addiction (which porn addiction is a form of) has reached epidemic status, according to this 2011 News Week article.

So, how do you beat a porn addiction and reverse its affects on the brain? Well the answer is simple, if not easy and this is simply to stop it. Stop all contact with porn and masturbating to porn and give your brain a chance to rewire itself and re-learn, or rediscover what comes naturally.

That is the only solution. I did say it was simple, but not easy. Recovering from porn addiction (for addicts and/or partners) takes time, courage and commitment and it is not easy to do without support. There are some very good websites now that can assist, (which I shall list below in the resources) but the assistance of a therapist who is aware of the nature of porn and sex addiction, one who will take it seriously can be fundamental to long lasting recovery. At least, having a close friend or understanding partner (if that is possible) that you know and trust is also important. The reason being that porn and sex addiction most likely mask other issues. Issues such as fear of intimacy, abandonment fears, attachment disorders, and perhaps even trauma. Once the defence of porn has left the building, then there is nothing to protect your unconscious and chances are some deeply buried emotional wounds may re-open.

It’s important to be aware of this possibility as many who try to ‘re-boot’ as it is called on websites such as Your Brain on Porn and Fight the New Drug often try many times and fail because they are inadequately prepared or lack support.

If you are experiencing porn addiction or are the partner of a porn addict, seek help from a qualified therapist and/or see some of the websites listed below for more information.

SOURCES
http://www.covenanteyes.com/2013/02/19/pornography-statistics/
http://fightthenewdrug.org/get-the-facts/#sthash.ubb4Ty3m.dpbs
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050060/
http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2013/05/the-prevalence-of-porn/
http://yourbrainonporn.com/cambridge-university-brain-scans-find-porn-addiction
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125382361
http://newsok.com/the-five-stages-of-pornography-addiction/article/5407775/?page=2
http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/trends/n_9437/index1.html
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jun/13/a-letter-to-my-ex-husband-who-preferred-pornography-to-me
http://www.newsweek.com/sex-addiction-epidemic-66289
http://globalchristiancenter.com/mens/overcoming-temptations/16765-pornography-in-the-church-a-new-epidemic
https://www.lds.org/tools/print/article/narrow/?lang=eng&url=/topics/pornography/audiences/youth/teenagers-and-pornography-addiction-treating-the-silent-epidemic
RESOURCES
http://www.covenanteyes.com/ (Internet filtering service)
http://yourbrainonporn.com/
http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/
http://www.posarc.com/ (Partners of sex addicts resource center)

Impermanence

I used to write a lot of poetry. Especially in my angsty late teens and early 20s. (Those that know me won’t be surprised to hear this.) Somewhere, there is a folder containing all those old poems, some on loose bits of paper, napkins, wrappers etc. Some torn out of the pages of whatever notebook I carried around with me at the time. I always had a notebook and pen with me wherever I went. Most were typed on an actual typewriter. (Yep, I’m that old). How I sometimes miss that clack, clack sound. (I don’t miss making a mistake and ripping the page out in frustration to start all over again though!)

Sometimes, at random times, some lines come back to me from poems I’d written so long ago. Lines that have stuck with me for some reason, for example this one:

Where are you my love that will understand me, not just for my hair, my skin and my teeth?

You don’t fucking exist. It’s me, all alone. I don’t need anyone. I couldn’t care less. 

I wrote that when I was 19. Teenage angst much? Yeah, well. I also wore a lot of black at the time… I remember that line because for me it was triumph of independence and powerful rage. And so, so transparent in its ache for just the opposite. Of course I cared. I cared a lot. Of course I needed love and connection, we all do.

Another line of poetry that sometimes floats back at me, is this:

Constant flux. Constant. Flux.

Is all we can rely on. 

That was the last two lines of a longer poem which I can’t recall right now. But, I marvel at my insight. I think I was 17 when I wrote that. And it came back to me the other day when I was having a conversation with someone who said, and I am paraphrasing here but it went something like this:

“At the heart of it all I think is a desire for permanence, for certainty. Everything changes, and can change in an instant. Nothing lasts forever, and you can’t really rely on someone to be there for you because from one day to another, everything can change. I find it hard to go all in because….well, what’s the point? At one point or another, you’re gonna get hurt.”

There-in lies one of the great existential challenges that we all face as humans on this small, blue planet that we call Earth. Nothing lasts, everything changes. Impermanence is built into the nature of existence. Yet, we try and resist this essential quality of being with all our might. We resist loving completely because, we will – not may, WILL lose that love one day. It’s inevitable.

Buddhism has a name for this. It is called Annica, and is considered one of the three basic facts of existence. The other two are suffering (Dukkha) and non-self (Anatta). The last one is kind of hard to define and calls for a whole other post, and more so let’s just leave it alone for now.

But, and perhaps the one thing that I wish I had said to my friend, because at the time I didn’t say much. Or what I did say didn’t come out the way I wanted it to, and it’s been playing on my mind. What I wish I had said was this,

What’s the point?
What’s the point of loving or giving yourself completely to another human being, a cause, a passion or an animal even? When there is no guarantee that those things will last? Well, that is the point. That is precisely the point.

How to spot a potential abuser

This post first appeared in The Truth Joy Beauty Manifesto. I have updated it and made some corrections here. 

In response to Rosie Batty’s recent article, These are the “red flags” that signal an abusive relationship –  I’d like to point out that sometimes there are warning signs that point to a potentially abusive mindset or predisposition, before a relationship develops. If as women, we can get better at spotting some of these behaviours in potential partners then it could very well save a lot of women a lot of pain and trouble, not to mention lives. So while the “red flags” mentioned in the Mamamia article are worth noting, they are aimed at spotting the signs displayed by the women involved in an abusive relationship.

Wouldn’t be better if we could avoid getting involved with abuse altogether?

At the end of the day, these behaviours escalate not because as partners we are at fault in some way, the problem behaviour lies squarely with the abuser, however because we are far too giving and understanding in the first instance, and because being understanding and tolerant does not change their behaviour for the better, quite the contrary as evidence shows, it sometimes seems to make things worse.

The reality is most abusers don’t start off that way on the first date. If that were the case, most of us would run a mile! No, they are very often charming, attentive, affectionate at first. However, there are warning signs, red flags if you will, that signal if not abusive tendencies but certainly cause for concern.

For what it’s worth, here is my list of potential ‘red flags’ to watch out for when sizing up any potential new partner:

  1. Low tolerance for stress or stressful situations. They get easily and visibly stressed at things which you or most people for that matter would just brush off as a part of life. Annoying, yet nothing to get overly bothered about. If you find yourself having to talk them down just because they missed the early train or raging at other drivers ‘cutting them off’  who are clearly not, that’s early warning no. 1
  2. Quick to anger or unreasonable anger. If small things trigger big responses, especially angry responses, then take a mental note and be on high alert with this person, even if at first their rage is not directed at you.
  3. Quick to criticize. You’ve only been seeing this person for a month or two and already they are making personal, sideways comments such as, “That dress is a bit short isn’t it?” or “Do you have to jump to attention every time your mother calls?” If they start criticizing your friends or family whom they barely know, don’t be fooled. They have an agenda and that agenda is to control and contain. These sort of person is really very insecure and the only way they can feel bigger is to make you feel small.
  4. Unable to take criticism. You may be surprised, (or not) to find that this same person who is so critical and acts so superior to you and your friends in so many ways, may act like the biggest baby at the slightest criticism. Leaving you feeling guilty and eager to make it up to them. Even if your critique is justified, i.e. they show up 2 hours late for a date or they “forget” to call you when they said they would and you are understandably put out, they will somehow find a way to make you feel like your mild reproach was the most cutting blow they have ever been dealt. Once again, don’t be fooled, be en guard.
  5. Jealous and possessive. Once again, don’t be flattered or fooled by this game playing master manipulator. If he is jealous for no good reason, then don’t think it’s because he ‘loves you so much’ or that he is ‘so into you’. He doesn’t want any man to be involved too closely with your relationship because the one thing these abusive men are underneath all their bravado and aggression is cowardly. If he ‘disapproves’ of you being friends with exes or any long term male friend then take that as a serious warning. He doesn’t want the competition. Not in a romantic sense, but in terms of influence.
  6. Excessive futurizing. Even though you’ve only been dating a few weeks this man has already declared his ‘undying love’ for you. He has cultivated an us against them vibe and you are feeling the pull of a whirlwind romance and almost delirious with excitement and passion. He has told you how beautiful, special and wonderful you are and how “different” you are from anyone else he has ever met. He may already be acting like you have been dating for years. Calling every day, planning your weekend on the Monday or talking about going on holidays at Christmas and it’s only February. DANGER. DANGER. Tread very carefully and don’t let your vagina do the thinking for you. Real relationships take time to develop, and it takes more than a few weeks or months even to truly know a person.
  7. Childish and sullen when things don’t go his way. Once again, you barely know this guy, really, so you had a life before he came along of course. He plans something for the weekend, but you already had a plan and so have to let him down. No matter how gently you put it, or how much you explain the situation, he leaves you feeling guilty and like you have somehow done something terribly wrong. He sulks and accuses you of not being sincere or serious about him or his intentions and basically throws a tantrum.
  8. Generally aggressive. Here’s one that may seem obvious to those of us that have experienced abuse in relationships, but no so obvious to those who haven’t. A lot of abusive men are aggressive in other ways, so why are we surprised when their aggression turns on us? Aggression is a form of survival and it is a basic human instinct, especially in men, but it has no place in romantic relationships. Aggressive behaviour, or any behaviour which leaves you feeling threatened or unsafe is definitely a red flag. It’s unfortunately only a matter of time before you become a victim of his aggressive, controlling ways. This may have been a useful characteristic in prehistoric days but it has no place in modern society.

These are just some of the red flags, which may not necessarily mean that you are in the arms of an abuser, but at the very least they indicate a lack of emotional intelligence and maturity which would make a relationship with this person an uphill battle.

Tread carefully, by all means keep your heart open, but don’t close your eyes as well.

 

Just another domestic violence statistic

It seems every time I go on Facebook, open my email or watch the news these days there’s another domestic violence story. This is triggering for me because, well, any of those stories could have been about me. I survived a violent and abusive relationship and while it is something I have dealt with emotionally, these news stories just keep reminding me of the chilling fact, how close I came to being another statistic.

Before I begin my own story, let me just throw some actual statistics  your way. According to the ABS personal safety survey (2005), one in four women will experience domestic violence of some degree in their lifetime. That’s a quarter of all Australian women. 25%. (According to the latest ABS statistics that figure is now 1 in 3).  Here are some more:

  • Women are more likely to experience violence from someone they know, than from a stranger. For men the reverse is true.
  • For  women who have experienced violence since the age of 15, 36% was by someone they knew vs. 12% by a stranger.
  • For men, the statistics are 35% by a stranger, 26% by someone they know.
  • For men the someone they know is most likely to be an acquaintance or neighbour.  For women, it is most likely to be a partner or ex-partner.
  • Both women and men are more likely to experience violence by a male perpetrator.
  • One woman a week is murdered by an intimate male partner, or ex partner.
  • At the time of writing (March 3rd, 2015) 15 women have already been murdered at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.

I’ll just let those sobering facts sink in for a moment.

Unfortunately, facts alone are not enough to get government to take this terrible state of affairs seriously enough, although just recently there are signs that awareness is finally making some headway. The naming of domestic violence survivor Rosie Batty as Australian of the Year is a step in the right direction and recently Q & A did a special on domestic violence. These are all positive steps. Yet, the current government’s funding cuts to community services have meant that many front line services are struggling with to keep up with demand. This is not positive and counter-intuitive to say the least.

It is a very heartbreaking reality that little girls, such as myself, grow up dreaming of meeting their ‘prince charming’. We are fed a steady diet of fairy-tales, romantic notions, and mainstream TV depictions of perfect family life. The reality for many women however, is so different. No-one expects to end up in a relationship that is abusive and violent. Yet the statistics are such that someone you know, someone you work with or went to school with, someone in your apartment block is probably living a nightmare right now.

There has been a lot of media attention given to terrorism of late, however, this article Domestic violence deserves the same attention as terrorism, links intimate partner violence with terrorism and points out its similarities, of which there are a few.

We need to address the causes of all violence in society as whole and see that they are all linked and instead of asking women why they stay, it’s time to ask, Why do men attack the women that love them?

Some articles for further reading and sources of statistics to do with domestic violence:

http://www.domesticviolence.com.au/pages/domestic-violence-statistics.php

http://www.adfvc.unsw.edu.au/PDF%20files/Statistics_final.pdf

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/sundayextra/intimate-brutality-the-epidemic-of-domestic-violence/6273516

http://www.womensagenda.com.au/talking-about/top-stories/why-are-sexual-assault-and-domestic-violence-on-the-rise/201502255362#.VPTIoPmUfWs

http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/stop-blaming-the-victim-rosie-batty-to-address-mps-20150302-13sx55.html

http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/tara-costigan-murder/

http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/domestic-violence-deaths-vs-terrorism-deaths/#yqAVLOjPiEAtkSol.99

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4906.0Contents2012?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4906.0&issue=2012&num=&view=

 

Neurobiology and Attachment – New research highlights the link between the biology and psychology of human interaction

It’s an exciting time to be getting into the world of therapy. In the last 10 years, brain research aided by technology which allows scientists and psychologists to map actual areas of the brain and have a good look at what happens there, has shed a fascinating biological light on the theory behind psychology and therapy.

One such example is attachment theory. In 1969 John Bowlby noticed that development in infants, both human and animals, is very much associated with how secure the initial attachment to their primary caregiver was. This is especially vital in the first year of life. If the primary caregiver is distant, disorganized, inconsistent or unavailable for whatever reason, the child will develop an insecure attachment style. Bowlby was basically testing out Freud’s theories and seeing if he could find a biological basis for Freud’s theory of psychodynamic development. As quoted by his colleague Mary Ainsworth in 1969, who further developed Bowlby’s theory by differentiating between insecure attachment styles, “In effect what Bowlby has attempted is to update psychoanalytic theory in the light of recent advances in biology’’ (p. 998). Current research in neurology is now doing the same for Bowlby’s Attachment Theory.

The most recent research suggests that how a baby interacts with their primary caregiver, usually the mother, has an actual effect on how their brain physically develops. This impacts things like emotion regulation, the ability to self-soothe, resilience, the ability to handle change and tolerate uncertainty. These earliest memories impact the brain and sets the mold for how a person relates to other human beings, and the self, going forward. Our early interactions with other humans and our environment effects how our brain regulates emotion and behaviour. In fact, learning to self-regulate our internal emotional states is one of the main tasks of childhood development. If this task is not completed successfully, or interrupted in some way, perhaps hijacked by trauma or some other circumstance, then the child emerges as an adult with an insecure attachment style, or an attachment disorder. It’s a matter of degree. Everyone has an attachment style, and falls somewhere on a spectrum of secure and insecure attachment. (To find out what your attachment style is try this survey: http://www.web-research-design.net/cgi-bin/crq/crq.pl

The fascinating thing is how this actually plays out in biology. Our early attachment experiences shape the way our brain, and specifically our right brain (our unconscious brain) organizes itself, (Schore & Schore, 2007). Subsequent experiences in a child’s environment contribute to the process of overall development. Our unconscious brain takes care of most of our body’s automatic functions, such as heart beat, breathing, motor skills etc. It’s also where our most primitive, basic urges emerge; our sexual drive, our need for nourishment and the need for security and safety. The instinctual impulse to reach for pleasure and avoid pain also lives here. (Freud called this the Pleasure Principal.)

This is also where the brain generates anxiety. Anxiety is a natural human response to perceived danger or threat. When we feel afraid or anxious, this part of the brain takes over and gets ready to either run to safety, or fight if running is not an option. Or if neither is an option then the ‘freeze’ response takes over. (Animals do this by literally ‘playing dead’. Humans are slightly more subtle  in their approach.) These are all instinctual processes that occur in our brain which are essential for survival, both immediate survival of the individual and the over-all survival of the species. As an infant, attachment to our primary caregiver is essential for physical survival. A human baby cannot survive on its own. A secure attachment allows the baby to feel safe and this allows for healthy brain development.

If the attachment process is incomplete, or inadequate for whatever reason, a child’s brain begins to rewire itself as a protection or defensive measure based on what it encounters in its environment. The brain’s automatic nervous system, (the ANS)  may become unable to re-balance itself. The ANS is what regulates the anxiety response in humans. When there is a ‘danger’ situation, it immediately sends word out to the rest of the body to prepare for danger. When the danger subsides, or is revealed to be not that serious, another part of your brain kicks in and tells the body to relax. If there is no opportunity to relax, or if a child experiences a constant state of hyper-vigilance, for example, an imbalance may occur.

As adults, these defences manifest themselves in numerous ways. Sometimes as an anxiety disorder, personality disorders, sometimes as an addiction disorder, sometimes as depression, or simply an inability to engage in or maintain stable relationships or other internal or external issues. (Internalizing refers to things that happen to you within your mind, externalizing refers to behaviours or actions that you undertake in the environment).

The bottom line is that everything we do as humans is in relation to other human beings. We exist interdependently. The role that attachment plays in human development is showing itself to be, in light of recent neurological research, increasingly fundamental. Freud under-estimated the need for attachment. He saw it as secondary to other basic human needs such as food, shelter and sex however as the work of Bowlby,  Ainsworth and more recently from a neurological perspective, Schore have shown, the basic need for attachment actually  resides more on the level of these fundamental human needs.

Attachment is closely related to our survival instinct as humans. Any threat to the attachment mechanism is seen by the unconscious mind as a point blank threat to survival. That’s why attachment disorders tend to lie at the root of many psychological imbalances.Understanding the way attachment works and why it is so fundamental to emotional development can be the first step towards healing that broken heart that many of us have been dragging around for so much of our adult life.

Further reading and references:

Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1969). Object relations, dependency and attachment: A theoretical review of the infant–mother relationship. Child Development, 40, 969–1025.

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss. Vol. 1: Attachment. New York: Basic Books.

Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base (2nd ed.). New York: Basic Books.

Judith R. Schore J, R. Schore A, N. (2007) Modern Attachment Theory: The Central Role of Affect Regulation in Development and Treatment. DOI 10.1007/s10615-007-0111-7

From the net:

A brief overview of adult attachment theory and research. Retrieved 30/12/14 from http://internal.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm

It’s Not All in Your Head: Affect Regulation in Psychotherapy. Retrieved 30/12/14 from http://www.centerforhealingandimagery.com/articles/its-not-all-in-your-head-affect-regulation-in-psychotherapy/

Reality vs. Illusion – do you know the difference?

Ever wanted something (or someone) so bad you could almost taste it? Ever thought to yourself, if I feel this strongly about it then it must mean something? Have you ever felt so sure that something was ‘meant to be’ that you disregarded any and all evidence that did not agree with your version of reality? Ever disregarded signs that if you were in your right mind would have been like billboards in your face but instead, and perhaps because you are so close to your version of the ‘truth’ you can’t see it for what it really is. All you can see are pixelated dots…

Yes well we’ve all been there. I admit that sometimes, it is hard to see what really is because well, the truth, the real truth is far too painful to bear. The real truth involves looking at yourself first. Questioning your motivations, examining your actions and seeing the connection between  your actions and their consequences. It involves having an honest look around with fresh and unbiased eyes. Distinguishing what you think is verses what is really there. And that starts within. Because reality is really what you make of it. And if you can’t face the reality within, you most certainly are not going to be able to face the reality without.

You can choose your own reality to an extent. However, sometimes, reality does not allow itself to be chosen. Sometimes reality makes itself known to you in the most ardent, blunt and sometimes even violent way. And that may be hard to face but sometimes it is just the way it is. Acceptance of reality is the first step towards true freedom and well being.  Accepting what is doesn’t mean you have to live with something you don’t like. Accepting what is doesn’t make what is true for you any different. It just makes it your truth. Being able to distinguish, however, what is true for you vs. what the reality of the situation is can save you (and those around you and those affected by your warped sense of reality) a lot of heartache and pain.

In the end it is your choice. You can choose to live in the moment, which involves accepting the reality of what is or you can continue to allow illusion to cloud your judgement and rob you of what is rightfully yours, your peace of mind and a chance at real happiness…

So what’s it going to be, reality or illusion?

I am fully aware of my own truth

 

Is internet porn the beginning of the end for the human race?

After a particularly robust discussion on the topic of internet porn addiction involving a frank and open exchange of views I took it upon myself to do some ‘research’ into the subject out of interest.

To be honest, pornography has never really phased me. Nor have I ever really worried about whether or not my partner looked at porn. I just thought it was something that ‘all guys do’ whether they admit to it or not so why bother getting upset about it. Each to their own was my attitude. But more than that, I also considered myself a pretty ‘open minded’ individual when it came to sex and sexuality. To be honest, I guess I had a pretty naive idea about what porn actually meant and what it actually entailed. It did occur to me that an industry which trades on the subjectification of one human being over another was in essence problematic. However, two adults engaging in mutually satisfying sexual communication is one thing, but pornography has nothing to do with that. Pornography, and internet pornography at that is an entirely other animal.

However, putting all morality and feminist discourse aside what I discovered about the very recent phenomenon that is high-speed internet pornography and the effect it is having on men and in particular very young men, is actually pretty terrifying to say the least.

In my research, which existed of Googling the words “brain porn” I came across this site: www.yourbrainonporn.com which I highly recommend for anyone who is worried about excessive porn use and if it could be affecting other areas of their life. Well, chances are it is, according to the most recent research on the neurology of the brain and how it responds in particular to excessive porn use. Some of the findings may be of surprising interest to some of you. I won’t go into all of them here but the one issue which I think is of alarming importance is the link between increasing instances of erectile dysfunction in men (some as young as 21) which is linked to over use of internet porn.

For some of these young men internet porn has become a way of life, so by the time they hit their early 20s some of them have been accessing and masturbating to internet porn since they were in early adolescence. The problem with that being thus, because the adolescent brain is still forming, a dysfunctional relationship between internet porn and sexuality has become hard wired into their brains, so much so, that they can no longer be aroused by a real life person. Their brains have come to associate sexual satisfaction with internet porn. After a while, some of them report that they have no interest  in actually having sex with another person, they would rather watch porn and get off. How absolutely whack is that?!

According to one recent (2014) Canadian study, 54% of young men aged 16 -21 reported some kind of sexual dysfunction including erectile dysfunction and inability to orgasm. Frequency and length of use can also contribute to problems with RL (real life) sex. That is, years of use and frequency of use can wear out the brain’s natural reward system, hijacking it so that it no longer associates sex with real life women as a reward. It associates sexual reward with sitting alone in your room, in front of a computer with one hand on your penis and the other on the mouse.

There has been some recent debate as to whether sexual addiction is a ‘real’ addiction or not. Well, according to the most recent (2013) DSM-V (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) it is, as the brain responds in much the same way and the psycho-social behaviours that sex or porn addicts engage in are much the same.  Avoidance of real life situations, inability to connect intimately with another human being, isolation, shame, increasing instances of depression and anxiety have all been attributed to excessive porn use.

My question is this, if left unchecked and our young men of today are forgoing sex with real girls for the thrill of masturbating to porn alone then what does that mean for the future of humanity and relationships in general? The internet has made it easier to connect at a distance, social media makes it easier to ‘connect’ with others by simply ‘liking’ their post or photos. But, as a species, are we in danger of losing our ability to meaningfully connect in other ways? And if young men in particular are choosing to connect with the image of a porn actress (who will never reject them) on a computer screen rather than risk engagement with a girl (who may reject them) then what about the future of the human race? What about real sex, you know that ol’ chestnut, yeah reproduction of the species? Well that takes real engagement with another human being. And yes, human interaction can get messy. (The sort of messy that you can’t always wipe up with a tissue!) And if half the species are losing their motivation to engage in sexual behaviour with potential mates, then is it only a matter of time until the machines take over all together….?

For more information and links to actual studies check out http://www.yourbrainonporn.com

What I learned about love and relationships from watching The Bachelor finale last night

Love is not only a many splendid thing, but its also damn hard to define, as Blake so often mentioned, it’s about the “intangibles”.

In my opinion, and many people I have spoken with this morning(o.k. three people) , Lisa would have been the sensible choice for Blake. Mature, together, assured, poised and all round lovely Lisa. But in the end he went for the awkward, socially inept, down to earth and girlish Sam.

Now, I am going to say it, I knew it would be Sam about half way through, (yes I admit to becoming addicted to the drama that was The Bachelor) even while being equally appalled by the whole premise of the show however, I tell myself, hey it’s not that different to real life now is it?

Truly “eligible” men are damn hard to find. By eligible I mean a man that is kind hearted, respectful, has manners, has his shit together financially (or a steady job at least) and who knows what he wants and how he feels and is able to articulate it. A rare creature indeed. Most of us have to settle for maybe two or three of the above in a guy so to find a man that has them all, and is into you and vice versa, well that’s the fairytale jackpot now isn’t it?

But yeah, it was something about the way Blake looked at Sam, the way he found everything she did adorable, the way he kept trying to convince her or how awesome she was….all those things gave it away for me. Although, I must admit, there was a time during last nights final show when I thought, maybe he will pick Lisa. Maybe he will think with his head and not his heart as the things he said he wanted in a woman described Lisa to me more than they described Sam. But, on that final date with Sam it was written all over his face. Sam, Sam, Sam…his heart was drowning out his head 10 – 1.

But, I have to say it, proposing to someone after around half a dozen dates is just plain stupid. How can you truly know someone well enough after 6 dates and while you’ve been dating 30 other women at the same time.

It’s obvious, that Blake is in love, and love… it make no sense!

The thing that a show like The Bachelor is that it highlights both the good, bad and the ugly when it comes to love and relationships. It’s like a neat, controlled social and psychological experiment. Part of the reason why I find it so fascinating I guess. The show is set up like a cruel round robin of a game, which I guess is what love is in a way, as much as I hate to admit it sometimes, and as such in the immortal words of ABBA:

OMG UPDATE!

The news is all over social media, Blake and Sam have, gasp, broken up! There are conflicting reports as to why…however, just goes to show, well I’m not sure what goes to show, or proves for that matter. Should he have picked Lisa. Should I even care? I don’t know anymore! Nothing makes sense….least of all The Bachelor!

OMG UPDATE UPDATE!!

Now I am totally confused, and not sure why I even care but the lastest news is that The Bachelor, Blake is that his name? Anyway, apparently he has now gone and hooked up with third place contestant Louise. Well, you know what. This is it. I give up. I need to focus on studying more anyway…

I forgive you.

We are not our mistakes

 

I recently posted a rant of Facebook, something I very rarely do which I now regret in a way but in another way it has actually brought up some issues which I think are worthy of further investigation. Forgiveness is something that is often overlooked as a form of therapy these days. The power of simply being able to say, with sincerity, “I forgive you” is perhaps the most powerful form of healing there is.

Being able to acknowledge and say sorry for past transgressions is one thing, but being able to forgive someone who has done you wrong is an entirely other proposition. Sometimes, it’s not possible to say sorry to someone, for various reasons, but if you do and they are gracious about it then that is when true healing starts.

But if it is possible, if the person is still alive or contactable should you? Well, that’s up to you. But if you do, should you expect their forgiveness? Well, no, of course you shouldn’t. It depends what has transpired and every case is different. However, if someone does apologise to you for something they have done that may have been hurtful to you, if you are able to forgive them then in the end, it is you who will receive the greatest gift. For being able to let go of hurt, suffering, pain, resentment and our attachment to these feelings can be the most liberating experience of a lifetime.

Maybe there is someone out there that really hurt you. Someone you blame, rightly perhaps, who did the wrong thing by you. Maybe they have never apologised. Maybe, and most likely, they never will. Should you still forgive them? Could you? Maybe your parents were jerks or outright abusive. Maybe a past partner has wronged you, hurt you and made you cry. Maybe an ex boss was a complete bitch to you and made you feel 2 feet tall and you have moved on from those times but the hurt is still there. The resentment, the anger is still lurking in the background waiting for a chance to ruin your day yet again.

Or maybe you’re the one who was hurtful to someone else. Maybe you have made mistakes and done things you just aren’t proud of and have never really been able to forgive yourself. Well, chances are that’s a good place to start.

What’s important to remember is that we are not our mistakes, for one thing. So much bad blood gets thrown around because we fail to separate the actions from the person, especially when it comes to ourselves. So, instead of saying, I did a bad thing, we say… I am a bad person because I did a bad thing. And over time we reduce that even further to, I am a bad person, or just “I am bad”.

Narrative therapy calls this a “meta-narrative” – stories we tell ourselves over and over again so that they become our way of thinking about and describing who we are . CBT calls them “core beliefs” – messages that we continuously and subliminally tell ourselves which become part of our definition of who we think we are. Whatever you decide to call them and whatever therapeutic modality or theory you choose the effect is essentially the same. We become what we tell ourselves is true. 

So in essence, perhaps the place to start is awareness. Separation of your self from your past acts and behaviours is the first step, and then just saying to yourself, I forgive you. That could be a pretty good place to start. Why not try it?

 

 

 

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: