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Einstellung Effects, the Little-Known Cause of Repeated Love Failures

Mini-Love-Lesson #227                                                              

Synopsis: Why do some people repeatedly fail at love or at some aspect of love relating?  Here you find out about a rarely known psychological mechanism that accounts for some of those failures; you learn some clever things you can do to see if this applies to you; and then, if it does, what to do about it.

Oh No, Not Again!

First there was Jeffrey who had pretty much the same failed marriage three times with three different women.  All three seemed so different from each other at first.  Then there was Sonya who kept getting psychologically and physically abused by a succession of lovers, each worse than the last.  She was so sure each one would be different than the last but they never were.  After them came Jake and Emma who married and divorced each other three times.  This brings us to Stella and Marco who swore they kept having the same fight over and over but could not find a way to stop and it was getting worse each time.  Lastly there was Katerina who had so many repeated love relationship failures she just gave up on love entirely.  Now she lives depressed and lonely.

At first it might seem that the examples just given are quite dissimilar to each other.  A deeper look shows they are not.  In fact, underlying each of them is a very similar psychological mechanism.  But wait, first let’s look at Victoria and Eva, Martin and Fiona, along with Zandra and Burke who all used to suffer from the same kinds of situations.  However, they all learned something that empowered them to escape their cycles of repeated failures at love relating and go on to fine and thriving love.

With some well-informed counseling, they came to understand they were effected by a little-known, seldom recognized, mental malfunction which prevents some people from choosing new and better solutions.  With that understanding and some help, they were able to work out and try out new solutions and approaches to their love life situations quite successfully.

That psychological mechanism is named the Einstellung Effect after the scientist who discovered it.  Here we are dealing with a relational form of the Einstellung Effect which shows up in a great many areas of human and animal behavior and, therefore, in most branches of psychology and its related fields.

The Basic Way Einstellung Works

A person (or a lab animal) gets used to dealing with a task, situation or problem in a certain way.  We will call that WAY 1.  Then a better way becomes available and/or apparently evident.  We will call that WAY 2.  Occasionally, the person or animal sees and explores WAY 2, even tries out WAY 2 or, at least, gives it a good look over.  Then even if WAY 2 works better than WAY 1 they go back to WAY 1 and keep doing that.  Frequently, the person then rationalizes why they keep choosing WAY 1.  Many do not even perceive the existence of WAY 2. or believe it to be better even when its superior attributes have been clearly pointed out.  While we do not know exactly what the lab animal is thinking, he behaves exactly the same as the person.  It keeps choosing WAY 1. and ignoring WAY 2. even when Way 1. does not work anymore.

Interestingly, there are people and lab animals who do not follow this pattern.  They quickly and often eagerly adopt the new and better ways, and that’s that.  For some people but not others, this is true in their love relationships.  Some people keep rather automatically repeating their love relating failure patterns while ignoring other solutions, and some do not.

Why Do Some Repeat Love Failure and Others Not?

Different branches of psychology and their related fields can posit different answers to this question.  Each of those answers may have some validity and add useful insights.  Addictionologists may say this is a classic relapse pattern and it is just what addictions make happen.  Psychophysiologists suggests that a part of the brain is malfunctioning in some people but not others.  Phenomenologists and perceptual psychologists analyze the first, and/or the early, success a person has which can put that pattern of success to the forefront, and put later possibilities to the background in our perceptual system, thus, hiding new ways from us.

Just like with eyesight, other people can have broader, perceptual ability.  Behavioral psychologists can deduce that some people have been positively reinforced for sticking with early success and others for later success.  Counselors and clinicians may diagnose trauma caused fear and anxiety states to be greater in those reluctant to try the new and different, even to the extent of subconsciously being blinded to the possibilities of trying something different.  Developmentalists could propose that during a early critical period, a love relationship pattern imprinted in some people and not others.  Attachment theories suggest that as young children the WAY 1 people had insecure bonding and the WAY 2 people more secure bonding so, they are more confident and less fearful concerning trying new things.

Now, notice that all the above branches of psychology and their presented possible explanations might be examples of the Einstellung effect itself.  Each school of thought is seeing things in their habituated mindset of what they are used to seeing and are being rather oblivious to the others.  Yet, they all may have value and are worth considering.  So, if one of those concepts above seems to draw your attention more than the others, study it.  Your subconscious may be trying to pull your conscious toward the one to look into the most.  But then again, your subconscious may be blinding you to the others via the Einstellung Effect so study them too.

What to Do about It

With the above you have some background knowledge to work with, so now let’s add some honest, personal, diagnostic self-examination accomplished by answering the following questions and case samples to think with:

1. In love life situations do you keep attempting solutions that never work, or do you keep looking for and trying new and very different approaches that might work?
(Case sample: After years of arguing his very logical points but always losing, Joe learned to do empathetic listening instead of arguing and his love-relating situations finally got happy and successful.)

2. Do you tend to favor and feel safer with established proven solutions, viewpoints and standard ways, while being reluctant and suspicious of untried, experimental and new knowledge-based approaches?
(Case sample: Teresa married and divorced three quite successful, big-city businessmen.  She then met, went off to work for and happily co-habited with an adventuresome, wilderness tour guide who she is still with 10 years later.)

3. In lover’s quarrels or spousal arguments’ do you both find yourselves saying and hearing the same things over and over with the same outcomes and with an increasing sense of futility, and/or with rage and/or desire to escape?  Or do you both make some progress trying new approaches and, by steps, make small improvements, quarrel less and shorter, and see your relationship with a growing, shared joy and encouragement?
(Case sample: Jake and Myrna, on the verge of a breakup, with the help of a couple’s counselor discovered their fighting patterns were the same as a combination of their parent’s fighting patterns, even lasting almost the same amount of time and with the same outcomes their parents had.  At first, they denied all this, then they agreed to attempt some small, new, different behaviors when their fights began.  That helped a bit so they tried some more steps and slowly things kept getting better and new, more loving patterns replace the old.)

4. Do you rather automatically find it hard to consider, be open to and/or appreciate a loved one’s alternative ideas, solutions or approaches to your own?
(Case sample: It was not until Dietrich and Hannah learned and practiced the reflective listening skill of saying back to each other, rather exactly, what the other one had just said that they realized they had never really heard each other accurately.  After that and with some appreciation and affirmation training, things got much better.)

5. Would your loved ones agree with the answer you gave question number 4?

Diagnosis to Treatment

After mulling over the above, do you think you, or whoever you are thinking about, experience repeated love failures that might be influenced by the relational form of the Einstellung Effect?  If so, what are you going to do about it.  Will you let this information sink in, mulling it over some more?  Will you discuss this with trusted friends or family?  Will you talk it over with whoever is personally involved, perhaps using this mini-love-lesson’s information?  Will you individually or jointly make exact, behavioral plans to change?  Will you journal and keep tabs on your efforts to change?  Will you read more about all this? (See “For Failing Love: Avoid, or Convert, or Escape” and “Is Love Ignorance the Problem?”) If needed, will you seek out and rigorously engage in counseling or therapy to make deep, solid improvements?

One More Little Thing

To help your heart fill and fill the other “hearts” in your life, fill your head with love knowledge.  To do that, if you haven’t already, SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE to automatically get our regular mini-love-lessons and, while you’re at it, maybe recommend somebody else to doing the same.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable question:   If you want someone you love to quit repeatedly doing something, might you best be willing to trade or just quit repeatedly doing something they don’t like first?

Infidelity & The Love Messages That Block & Stop It

Love-Lesson #180
FREE over 200 Mini-Love-Lessons touching the lives of thousands in over 190 countries – worldwide.

Synopsis: This Mini-Love-Lessons presents some amazing communication research that has been found to prevent and impede infidelity in couple’s relationships.  It reveals ‘expressional love’s’ often unrealized pro and anti-love infidelity effects and how to best use this knowledge (Want to tell someone about this one?).

An Amazing Discovery

Love research is wonderful!  Loveology, or the scientific study of love, and its discoveries are starting to be such a great help to so many.  Here we present a finding that can greatly assist couples avoid the betrayal of infidelity and the agony it so often causes.  This discovery first was made in an area sometimes called ‘expressional couples communication’.  You may know this extremely important area by its other name, ‘nonverbal’ communication.  Note that extensive previous research repeatedly has showed the nonverbal to frequently be more important than the verbal in love relationships.  (See Communications section in the Subject Index of this site ).

Expressional Love and Anti-Love Message Making

Your face may be saying a lot more than your mouth.  That can be true even if you are quite verbose.  Furthermore, your gestures and posture changes may be speaking volumes that you are consciously unaware of.  Your tones of voice even may be completely contradicting the words coming out of your mouth.  These are the elements of expressional communication.  Without knowing it and entirely subconsciously, it is possible for your expressional communication to be making and sending messages that will have a very anti-love or pro-love, relationship effect.

Your words may say I love you but expressionally you may be communicating to your beloved that you are withholding giving or showing them love.  From that they could interpret that they might as well go look for more and better love somewhere else.  Sadly this happens in many couple’s relationships.

Your facial expressions, your tonal expressions and other voice modulations, your gesture and posture expressions, they all make up your expressional message-making.  Whether you consciously know it or not, your expressional message-making always is going on when you are with your beloved.  It also turns out to be extremely important to the strengthening or weakening of your love relationships and the chances for infidelity to be encouraged or discouraged (See the “Infid. and Love” Mini-Love-Lesson).

The Huge Issue of Frequency

Also extremely important in expressional communication is how often you send what can be called love-positive messages compared to how often you send love-negative and love-neutral messages.  Note that love-neutral, expressional messages usually are interpreted, at least mildly, as love-negative.  Examples of love-positive, expressional messages are a wide range of different kinds of smiles, especially those that are very tender, accompanied by approval nodding, looks that are attentive and caring with good eye contact, friendly winks, reflective facial expressions conveying that you are emotionally congruent with a loved one, and the like.

Love-negative, expressional messages include scowling, shaking your head “no” especially while frowning, eye rolling, looks of contempt, moaning with disapproval, hate-staring, fist gestures and of course angry, demeaning voice tones.  Now, ask yourself how frequently do you think you may be sending both love-positive and love-negative, expressional messages and what effect do you suppose they are having?  (See the Communications section in Subject Index ).

The Astounding Discovery

Here is the astounding, essential and ever so useful discovery.  The ratio of expressional, love-positive to love-negative messages has been found to strongly indicate and influence whether or not infidelity will occur in a couple’s relationship.  If a couple consistently averages four or more love-positive, expressional messages to every one love-negative message, infidelity becomes highly unlikely.  Thus, it may take four loving smiles to counter an anti-loving scowl, four happy-toned, brief statements with good eye contact and a friendly look to counter the anti-love effects of a hatefully delivered sarcasm – and so forth.

The more a couple drops below the 4 to 1 ratio the more they are likely to be less happy and have more troubles, but in regard to infidelity they may still be somewhat safe.  However, if they drop below a one-to-one ratio of love-positive to love-negative, expressional communications, the chances for an infidelity occurring increase drastically.  In other words, if every smile is matched by one or more frowns, and every happy sound is matched by one or more unhappy sounds, or if every open arms welcoming gesture is matched by one or more ‘turning a cold shoulder’ actions, then one of the people in the couple’s relationship, and sometimes both, subconsciously are likely to begin looking for someone else.

How Good Was the Research?

This discovery and other closely related discoveries have been repeatedly found to be statistically significant, valid and reliable by a number of different research efforts made by various research teams.  In research and professional circles, this “four to one ratio” discovery has been called by many ‘ground breaking and highly important.  The research sample size is good and with replications it is growing.  The methodology is considered quite acceptable and the advanced statistical treatment is considered good.  If you are interested in the scientific technicalities involved here, I suggest you start by reviewing the research concerning “Precursors of Infidelity” in the professional journal, Family Process, especially Volume 47, pages 243 to 259.

How to Best Use This Knowledge

First, let us suggest you take a look at your own behaviors.  You may wish to inventory your own love-positive and love-negative, expressional messages  you are sending to your beloved and to other loved ones.  How often are you smiling and smiling back at those you love?  How often are you looking stone faced, or neutral or perhaps even like a grouch, or are sounding and appearing like a critical and judgmental parent?  Don’t forget to check out also looking bored and uninterested.

Are you sending out sighing sounds of disapproval, short clipped verbalizations that can sound angry, and what about your demeanor expressing superiority or condescension?  Do you frequently make loving eye contact and do you turn toward your beloved when they are talking.  Expressional self-study usually proves to be well worth it and often is a big aid to making improvements.

Second, we suggest you start making improvements experimentally.  Maybe start by uncrossing your arms and instead holding them open more to your loved ones.  Work to sound like you profoundly love who you love more frequently.  Remember, you are going to be helping your love relationship be stronger and more protected against infidelity and other problems by doing these sorts of expressional things.

Third, work against being phony as you take these steps.  If you feel you are being fake, pause and mentally tap into your love for your beloved.  Center your awareness in your love and see if you can come from that love-centered place toward your beloved, (See Mini-Love-Lessons “Love Centering Yourself”).

If you think it’s just not you to do more loving looks, sounds, gestures, posture changes, etc. remember this, you already could be subtly pushing someone you love toward the arms of another who may do expressional love better than you.  At least that is what the research suggests is all too likely to happen in couples situations.  So, why not live by the rule of four positive-love expressions to every love-negative action and, thereby, safeguard your relationship more (Read more about Expressional Love in the Communication section, for example : “Behaviors That Give Love – The Basic Core Four”, “Holding Hands with Love”, “How to Talk Love Without Words”, and several others listed in the Subject Index).

Fourth, talk to your beloved about both of you, purposefully examining and improving your love-positive, expressional communications to each other and perhaps to others as well.  Working as a team together to improve your love skills is another really good way to protect against infidelity.
If you do these things well, it is likely to make you happier and to make your relationship not only better but also better protected from infidelity occurring or reoccurring.

Caveats and Exceptions

Please don’t think that all there is to a good, well protected, love relationship is the 4 to 1 ratio.  This is just one factor.  It is, however, a much more important factor than many people realize.  Lots of other influences can intervene and cause exceptions to the 4 to 1 ratio rule.  But don’t count on that.  This 4:1 discovery is proving to apply to most couples and other kinds of love relationship too.
One big, important factor is the strength of both of the negative and positive, expressional communications.  One great big, loving smile may have more positive impact that a short, minor frown.  A love-filled, enthusiastic, open arms greeting may outweigh the importance of a person who only briefly turns their back on a loved one.

There are other ratio findings of considerable importance for making and creating love-positive messages and relationships.  However, the factor of expressional communication is so very often overlooked and so often subtly crucial to the blocking of infidelity and all the pain and problems it causes that it needs special attention.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: If you want more loving sounds, smiles, nods of approval, tender looks or any other expressional communications of love, can you reveal that desire to your beloved and ask for it freely and easily?  If not, can you ever so carefully reveal that desire and ask for it?

Breakup Survival, Then - Love & Life Thriving

Mini-Love-Lesson  #226

Synopsis: Fresh approaches and powerful ways to survive a major breakup and go on to a full, thriving love life are introduced, along with some practical how-to’s and go-to’s.

From Hell to Heaven

Breakups and their aftermath can be so incredibly painful, tragic, draining and disastrous but then, if you survive, such a helpful and good thing!  Handled well, breakups can lead to love and life thriving better than ever before.  There are three reasons I know this.  The first reason is I survived more than my fair share of agonized breakups.  The first one literally nearly killed me.  After that, they were less and less bad as I moved up to better and better, and finally to my now 40+ years with Kathleen and being the best loved guy you will ever meet (see “Why Love Problems Hurt so Bad”).

The second reason I know you can go from relationship hell to heaven is that I have assisted several hundreds of people to survive and then thrive after breakups, divorces and other love loss situations, plus I have taught and supervised a fair number of other relational counselors and therapists to know how to do the same.  That is part of the good news.  There, however, is bad news.

It is a sad truth that not everyone survives a breakup even with good, breakup, recovery help.  Breakups precede quite a few suicides, no small number of murders along with a much larger number of often injurious, unsuccessful attempts at each.  Falling into or relapsing into addictions of one type or another, starting to have serious health problems, getting in trouble with the law, losing one’s job, dropping out of school and literally dying of a heart attack also are much more likely to occur in the aftermath of a love relationship breakup.

You do not have to do any of those things.  The third reason tells us why.  It has to do with what research tells us.  Breakup recovery is getting better and better as we learn more about what breakup survival and recovery takes.  That research tells us most people do survive breakups.  This appears to be true for both real love and false love patterns of romantic relating.  It often is tough going at first and it can be quite dangerous for both mental and physical health.  But the research shows that even with severely agonizing breakups, if you get through the first 12 weeks of post-breakup suffering, you are very likely to get mostly okay enough in 20 weeks.  Then with more good therapeutic work, you can get to where you are living and loving happily within a year or two of even the severest breakup.

These time periods can be shortened.  I once was part of a in-house, psychiatric hospital, pilot, research effort investigating patient recovery from serious suicide attempts after romantic breakups.  This involved even patients suffering from severe IFD (see “False, Forms of Love: The Devastating IFD Syndrome”) and Limerance  (see “False Forms of Love: Limerence and Its Alluring Lies”) -- false love syndromes which were thought to be especially difficult to recovery from.  We found that with a healthy love, and self-love treatment focus, our less severe outpatients, as well as our more severe hospitalized (at first) patients, substantially recovered  in about six weeks.  They then all became quite glad they had not suicided.  At a sister facility, somewhat similar patients receiving treatment for only depression required 12 to 30 weeks to approximate the same level of recovery.

First Survive

In the aftermath of a severe breakup, the first thing to do is just stay alive.  In about 12 to 16 weeks you will be very likely be glad you did.  You probably can shorten that time estimate by quite a bit by engaging in certain therapeutic actions.

How to survive?  Well, first know that you may have to lay around and then thrash around for a while in all sorts of terrible feeling emotions.  For a time, it is kind of like suffering a prolonged hangover with a bad, full body sunburn, while being repeatedly water boarded and bitten by a vicious pit bull.  Later there often is rage which can sort of help with depression.  Catharsis (getting it out of your system) can help so long as you do not harm anyone or anything important including yourself.  Using a punching bag, chopping wood, stomping around cussing the cosmos, breaking up cheap stuff, etc. all are ways to get some needed exercise and emotion releasing relief.  My favorite is to go outside and for 20 minutes throw ice cubes at a brick wall or at a chalk outline on the driveway of whoever you want to hate for a while.  Ice shatters nicely and cleans itself up.  Know that too much inactivity is not your friend but a lot of sleep may be for a while.

At some point, you have to start forcing yourself out into the world briefly doing ordinary stuff.  Then lengthen the time doing that.  It will not feel good at first but rather kind of dead like.  Then there will come maybe only a 10 second bit of mildly positive emotion where you may grin or even smile.  Keep going and 10 second events will stretch to 30 seconds and maybe even contain some laughter.  Eventually you will get to feel positive for 10 minutes and then, at long last, 10 hours or more.  Downtimes will likely get shorter and shorter, and further and further apart but when they happen you may be pretty far down for a bit.  Uptimes will get longer, and higher and higher in an erratic pattern.  You can help that along by listening to upbeat music, going to see funny or exciting movies and doing all activities that distract you and that are not dangerous or downers emotionally.  Being around people and pets who care about you, and then forcing yourself to briefly start doing new things and meeting new people, all slowly will make your recovery a reality.  Avoiding doing these things will just make it all take longer (see “Heartbreak Mending and the Deep, Multi-Love Remedy”).  Of course, everyone is different so just use this as a guide to an average recovery but one to aim for.

Eventually, you will get to new romance if you want to.  New romance is dangerous but usually not as much as the old romance.  That also is true for new and past sex partner involvement.  I usually recommend working at a new “romance light – playing the field” approach at first.  To do that, work toward including at least two, maybe three, no more than five mild, romantic involvements.  Be open and honest with them all about the existence of the others.  Then weed out the ones who will not or can not handle sharing you.  Suspect they probably would turn out to be insufficiently self loving, be too possessive and too insecure.  In this way, you let the best ones rise from the pack and you do not let yourself settle for less, while also going more slowly, safely and constructively forward.

Get Busy but Not Frantic

Diving into work, school, projects, voluntary efforts or anything helpful to others, productive and highly distracting is part of the cure for many.  If you compulsively think often and hurtfully about your ex, the past and what went wrong, consider doing it this way.  Suspect that a part of your subconscious is trying to tell you that you have more to learn from that expired relationship than you have so far.  So, plan and schedule an hour or so to concentrate on that every day for a while.  During that time, do concentrated study, especially focusing on ideas of what to do new, better and different in a next relationship.  Also look at your other relationships going back to the ones you had when you are a child.  Look for patterns.  Study to see if your most recent romantic involvements show a pattern of each one being better than the last.  If so, that is a very good sign.  If they all are about the same or getting worse, radical change may be in order and a good love knowledgeable therapist can help.

Plan the ending time for that concentrated study and plan what you are going to definitely do right afterwards.  Keep notes or a journal.  Consider pretending to talk to your broken heart as if it was another person and ask it questions.  Then pretend to be your broken heart giving you the answers which you can make up even if they’re silly.  Very likely, some of them will be surprisingly fresh and spot on.  Gamble on the idea that your subconscious can tell you good answers your conscious does not yet know.  When the hour ends, get up and actively go do more of your regular or new life.  Get and stay busy enough to be distracted from thinking about your old life and relationship.  Gamble on the idea that your subconscious will let you alone after you have learned enough from the old relationship.

On to Life and Love Thriving

At some point along your path of surviving, you also can start toward thriving.  Thriving means doing really well and living and loving enriched, fulfilled and in profoundly satisfying ways that include lots of healthy, real love.  Remember, a lot of others have suffered through the same sort of things you are going through and then they have gone on to thriving so you probably can do this too.  There is a lot of wisdom in the idea that if you can survive you can thrive.  Gamble on that idea.

Grow Your Use of Love Sources

With healthy self-love you can be your own source of healing, strength and even joyous love.  Decide you definitely are important enough to yourself to learn and practice lots of healthy self-love (see “Self-Love and Its Five Healthy Functions” and “From Self-Love to Other Love and Back Again”).  Gamble on the idea that the better you love yourself the better others will also.  Spiritual love also has been known to do wonders for people of all faiths, and even those of no faith who attempt to tap into it as an unknown source or one they do not believe in but are willing to experiment with. Link “Spirituality and Love Great and Grand”

Of course, love from okay others is highly desirable.  I often have gotten good results by suggesting to those who are alone, isolated and lonely, to start with a loving pet.  Then go around new people (see “A Dozen Kinds of Love to Have in Your Life”).

If you do not have okay others in your life, friends, family and the like, gamble on the idea there are okay others searching for you right now.  Your job is to make it easy for them to find you and you to find them.  Yes, you could get hurt or hurt again but with lots of healthy self-love, pet love, maybe some new friend love, plus powerful new love knowledge you likely will not hurt nearly as much, as long, or as deep as before (see “Living Well via Loving Well”).

Keep carefully adventuring forward in love and love relationships as you grow your love skills, and great and good things can happen.  Remember – Do only old actions, you’ll get only old results.  Do not much, and probably get not much.

To Break All Ties or Not?

Love breakups, especially those involving false love syndromes, distort nature in ways that are similar to substance addictions.  This happens neurochemically in your brain.  Every time you re-encounter an addictive substance, or trigger, you are in danger of restarting a brain-made addiction process.  That can lead you back into a bad relationship or just cause you a lot of fresh hurt.  Safest is to not have anything to do with the ex lover for at least two years.  That is not at all possible in lots of life situations like if you work together or share children.  Try practicing a few coping tricks to help you get through times of temptation and re-triggered suffering.  Here’s one.

Think of 3 to 5 of the worst experiences you ever had with your ex.  Give each of those experiences a movie or book type title, and write those titles on a card you carry with you.  Before each encounter with your ex, read the titles.  With each title, ask yourself do you want to re-live another version of that experience again?  Then after that encounter, reread each title, emphatically choosing not to put yourself through that again.

Afterward, do a really good job of loving yourself and, if possible, letting a special, dear other person or persons do the same with you.  Pre-arrange for that.  Then celebrate your escape.

Thriving usually happens as you learn and develop your love skills.  So, how are your skills for loving life, yourself, your spiritual source, others, a super special other and the joy of living a fulfilled life.  For thriving, learn about and develop each of those skill-sets further.

Positivity Feeds Thriving

The results are in.  Realistic positivity works better than anything else.  Realistic positivity means (1.) With a spirited approach, planning and working to maximize the benefits, joys and other positives of any endeavor or situation while (2.)  Taking in to account and planning how to’s for converting or surmounting the likely trials, tribulations, torments and other negatives of any endeavor or situation and (3.) With some adaptability, not surrendering, giving up or giving in easily.  The old scout law had a phrase “and defeat does not down him”.  Taken to heart, that phrase has made the difference between victory and defeat for many an old scout, including this one.  It can for you too.

Positivity is not to be confused with being Pollyanna.  The Pollyanna approach tends to ignore the negatives while positivity aims to embrace and convert or surmount them.

The newer field of positive psychology and, with it, the newer profession of Life Coaching are adding much to the older approaches of focusing mostly on either psychopathology or mere normalcy.  With positivity, you can aim to go above normal in life and love.  So, let me recommend the book Positivity by Dr. Barbara L Fredrickson who heads up the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology (PEP) laboratory at Chapel Hill’s University of North Carolina.

Are You Growing Your Lovability?

This question has two meanings and we mean both of them.  In the first meaning, Lovability works like magnetism, it attracts people to you.  To be well loved, become more lovable.  That was the Roman poet Ovid’s advice 2000 years ago.  Assertively lovable people get more love.  The assertive part comes from their strong, healthy self-love and the lovable part from their strong, healthy and well practiced love skills. Link “Becoming Well Loved and More Loved – Three Main Ways”  This leads to the second meaning.

Lovability also means your ability to love.  The more you do to learn and practice your ability to give, get, and receive healthy, real love the more you are likely to receive, get and give the same.

For all this and more, I recommend you read the book Lovability by Dr. Robert Holden, director of the love education effort known as The Lovability Program.

Going Further

For going further with all this, I suggest you consider, if you have not already, subscribing to automatically getting our totally free, mini-love-lessons every week and then, of course, studying them and applying everything you can to your life.  You also might mention this site to others, talk over some of these ideas with them and, thus, help spread some much-needed, useful knowledge about love to our love-hungry world.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable question:  If you hope that someone will come along and wonderfully love you into a new and better life, could it be that that someone best might be - you?

Spirituality And Love Great and Grand

Synopsis: This mini love lesson starts with love’s spiritual mystery; then explores central questions by surveying what the wisdom masters of old taught; the spiritual goodness of love; religion, spirituality and love; erotic spiritual love; and more.

Love’s Spiritual Mystery

On the beach a couple with arms around each other, under a full moon, looking out over the vastness of the ocean’s rolling waves feels they are awesomely, spiritually connected in love with each other and the universe.

A family surrounding the mother and the just born, new member of their family feel much the same, wondrous effect.  Dear, close friends also experience this standing together at the edge of the Grand Canyon as the sun sets magnificently behind the cliffs.  High atop a mountain, a lone individual looks out over a vastness of snow capped peaks and the mountain hiker feels spiritually and superbly loved by an unknown something he or she does not care or need to define.  What is this mysterious, yet great and grand, sense of the ‘spiritual’ that sometimes comes with a sense that one is permeated by a high and wondrous love?

Essential Questions

Do you see love as spiritual?

Many people around the world and throughout history have described love as a spiritual phenomenon.  For many love is the spiritual force in the universe.  It is proclaimed that whether it be love of a newborn baby, a mate, a family, a people, love of country, or art, or music, or nature, or humanity, or life itself, or even existence, love is a mystical, grand, and glorious spiritual thing inspiring individuals and relationships to the best of what they can become.  Do you see it this way?
Some say that because love is a spiritual force it, more than anything else, inspires our best and greatest actions.  Especially might this be true for actions involving connection, cooperation, collaboration and unified effort.

Others suggest that the spiritual force of love is what makes it able to inspire great individual acts of risk, protection, dedication, loyalty and courage.  That it is the spiritual force of love that’s behind the great acts of compassion and kindness in the universe is also a common teaching.  Is that your view?  Is love for you a great and grand, spiritual thing? If so, are all your love relationships spiritual?  Are all love relationships in the world spiritual?  Do we best deal with love by seeing it as essentially spiritual?

What The Wisdom Masters of Old Teach

There is an ancient Hindu teaching that says before there was anything there was just love.  Love because of its nature had to create, so in an incredible, explosive burst love gave birth to all that exists, the heavenly spheres, time, space, everything.  From that came life itself and all beings both heavenly and earth bound.  From that Hindu teaching flows the concept that all that exists flows with love and we, therefore, best flow with love in all that we do.

Buddhism teaches that our life is to sing the song of compassionate love divine.  Judaism, and later Jesus taught that we are to love God and love others as we love ourselves.  John of the Epistles simply proclaimed “God is love”.  Taoism puts forth erotic love as a supreme, spiritual love.  Rumi, the great Sufi master of Islam, taught the ways of love are the ways of Allah and, therefore, are above and beyond all else.  Furthermore, each and every form of true love is in fact but a manifestations of Allah’s love.  Therefore, all true love is spiritual in its essential nature.

The ancient Egyptian Scriptures of Hathor and Isis, the Great Mother spiritual teachings of the Fertile Crescent and beyond, all hold love to be the greatest spiritual existence, practice and blessing.  Again and again  all the way back to the dawn of history  love is exalted as a phenomenon of spirituality.  In philosophy Plato’s great Symposium on Love speaks to love’s mysterious, mystical and metaphysical essence, as do philosophers in many ages and from many lands.

What is Spirituality?

Explaining spirituality is not the easiest thing to do.  To help your understanding and my comprehension of what spirituality is, let’s look at some different and some similar ideas.

1. Spirituality is that which connects you to both your essential, innermost, core self and at the same time to the awesome ‘all’ that is beyond all of us.

2. Spirituality is a way of relating and living with that which is greater than ourselves and ultimately with the greatest of all that is.

3. Spirituality is that which enables you to have some knowledge of the unknowable.

4. Spirituality is a mysterious awareness bringing us into connection, harmony and unity with that which is both serenely awesome and intimately colossal.

5. Spirituality is that which makes us feel safe at home in a frighteningly infinite universe.
6. Spirituality is our way of connecting with divine love.

Technically spirituality has to do with that which is of the spirit, i.e. the breath of life.  Originally spirituality meant something more or less like being in-spirited or inspired by the breath of life which was the spiritual force and a gift of the gods or God.  To be spiritually inspired was to commune with the eternal and universal or to be filled with the active essence of Divine love. Spirituality has commonly been seen as the way to be in connection with divinity, one’s higher power, the great spirit, the Saints, the jinns or spirit world, the great Goddess or the omnipresent, omniscient, great God – depending on one’s personal theology.

Non-Religious Spiritual Love

It is important to note that philosophically one can be spiritual and at the same time agnostic or even atheist.  In this case, spirituality is not seen as being dependent on religious belief but rather on having a reverential appreciation of anything more grand and greater than the one’s self, such as life, or existence, or beauty or love itself, etc.  With this understanding one’s love can be seen as a highly spiritual entity or phenomenon no matter what one’s religious belief system is.

Understanding Love

To find answers to the question “What is Love?”, I want to refer you back to the Definitions and discussions, and especially the Working Definition of Love already available at this site.

What Is Spiritual Love and What Does It Do for Us?

If you haven’t already perceived or experienced it, imagine feeling loved by the cosmos, the life force, the universe, some great, transcendental, metaphysical entity, or by whatever so many people call God.  That experience can be magnificently empowering, healing, motivating and for many, most of all, inspiring.  It also can be enormously reassuring, comforting, caring and intimately, personally inspiring in a whole different way than anything else.  Now imagine that the love connection you have with anyone and everyone you love, is linked to and saturated with a great and grand spiritual, power of love.

With a sense of that can you also then think that through love you are or you can be spiritually united with yourself and feel amazingly whole? For many people that seems to be their truth.  Furthermore, through the spiritual force in love can you have a sense of being connected to all people, and creatures and spirits who genuinely love?

Spirituality and its essential love-based nature often is the lifeline that keeps people alive when nothing else would.  Spirituality also is something that helps people let go of their biological life when staying physically alive is no longer tenable.  Love, when recognized and sensed as a spiritual force, brings us what some call the Konos experience.   That is when two or more people are gathered together in the spirit of love; they also can be united with something far greater and grander than the sum of their collected selves.  This is reported to be experienced as awesome beyond imagination.

The Spiritual Goodness of Love

By seeing a spiritual dimension to love, any healthy, real, love relationship can be seen, as at least partially if not wholly, a true goodness.  By identifying love as a spiritual entity or phenomenon one can associate it with goodness and distance it from the purely selfish, or the destructive mentality that promotes ideas like “all’s fair in love and war” and the unethical corrupting mindset that proclaims “winning is the only thing that counts”.  By comprehending love as a great, spiritual marvel one conceptually takes love to a higher plane, removing it from the trivial, the mundane and the lesser important factors in life.

Compassionate love, as the Buddhists teach, especially works against crass commercialism, common dishonesty and deception, against the power for power’s sake mindset, money hungry forces and the “dog eat dog” approach to business practices.  The spiritual nature of love is seen to inspire higher order behavior, bring out empathetic and altruistic action, inspire  lifelong dedication, and move people to great cooperative action in the service of all sorts of humanitarian and democratic causes.  The spiritual component in love also  sometimes is given credit for helping us move toward beauty and away from spiritless ugliness, toward natural wonder and away from lifeless, impersonal mechanization.

Love lived as a spiritual blessing can help lead to soaring actualization, improved lives and saved lives, and can help lead to the defeat of anti-human and anti-natural destructive forces.

Religion, Spirituality and Love

Great numbers of people find their lessons about love and spirituality via religion and they benefit from doing so.  Also unfortunately a lot of religion seems to get in the way of spirituality and, as sometimes practiced, leads away from healthy, real love.  While some religions are quite healthfully love-centered and love-focused, sadly, there are others that seem to operate just the opposite.
See if you think this is true. “Spirituality without love does not exist.  If this is true it proves ‘loveless religion’ to be ‘false religion’ because it is devoid of true spirituality”.

Some people’s religion primarily is guilt and shame dominated.  Other people’s religion mostly is about escaping damnation (‘fire insurance religion’).  For a great many people religion is just a great big “I’m okay  you’re not” game (unless, of course, you are in my religion and behaving ever so correctly, as I think you should).  For others it’s just a pleasant way of socializing or achieving status, or living in the safety of conformity.

I suggest none of this is spiritually love-focused.  I like to recommend to people I counsel that when they are looking for a religious or spiritual involvement with others, check out the amount of love emphasis actually going on with those others.  If the love emphasis is high it may be mentally healthy and if not, probably not.

Erotic Spiritual Love

A couple silently lays naked together after lovemaking and feels mystically, spiritually united with one another and with all space and time, and with all who have ever felt deep, spiritual love.  Have you had this experience or something like it?

For many in the world spirituality and sex are seen as each other’s enemy.  But this is not true for a great many others.  For the Taoist many of the ways of being sexual are the ways of being spiritual.  For Tantric practicing Buddhists, and Hindus, and certain branches of Wicca, along with particular Eastern Orthodox sects sexual ecstasy weaves together with spiritual ecstasy quite well.

It is thought that at the dawn of history, in the worship of the Great Mother, sexual feelings were considered her sacred, inspiring gift to humans and were, therefore, spiritual and sacred.  This made rape and many other less than healthy forms of sexual behavior greatly chastised and to be avoided or one might be cursed by the Great Mother and have to live a life of sexless agony.

So with these thoughts in mind, might you live in a way that integrates your love, your sexuality and your spirituality?

What To Do

Perhaps you would like to worshipfully pray or meditate on these matters.  A lively discussion with others may be a desirable possibility.  Reading about love and spirituality can be an option. Taking classes, going to workshops and seminars, and diligently studying the issues involved might be a way of productively dealing with all this.  Deciding to approach all love relationships with a certain amount of spirituality may yield good results.  Letting all this germinate in your subconscious and waiting to see what may unfold or emerge is another good possibility.  What do you suppose will be your way?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Is healthy self-love a spiritual practice and if you see it as such how will you practice it?

Co-Connecting -- An Essential Love Team Skill

Mini-Love-Lesson #225

Synopsis:  Introduce yourself to love teams and love’s teamwork; co-connecting with love for love relationships that really work; love advancement via co-connecting; and learning to see your circular system in this rich and enriching mini-love-lesson.

The Love Team Basic

For having a love relationship that really works, the people in the love relationship come to operate as a high functioning love team.  So, what do you know about being a good love team member?  Unfortunately the bad news is lots of people have not been trained to be a good team members of anything, let alone a love team.  The good news is you can learn and even enjoy the learning as you grow your love team skills.  Whether you are already good, or not, at love team skills, I suspect this mini-love-lesson is likely to help you get better.  So, here is a basic:

                Feeling Love Is Natural
Doing Love Takes Work – and –
Doing Love Together with Another Takes Teamwork

We do not learn and do teamwork by ourselves.  Love’s teamwork is learned and done jointly.  It takes some learning new ways, some unlearning old ways and lots of practicing better ways.  All sorts of jointly learning and jointly practicing better ways of loving in areas like communication, coordination, cooperation, compromising/synthesizing, companioning, concurring, concordant interacting, comradeship, conjoint pleasuring skills and play are involved.  One of the best things to learn for doing love’s teamwork well and better has to do with co-connecting.

Co-Connecting for a Love That Works

Connection is one of the five major functions of love link “A Functional Definition of Love”.  Co-connection skills are a major factor in what makes love become and keeps love being an ongoing, successful, relationship of love.  Without co-connection, love encounters and loving incidents can occur and exist for a while but they will not make a full-fledged, love relationship.  How often co-connection occurs and the quality of the co-connection has a lot to do with the strength and health of a love relationship.  People can feel love connected but unless they act in love’s co-connecting ways they are not likely to develop much of the full potential of a well-functioning and advancing love relationship.

What Is Co-Connecting with Love?

To understand co-connecting with love, think of two people doing a good job of lovingly hugging each other.  First they have to become aware of each other, then turn and move toward each other, then coordinate making their physical contact, followed by mindfully letting the feel of the hug mentally and emotionally soak in.  Then they might add some extra squeezing, caressing, fondling and other movements and maybe make some pleasurable sounds and comments as they savor the experience.  All those parts, or steps, go into two people co-connecting.  The steps are (1) focused awareness of each other, (2) emotionally and physically turning toward and moving toward each other, (3) emotionally making coordinated contact with each other, (4) mindfully and emotionally soaking up the feelings of that contact, then (5) adding embellishments and elaborations of the co-connection, and (6) savoring the love experience together.

If only one of the hugging people attempts to do these things and the other is limp, or stiff or in other ways nonresponsive, it does not work.  They are not two people co-connecting in joint, love action teamwork.

Now, think of a baby and its mother.  The mother holds the baby and the baby looks up and smiles maybe making a happy sound or wiggle which the mother sees and feels good with, and then she smiles back bigger at the infant, and then the infant does the same.  Love’s natural co-connecting is occurring.  In the brains of both the baby and mom, hormones are being released that facilitate love bonding and feeling good together.  Sadly there are some rare brain disorders and psychiatric conditions which make some moms and some babies unable to accomplish this co-connecting.  Also there are those that go through the overt touching and holding actions but it is not genuine and the brain does not make the chemicals that process the bonding or the good feelings.

Love’s co-connecting only happens when two or more are rather simultaneously giving and receiving each other’s love via the acts that convey love.  They, in effect, are cycling love and in the process generating more love.

With practice and artistry as a unified team, we can come to send and receive love actions in a wonderful co-functioning and co-connecting manner.  This is somewhat comparable to dancing the tango.  Each person moves with strong individuality but in harmonious, highly coordinated wholeness.  Either person making the same movements alone might be interesting but not as magnificent and amazing as the two harmoniously together.  The movements of the tango are revealing and representative of interacting with intimate passions and often the interconnecting emotions of a deeply felt, concurrent, co-connecting love relationship.  Both the tango and co-connecting via love can be erotically beautiful to behold and even better to participate in.

Co-Connecting For Love Advancement

We call it co-connecting, not just connecting, for a good reason. This is because in some love relationships only one person, or animal, is enacting the behaviors that bring about the sense of being love connected.  Co-connecting love is accomplished by two or more in a systemic, coordinated, interacting teamwork.  Together they form a joint system with various, repeated, behavioral patterns for giving, receiving, creating, using and enjoying love together.  Think of both a dance company and an American football team.  They both have people doing sometimes different and sometimes similar things individually but with interweaving patterns of behavior.  These patterns, when well executed, advance the cause and reason for the existence of both groups.  Likewise, it is with those in love who co-connect well.  (This also is true of many counselors and therapists and whether or not they become good at couple, family or conjoint therapy.)

Now, there is a problem.  Most people are not well-trained at seeing interaction patterns or all-over systemic functioning.  It is hard enough to understand the patterns of one person’s behavior let alone two, as in a couple, or more than two as in a family.  Many people who, for the first time, attend a modern dance troupe performance or a football game just see a lot of individuals moving around in peculiar ways.  They do not see the rhyme or reason, that is the patterns and systems forming and reforming, nor do they see the artful, and often beautiful and even astounding accomplishments of perfected teamwork going on before their eyes.  For first-timers, they may only see chaos and have no idea why at various times other watchers are clapping or cheering wildly.  When there is good, love-based, co-connection teamwork in couples, families, close friendships and comrade networks, similar amazing advancements and accomplishments can be achieved.  For people in a love relationship to make these advancements, it helps to see the larger picture of interaction patterns and the even bigger systems governing what is happening.     

If you only see individuals and never their interrelationship system, you may never see your own system and how it influences your own conjoint behavior.  It is extremely useful to see how you yourself and those you love behave in both healthy and unhealthy, circular patterns of interacting.  It also is quite difficult, especially at first.  But if you can learn to see your joint patterns and systems, you also can discover all sorts of ways to make life advancements, not to mention experiencing the joys they provide.  Here, we have space only to introduce you to this concept of systemic relating and how it is confluent with teamwork love and co-connecting love.  We encourage you to think with these concepts, apply them to your own life and see what you come up with.

One more thing, see what happens when you talk these ideas over with others, and while you are at it, we will thank you for mentioning this site to others so they also might have a bit more to do with and about love in their life.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

A Quotable Question about Love
Do not all love connections involve risk and, therefore, require at least some courage? (So, are you and yours – love courageous?)