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Wellness: Its Necessity, Healthy Real Love

Mini-Love-Lesson  #220

Synopsis:  How the Wellness approach includes, but takes us beyond, ordinary healthcare and reparative/maintenance medicine.  The wellness focus takes us to higher levels of filling our potential for greater health and includes how love (self, other, higher, etc. love) is crucial to the process.

The Health/Love Connection

Can you be healthy without Love?  The mounting evidence is strongly pointing to the answer being – no.  No, because it seems that without healthy, real love in our lives we begin to neurochemically and biochemically malfunction.  That sets us up for a host of serious biological, psychological and associated relational problems.  Fortunately, the opposite is also true.  With a sufficient supply of healthy, real love, our physical, psychological and relational health tends to soar.  When we are the recipient of healthy, real love behaviors our brain and body chemistry processes operate more efficiently, effectively, more powerfully and just generally better.  To know more, you can Google Love and Health and get into the plethora of supporting studies and books.  Our bodies, and especially our brains, respond to those improved chemistry changes in many wonderfully healthful ways.  In turn, that greatly assists us in achieving our personal potential for above normal health and maximum wellness.

You can learn the details of how all that functions by reading Love and Survival by Dr. Dean Ornish, a wellness-oriented physician/medical researcher.  He wrote one of the best and most interesting summary books on how love effects health.  Also, at this site, you can go to “What Your Brain Does with Love - Put Simply”.

Wellness and How It Differs from Other Healthcare?

The Wellness approach is rather different than the treating sickness and fixing injuries focus which historically is the more usual orientation of medicine.  It also is different from the prevention and safety foci of many healthcare services.  Wellness aims at helping us achieve higher than average or above normal “high health”.

Wellness practices involve a process of taking actions toward more healthful living, above and beyond just treating issues of ill health or just maintaining one’s average level of general health.  The wellness approach aims at promoting and achieving maximum health in all major areas of life.  That includes physical, psychological (cognitive and emotional), occupational, spiritual or metaphysical, environmental and relational aspects of life.  It is a lifestyle and holistically oriented, multidisciplinary effort aimed at optimal, healthful living for not only an individual’s benefit but also for communitarian and ecological healthfulness.  It's hard to live in ongoing wellness surrounded by that which is unhealthy.  Sooner or later a sick environment makes its inhabitants sick too.

Wellness approaches especially are focused on discovering and assisting the development of positive strengths, qualities and potentials for health.  It is more about advancing what is good and what can become really good than fixing what is wrong or just keeping things well enough.  Fixing what is wrong, if there is something wrong, is of course included in the wellness approach. 
The medical wellness approach to health is inclusive of augmentative and super-additional practices.  At some wellness centers this includes non-illness issues such as skin care, hair care, massage therapy, exercise and nutrition assistance. 

Helping Love Help Your Health

First, some questions.  How is your love relationship with yourself?  That is important because the more you healthfully love yourself, the more you are likely to do a good job of growing your wellness.  Conversely, a lack of healthy self-love can result in poor self-care, poor motivation to improve or to stay with a program for wellness, as well as poor self-love can lead to ignoring one's sabotaging, unhealthy, lifestyle actions.

For help with healthy self-love, at this site go to these mini-love-lessons: “Self-Love – What Is It?”,  “Self-Love, a Good Thing or a Bad Thing”, and “From Self-Love to Other Love and Back Again”.

Also, how are your love relationships with others?  Who will benefit by you growing your wellness?  That is important because the more you grow your wellness the better you are likely to be at loving those you love and those who love you.  So, who do you truly love and who are you loved by?  And/or are you going to give them a more well you?

Next, do you have and are you working at having healthy, well-functioning and empowering love relationships?  If you are, that can do absolute wonders for your wellness development.  Conversely, a lack of love, being trapped in a false love syndrome, or living in love relationships that are filled with problems can do terrible things to you and your health.  Those negative lifestyles may weaken your immunity mechanisms, bring on stress reactions, mess up digestion and metabolism functioning, increase your bad cholesterol, drain and de-energize you, cause insomnia or other sleep disturbances, lessen cancer resistance, make for blood pressure problems and greatly increase your likelihood of developing anxiety and/or depression problems, cause addiction’s relapse, increase the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes, as well as exacerbate any other health difficulties you may be dealing with.

So, how is your spouse/mate love, family love, deep friendship love, pet love, spiritual love, love of life, altruistic love, and all else you may truly love?   Are your love relationships empowering you, inspiring you, sustaining you, reducing your stress and bringing you substantial happiness?  Now, as you assess this, don't forget your love relationship with yourself.  Ample evidence shows the more you work to improve and enjoy your love relationships the more likely you are to be helping your health move toward fulfilling your personal potential for wellness.

The Flourishing of Wellness Medicine & Healthcare

Newly started wellness-focused medicine and healthcare programs are assisting people of all ages, situations and conditions to move toward fulfilling their own potential for wellness and high health.  Physicians, RNs, PAs, psychotherapists, health counselors and coaches, plus a good many others, have begun to receive specialist training in wellness medicine/healthcare and also start qualifying for recently instituted, specialized wellness credentialing.  Newly created Wellness Centers and clinics are showing up in more and more communities.  Degrees in wellness are starting to be offered at universities.  Large corporations are starting wellness programs for their workers staffed by specially trained, new, wellness practitioners.  But you may wonder, what really makes wellness medicine different or an advancement?  What does it have to offer in addition to the more familiar forms of medical care?

In the past, most of medical practice has been focused on treating illness and injury, or in disease prevention and safety maintenance.  And as stated above, the wellness focus in medicine is different in that it aims toward achieving "high health" or maximum wellness and greater fulfillment of one's potential for living healthfully.  This has led to new and different diagnostic procedures, along with new recommendations for health achieving behaviors, new and different medicinal prescriptions and protocols, as well as new and different forms of treatments and treatment regimens.

Wellness medicine is a little bit similar to the bracket of sports medicine which focuses on improving and maintaining high athletic performance.  But instead of a sport orientation, the goal is helping fulfill our potential for achieving above usual health.  You see, you are built with a potential to go beyond average and achieve above normal healthfulness.  The wellness focus in healthcare is aimed at helping you fulfill that potential.

Furthermore, a wellness approach can help you become more healthful in a wider variety of non-critical areas that often do not get attended to.  Even though some of these are not crucial, those areas when improved add to your general, all over wellness and sense of well-being.

The wellness approach is based in a growing body of medical and related research into what is different about the people who live in high health around the world.  What you do and do not put into your body, plus how and how much you exercise plays a big role.  Genetics, of course, is part of all over wellness.  But the rest of it, and perhaps the majority factor, has to do with healthful lifestyle behaviors and the thoughts and behaviors that support those lifestyle behaviors.  That is where love comes in along with everything else that impacts you emotionally, cognitively and behaviorally.

Here is a simple, arguable precept.  Those who love well and are loved well tend to live well.  They also tend to live longer, more fulfilled, happier, physically and psychologically healthier, more productive, more socially connected and satisfied, and generally live more beneficially to others.  If you doubt that, do some research.  I suggest you start with our working definition of love so that you have a more grounded and factual understanding of what we mean by love (see “The Definition of Love”).  Then read the widely acclaimed work titled Who Gets Sick by Dr. Blair Justice, a highly regarded health research psychologist.  You can Google “love and health” and dig into all the research about the many surprising ways love positively influences physical and psychological health.  I think you'll find plenty of evidence showing healthy, real love is wonderful for whatever ails you and for developing wellness.

How to Go toward Your Own Greater Wellness

Take action!  Look for wellness practitioners and Wellness Centers in your own locale.  Read some of their websites.  Call one or two of them and ask about what they offer.  Go visit a wellness center and get a feel for the place and the personnel you meet there.  Get and read some of their literature.  Be sure to get a list of the credentials of the main practitioners working there.  Check some of those out on the Internet.  Do they hold doctorates and, if so, in what?  Are they licensed health professionals?  It appears that osteopathic physicians (DOs) are providing a lot of the leadership in the wellness approach but there also are plenty of MDs, PhD's R.N.'s PAs and others.  Find out if this particular practitioner or wellness center is connected to, or associated with, a hospital, medical clinic, university or other recognized institution or health involved agency.  Then see if you can get an introductory, possibly free conference with one of the center’s practitioners so as to find out what they might do with and for you.

Wellness centers vary widely in their offerings.  Some are in places where traditional medicine is also practiced.  Others have alternative, new age and Oriental health treatments available.  Still others may offer physical therapy, hormone balancing, laser services, couples enrichment, weight control, stress management, high achievement coaching, meditation, a wide variety of different forms of massage therapy and quite a host of other services.

Some wellness practitioners and wellness centers include programs for couples and families and children and even, once in a while, pets.  Also some wellness professionals and centers have really terrific diagnostic options by which they can tell you all sorts of important health information and use to design a really fine, personalized and custom tailored, just for you, wellness program.  Group programs also may exist, and have the extra advantages of interaction dynamics, and may be cheaper too.  So, be sure to get the full rundown.  Then consider signing up for something and trying-on for size the wellness approach.  Many do and are very glad of it.

If you cannot find a wellness practitioner or wellness center close enough, you might want to check with the USA's National Wellness Institute at the University of Wisconsin.  There you may be able to find out about their programs, along with various online offerings and additional recommendations.  They also may be able to make suggestions for finding wellness practitioners, centers and organizations in your locale and internationally.

One more thing.  Who are you going to talk over wellness ideas  with, and maybe in the process tell them about this site and all its many offerings?

As always –Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question:  Who would you most like to team with going toward greater wellness?

Attraction or Love or What?

Synopsis: Attraction/love confusion problems; understanding attraction systems; nature’s way; sexuality attracts but love bonds; insecurity issues; sharing attraction system pleasures.

Attraction/Love Confusion Problems

“Where can I go to live, where I’d like to live and where there are no redheads?  I know it sounds crazy but, you see, I fall in love with just about every redhead I meet.  I’ll never be able to settle down and stay faithful because the next redhead will come along and I won’t be able to resist this ‘falling in love thing’ I do with redheads.”

Does this person really have a ‘fall in love’ with redheads problem?  No, not really.  This person appears to have a ‘fall in’ multiple, perhaps serial, attraction issue which they are confusing with real love.  I suspect this person hasn’t gotten even close to having anything like a true ‘love’ problem.  It would seem they, like many, may not have learned to clearly perceive, understand, and think about the big differences between love (the healthy, real kind) and mere attraction.

There are lots of other ways that the love/attraction confusion causes problems.  To really see that, read a few more quotes.  “I’m getting wrinkles, getting gray hair and looking older.  I’m really afraid my husband will quit loving me when I look old, and then he will fall in love with someone who looks like I did when I was 20, and he will leave me for her.”  The woman who said that did not understand that it is not looks, but love, that best holds couples together over time.

“My wife has recently developed this thing for young men with swimmer’s bodies, you know, the long, lean, smooth-stretched muscle types.  I don’t look anything like that, so does this mean she doesn’t love me anymore and she’s really looking for somebody else?  The answer to this man’s question is “probably not”.  It just likely means that her attraction dynamics direct her toward having some enjoyment and maybe mild, fantasy fun thinking about ‘swimmer’ types, but probably she loves her husband dearly.  Her love of her husband is far more important than any simple, physical attraction dynamics, and maybe some reassurance of that fact is in order.

“My guy can’t stop staring at other women, and looking at pictures of naked females and stuff like that.  Does this mean he doesn’t really love me?  He swears he would never cheat on me, and it’s just the way he’s wired.  I want to believe him but my girlfriends tell me not to trust him”.  Usually this sort of statement suggests that the woman saying it is insecure about her own attraction power, and she is confusing her man’s ‘natural attraction dynamics system’ with his couple-type love for her.  She also may have been conditioned by society, and/or her family, to incorrectly think love always alters a person’s attraction habits.  Who we are naturally attracted to, and who we love can be two very different things.

Attraction can lead to a relationship getting started but then, in the long run, love has to take over to keep it going.  Once love is strong enough it keeps couples together into old age.  But often a couple’s attraction habits, which were established before the couple met, remain the same and operate independently.  A couple who can share what they are in the habit of being attracted to usually are a much stronger couple than those who can’t share because they fear triggering insecurity and jealousy in their mate.  One more thing.  Listening to friends advising mistrust really just may be listening to fear-based, mistaken perceptions.

“My wife keeps wanting me to watch romantic porn with her, and then role-play being the guy we just watched while she plays the female.  She tells me it’s all just sexy, fantasy fun, but I can’t help wondering if this means she is on her way to searching for love with somebody else”.  This quote suggests a man who would do well to study what love really is as opposed to attraction.  It also may point to a man who could use a little more healthy, self love and/or a little more reassurance from his wife that he is the one she really wants to love and play with, and the rest is just a way to do that.

Understanding Attraction Systems

The above examples just are a small sample of the many ways that confusion between ‘love’ and ‘attraction’ helps mess up relationships.  Here’s what research suggests explains our attractions systems and the way they operate.

A large percentage of males, and a smaller but still significant percentage of females are genetically ‘hard wired’ to be attracted primarily by sexy, visual stimuli.  A large percentage of females, and a smaller but still significant percentage of males are genetically ‘hard wired’ to be attracted primarily by sexy, verbal/auditory stimuli.  That is why men’s porn is largely pictorial and women’s verbal or written.  Other people’s attraction systems may be primarily tactile, kinetic, olfactory or a variety of balanced combinations of the above.  Of course, there are those whose attraction systems are primarily oriented to anyone, and everyone, who are in some way quite powerful, intensely feminine or masculine, highly sociable, high in status or popularity, or attracted to personal characteristics like intelligence, kindness, being humorous, artistically talented, individualistic, stable, protective, sexy, etc.

The existence of love in a relationship doesn’t necessarily change a person’s attraction system, especially if it is quite strong.  If you are strongly attracted visually or auditorily only, or in any other way, you likely will stay that way, whether or not you deeply, romantically love someone or not.  Therefore, when you encounter someone who activates your natural, inbuilt attraction system you will observe and enjoy observing what you are attracted by.  The enjoyment comes from your brain making neurochemical compounds that cause pleasure sensations when your attraction system is activated.  This is not love.  It is your attraction system at work, doing what it’s supposed to do.

Nature’s Way

Humans are built by nature to have many attraction experiences.  This seems especially true for humans with various ‘strengths’.  By strengths we mean those who have strong attributes or desirable qualities like leadership, assertiveness, the tendency to ascend and succeed, all sorts of different talents, sociability and of course ‘baby making and bearing’ potential.  We are built by nature to enjoy both being attracted to others and being attractive to others.  The enjoyment reinforces the attraction system and its operations.

Long ago when there were far fewer of us this system helped especially strong males plant their ‘seed’ in a lots of different females, and helped especially desirable females get ‘seed’ planted in them from men with lots of varying, strong qualities.  That helped mix the gene pool and create more and more humans with various strengths.  That, in turn, assisted humans in becoming the dominant species on the planet, so the system worked quite well.

Our love systems also were incredibly important for helping us to survive, cooperate, protect and nurture one another, plus a lot more.
Healthy, real love can develop after attraction brings people into contact but there are lots of times when it does not.  This is one of the ways we know that ‘attraction’ and ‘love’ are different.  Love can influence attraction to a loved one to grow, broaden, deepen and keep happening.

Sexuality Attracts, Love Bonds

Attraction can be partially defined as that which draws people or things together, or pulls toward it that which is ready and free to be attracted.  Attraction brings things together so they have a chance to form a connection but attraction is not the connection itself.  It takes healthy, real love to hold a couple together once they have made a love connection.  Mutual attraction helps people go ‘psychologically toward’ each other and want to keep going toward each other.  If healthy, real love develops a couple may become love-bonded and stay together but if healthy, real love does not develop they will, in time, likely split up.

Those who worry about losing their mates because they have ‘lost their good looks’ would do better to worry about how well they are doing love.  Those who jointly love well tend to stay together and those who don’t – mostly don’t stay together.  There is nothing wrong in doing what can be done to stay physically , sexually, or in any other way attractive, unless it detracts from the more important issue of giving and receiving of healthy, real love.  Of course, there are unions in which things, other than love, are of paramount importance.  Sex object wives, success object husbands, trophy wives, sugar daddy lovers and husbands, and status entry spouses are classical examples of other reasons people join together.

Insecurity issues

Do you have self-security and love relationship security?  These two things go together quite nicely.  Are you insecure about your desirability or your ability to give and get healthy, real love?  Let me suggest security in couple’s love is best attained by love not by looks or anything else.  Therefore, the self-secure, healthfully self loving individual has a great advantage over the insecure and the less love-able.  The self-secure tend to avoid damaging their love-mate relationships with fear-based actions, like trying to keep a spouse from looking at attractive others, enjoy flirting with others, having fun with wide ranging sexiness, being around other attractive people, having jealous fits and practicing restrictive control via religiosity, shaming or guilt tripping.  Most of those attempted restrictions usually backfire and make your chances of losing somebody larger, not smaller.

Sharing Attraction System Pleasures

In a solid, healthy, love-based relationship people can share the joys of their own and their love mate’s attraction systems.  Here’s an example.  Harriet said, “I so enjoy pointing out sexy women to my husband and teasing him about what excites him.  He is so cute when he’s both embarrassed and turned on.  I’m not threatened by other females because I know our love is strong, and sharing what excites us makes for intimate, special fun that draws us even closer together.  I really like my man being a real man.  Real men are turned on by lots of women, just like us real women can let ourselves be turned on by different guys.  It’s all just harmless, naughty fun.  Both of us get off on sharing each other’s lusting and just appreciating how others are attractive.  It makes us closer and never afraid because we create our security by sharing everything.”

Well, dear reader have you given much thought to understanding the differences between love and attraction?  Have you been getting the two of them mixed up with each other?  Have people been attracted to you and thought it was love?  Have you been flattered by someone finding you attractive or have you had your ego boosted and then thought they were in love with you, or began to wonder if you could love the person being attracted to you?  There’s lots here that you might want to consider.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question What are you going to do the next time you are rather strongly, sexually attracted to a new somebody.  Are you going to do guilt and confess it, enjoy it, fantasize it, deny it, hide it, ignore it, share it, or go after it?

Picture Thinking for Making Love Work Better and Better

Synopsis:  Thinking in pictures may be uniquely advantageous for making lasting advances in love and love relationships.  How and why that may be a brain truth.  Thinking creatively and constructively about love and love relationships with mental pictures; using other’s pictures for your own deeper love wisdom; and a thinking in pictures training exercise introduces this rather novel approach to creating love improvements in your life.

Picture Thinkers Proclaim

"It wasn't until I got into thinking in pictures that I found my way to a love that works and just keeps getting better and better."  So said Jake after his second divorce and several serious love affairs had crashed and burned.  A fair amount of regular talk therapy kept him going but did little for helping him get the love he so longed for.

Lacey’s experience was different.  She said, "It was like I couldn't get past the first line in a song.  Every time I got going with a new love interest, which was hard enough, it just didn't work out one way or another.  Then an art therapist got me into thinking with pictures.  Wow!  I saw what I could never have explained or understood with words alone.  That almost totally changed my way of going about love, romance, dealing with my family and dealing with myself.  Now, thinking pictorially guides my way with my marriage and my two lovely step-children as well.  It's probably not for everyone but it sure works for me."

What is it exactly that Jake and Lacey did that made their love relationships start working and then work better and better?  To really understand that, a little background information is needed.

Thinking in Pictures

The majority of people think primarily in words and some may not be able to think in pictures at all.  However, most can, and with some work, they can get good at it.  Some seem to be naturally good at it like many visual artists, architects, design engineers, etc.  People good at visual imagery and symbolic cognition often can reason pictorially, gain insights and have more global understandings which might be very hard to accomplish by words alone.  By doing so, they sometimes can arrive at fresh, creative and improved approaches and solutions to any of life's challenges.  This can include those challenges and problems having to do with love.  In fact, for many solving love problems and making advancements in love by way of thinking with pictures actually may prove to work better than trying to do so with words.  The reason for that has to do with the way your brain works.

Your Brain and Thinking in Pictures

When you think with pictures, your brain uses more and different parts than it does when you think in words alone.  Using those parts that deal with pictures frequently gets different and often better results than when you think only in words.  My experience with thousands of clients dealing with love issues tells me these picture or visual image ways of cognition can do just about everyone a great service with each and every type of love relating.  Using picture techniques often has been of considerable healing value in conducting individual, couple, family, sex and divorce adjustment therapy.

When we are doing picture thinking or visual cognition, brain scans and other brain activity diagnostic procedures shows a lot more going on in the deeper regions of the brain where it so happens that love largely is processed (see “What Your Brain Does With Love – Put Simply” and “Limbic Love & Why You Will Do Well To Know About It”).  Certain forms of therapy like Gestalt, Psychosynthesis and art therapy have developed ingenious techniques that appear to make great use of these brain phenomena involving picture thinking.  If you want to know more about this you may want to read Visual Thinking by Dr. Rudolf Arnheim and Upside Down Brilliance by Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman.

Three Kinds of Picture Thinking

Let me recommend you consider learning to use at least one of these three kinds of thinking about love with pictures so as to improve the types, quality and quantity of love going on in your life.

1. The Insight and Wisdom Gathering Approach
First, an example.  In a semi-hypnotic state, I asked Alex to visualize in some detail his three exes standing in front of him.  Then I asked him to see them slowly merging into one being.  Finally, I requested he tell me what he saw.  Alex immediately said, "My grandmother, but as a young woman.  She was the only woman who ever really loved me and I now know what to do next!  I have to stop trying to find a copy of her and I have to stop trying to make-over other women into her.  I have to love them for who they are and not compare them to her which I didn't know I was doing until right now.

Alex's sudden insight was fairly rare so let's look at another example.

Shelley drew an ugly sketch of her wounded heart which looked deformed and had a bleeding gash in it.  Then she was asked to draw a sketch of her heart healing.  This to her seemed impossible at first.  A week later she came back with a healthier looking heart sketch that was stitched up and there were mountains in the background and musical notes floating in the air around it.  In much better spirits, Shelley related her heart was indeed healing and she had been greatly helped by drawing this picture several times and listening to beautiful music and then going to the botanical gardens twice in the last week, as it seemed to her the drawing had pushed her to do.  Shelley titled the picture "I'm going to be okay after all".  She later described her drawings as being done by her wise and loving, internal, core self that she had mentally met by doing a drawing of an elderly, Cheyenne, medicine woman.  Shelley also described now being more comfortable with herself than perhaps she ever had been.

2. Diagrammatic Comprehension
In my practice, I met with a number of engineers in the aircraft and related industries along with their families in couples and/or family therapy.  Quite a few, at first, thought things psychological and emotional were impossible to deal with and were fuzzy, amorphous, intangible things.  Early on, I discovered that if I showed an engineer a diagram of his issues, or situation, or his own inner workings, the therapeutic process started working and then sped up.  Diagrams also were quickly useful in helping engineers talk to their family members about their feelings which otherwise often were quite difficult for them.  Sometimes later I would help them create their own diagrammatic understandings and subsequent solutions.  Implementing these solutions took more work but without the diagrammatic picture they might never have been arrived at.

I remember an architect who visualized all the rooms in his psychological heart-house and, by doing so, figured out what he needed to do in each room – to become more romantic in the bedroom and the dining room, to be nurturing in more different ways in the kitchen, to have more time to himself in his den, etc.  I also remember a metallurgist who in thinking in stress analysis diagrams, figured out how his destructive, quick temper could be dealt with better.  That helped his family situation tremendously.  Then there were the families who created family interaction diagrams together and, in the process, worked out more loving ways to relate to each other.

Working things out diagrammatically did not always work but it helped more often than not.  It also showed me understandings of what to do with individuals, couples and families I don't think I would otherwise have been able to arrive at.

3. Planning and Practicing Love Advances
This is a technique used a lot in sports and in the performing arts, especially dance.  It is one in which you visually create a mental movie of exactly how you plan to move, speak, touch and otherwise behave, so as to enact your love.  In doing that, you both create a plan and practice or rehearse the plan so as to do it better than you otherwise might have accomplished it.  Here is an example to use right now.

Mentally picture someone you love or want to have a love relationship with.  Spend time really seeing them in your mind's eye.  Picture their facial expression, posture, gestures if any, clothing or lack thereof, and everything else your mind’s eye can see.  Then mentally, in slow-motion, see yourself going to that person and watch how you lovingly look at them, touch them, speak to them, listen to them and interact with them.  Now, visualizing the mental movie again, improve it. 
Visualize and mentally experiment with different ways of touching, standing a bit closer, further away or sitting, varying your facial expressions, making your voice more loving, etc.  Once you have it just right, practice it in your mind several times.  Then go do it.

Of course, it is not likely to occur or turn out just the way you pictured it.  Every football player knows that no matter how many times in practice you run the play, in the actual game it will work differently but it will work better than without the practice.

Now, you may have been taught that all of love is supposed to be spontaneous and so planning and rehearsing seems phony or not genuine.  Let me contest that with the questions, “Isn't love important enough to do skillfully, and isn't the best of love often planned, practiced and, therefore, often better executed?

Using Other People's Pictures

Another way of thinking with pictures is to look at other people's pictures and discover what pops up in your own mind for the interpretation.  The idea here is not to try to figure out what the artist meant or was trying to convey, but rather let your own subconscious mind project into the picture its own meaning.  Then have your conscious mind become aware of your subconscious conceptualization and its understanding or message.

For practice, look at the illustration accompanying this mini-love-lesson.  Start with the three hearts with question marks at the bottom of the illustration.  Ask yourself to let these three parts represent three questions in your mind concerning you, and love, and your own love relationships.  Imagine, guess, or just make up the three questions.  Let the colors also have different meanings.  For instance, green might have something to do with growth.

Now, go up to the, framed pictures and imagine they represent a symbolic reply to the three questions.  Your job is to guess or pretend you know the meaning and give it to yourself.  For instance, if the green were to represent the question “how do you grow more self-love?” and the picture of a sailing ship appeared to mean you have to sail away from your current life, and land on a different lifestyle shore to grow more self-love, you would have an answer to ponder, integrate with other self-awareness, or struggle with it if you just could not just accept it.

Next, look at the flowing, multicolored arrow pointing to the single heart with the ! in it.  Might it symbolize a synthesis of the three questions arriving at a single answer or conclusion?  If so, for you and your questions what might that synthesis be?  Can you let your subconscious tell you right now, or perhaps tonight in a dream, or in an abstract sketch you might draw tomorrow?

You also might ask yourself what is your projected meanings for how the pictures are framed, colored, positioned, and what about the parts that are covered up.  Perhaps they all can be meaningful to you personally if you let them.  This works because whatever you think comes from you, and represents you and probably your deeper, inner processes which may be much wiser than you know
Now, here is another thing you can do.  Most of the mini-love-lesson comes with an illustration.  Can you find a hidden meaning or message in every one you examine?  Some of them have blank spots or empty places.  What meaning or message will you find there?  Don't forget to think about the colors and what they might mean to you.  With a little work, every illustration can be used to tell you about you, and love in your life, because that is what they are all about and because your deeper, non-conscious mind can project into them messages for your conscious mind, if you work at it (see “Love Your Brain – Why & How”, "Listening With Love and In & Out Brain Functions”).

One More Little Thing

Might you do well to share this mini-love-lesson with somebody else and see what they think?  If you do please tell him about this site and all the totally free love lessons.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question:  If your psychological heart were a house, what would it look like and what would be going on in its basement, in its attic, as well as in the other rooms?  (You might try to sketch or draw your reply)

Living Well via Loving Well

Synopsis: About your tree of life; love well to live well in every way; a few important definitions; why love research is hard to research; different kinds of love give different results; and a love prescription for nourishing your tree of life.

How Is Your Tree of Life Growing?

Let’s say you have a tree of life on which grow many fruits.  There are the fruits of your labors, the fruits of your learning, the fruits of your relationships, the fruits of your very nature, the fruits of your appreciations, your fun and your joys, and all the other fruits of your involvements and of your being.

As you partake of the fruits of your tree of life your spirit is nourished.  But there is a question.  What nourishes your tree of life?

Consider this.  Healthy, real love nourishes your tree of life like nothing else.  Abundantly given and received, healthy real love is the most important of all things that bring forth life’s high order thriving.  Arguably, all of life’s ever increasing, enriching variety and all of life’s most important enhancements and improvements have been and are love related and love nourished in one way or another.  As sundry philosophies and religions have purported love is for life the greatest of all things.  Therefore, it follows that love may be for you and those you care about the most important of all things.  So, are you giving love due regard?

Love Well to Live Well in Every Way

The better you are at love the better you function, the healthier and happier your life is, and the longer you are likely to live.  Love poorly and you live less well functioning, less happy, less healthy and less long.  That is what a growing preponderance of worldwide research from a wide variety of fields is telling us.  Mounting evidence shows that people who are in well-loving couples relationships, families, friendship networks and love-oriented communities live the best lives, by every way of measuring quality of life.

A Few Important Definitions

Love, or more accurately – healthy, real love –  as used here is simply defined thus:
Healthy, Real Love Is a Powerful, Vital, Natural, Process of Highly Valuing, Desiring for, Often Acting for, and Taking Pleasure in the Well Being of the Loved (see the column at the left of this page  “Definition of Love Series” for further and more full definitions and discussions).

Love can be viewed as a biological reality having largely to do with the brain’s limbic system and various neurochemical, and biochemical, and perhaps neuro-electrical phenomena in at least higher order species.  Love also can be viewed as a psychological reality having to do with the thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with love.  This especially involves the eight groups of behavior which have been found to convey love and trigger different, healthy, neurological and biological processes in both the giving and receiving of love (see the entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love).
Love can be seen as a relational reality because it is in relationships that love’s biological and psychological phenomena occur, as has been found by various individually focused and socially oriented scientific research disciplines.

Loving well is defined as consistently acting toward others and toward yourself in all matters of high value in ways consistent with the eight groups of direct, love behaviors known to convey, receive and trigger bio-psycho-social love reactions.  Loving well can be described as consistently practicing and developing one’s love skills until, more often than not, one is successful at love efforts, love relationships and love thriving.

Why Love Research Is Hard to Research

With some disappointment we must note that the word love often is avoided by some but not all researchers.  This seems to be because “love” is used as a synonym for sex, and perhaps because of its often confusing, contradictory and sometimes pathological use in poetic and romantic literature.  Researchers who try to avoid the use of the word love often use substitutes like “affectionate attachment”, “warm positive regard”, “intimate personal ties”, “close-knit connection”, “emotionally bonded relationship” and a host of similar terms, all of which might easily be translated as “love” by learned readers.  Interestingly researchers in the older, more established disciplines don’t seem to mind using the word love at all.  The word and the topic love show up in the professional literature of the several neurosciences, medicine, biology, primatology, experimental psychology and even in economics.

It seems only in the newer social sciences and the helper-fields (like the several forms of counseling) that there appears to be a squeamishness about using the word love.  This avoidance of the word love and the resulting plethora of substitute terms does make it considerably harder to look up research results related to love.  Nevertheless, with some prodigious effort it can be done.  So, here are a few of the overall trends from that research.

Different Kinds of Love Give Different Kinds of Benefit

Committed-couple love relationships have been found to help people avoid disease, have a general higher level of overall health, and assist people in dealing more successfully with most of life’s difficulties.  In some studies “marrieds” do a little better than co-habitating couples, but with other factors the reverse is true.  Co-habiting couples have been found to have better, all-over, psychological well-being than do the legally married and those living single without a committed relationship.  However, “marrieds” have been measured as having somewhat better physical health.

Men tend to be a bit healthier in marriages but women in cohabitation, according to some studies.
The one, big drawback to couple’s love occurs when one of the couple dies.  The surviving partner is more likely to fall ill and die within a two-year period of the loss unless friends, family, altruistic causes and/or unless another romantic love comes strongly into their life during that time.

Families in a number of nations who frequently act to love well often produce far happier, healthier people who are better able to cope with stress and, therefore, don’t tend to suffer from stress-related illnesses nearly as much as the less loving.

Friendship love which occurs in close-knit, interpersonal networks produces considerably lower mortality rates at all age levels in international comparisons studies.  With friendship love there is a much reduced likelihood of self-destructive behavior, fewer heart attacks, less cancer, less arthritis, fewer gastrointestinal upsets, fewer skin problems, fewer headaches and fewer complications from pregnancy.

Humanitarian and altruistic love also produce excellent health and longevity results, as does living in love-oriented communities.  The evidence suggests all of these love sources act as a protective shield against toxic and stressful environments.  A lowering of bad cholesterol and a raising of immunity functioning especially is common with those who love altruistically.  Much lower use of mood affecting drugs, legal and illegal, is another result according to various researchers.

Spiritual love and well loving people active in spiritually-based communities have been shown to have healthier behaviors, less substance abuse and healthy sleep and appetite habits.  This seems to hold true for people from ‘Austria to Australia’ and across all major ethnic and religious groups.
The well loving who also are quite sexually loving measure as happier, more vitally alive, more productive and more creative.

Healthy, real self-love is a very important factor in living well.  Some hold that it is the single most important type of love for having a happy, healthy, long life because it is viewed as central for excelling at all other types of healthy, real love.

A Love Prescription for Nourishing Your Tree of Life

Living by way of the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of healthy, real love has been found to be more important to happy, healthy living than a good diet, exercise, low stress environments, education, wealth, ethnicity and a host of other similar factors – not that these factors are unimportant.  So, if you desire the good life get into love every way you can.  To do this I suggest you study this site’s love’s definition and its major functions, and also take a look at the various forms of false love along with the different kinds of love, and everything else you can discover about what love really means and how it’s done.

Especially learn and practice the behaviors of love and the skills of love.  Learn to give love, think love, feel the many emotions and physical sensations of love, and learn to receive love well.  To do all that obviously is what this site is all about, so you might want to visit it often, and tell friends family, and maybe even enemies about it.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question What will your life be like if you devote a fair amount of time and energy to learning and practicing healthy, real love – and what will it be like if you don’t?

Prototyping Love and How It Can Help You

Mini-Love-Lesson #218

Synopsis: This often, most useful and relatively easy way to arrive at a very helpful understanding of love is presented with clear, four point and 12 point trait examples; and 10 quick, practice exercises to help you immediately apply important love tools to your own love life situation, as well as arrive at an effective way to describe and semi-define love.

Your Better Way to Understand Love?

Love is so complicated!  Understanding what love is, has and does confuses and confounds millions.  Conflicting and contradictory concepts about love abound.  Ignorance about love and its workings, dynamics, functions and benefits cause a lot of people to miss out on many of life’s finest and most wonderful experiences.  Undervaluing love leads to dangerous vulnerabilities in both psychological and physical health, in close relationships and in life fulfillment.  People who misidentify love get trapped in tragic, false love syndromes causing great emotional pain and life dysfunction.

With all that at risk, you can see how having a good understanding of love may make a world of difference in your own life and the lives of those you care most about.  The question is how to get that good understanding.  Well, one way that may help you is using the prototype approach to comprehending and defining love.

What Is Prototyping?

Prototyping basically means building a model of something.  At the idea level, it is an assemblage of observations and concepts built into a mental model to help explain what something is by compiling and putting together what probably makes it up.

In the social sciences, prototyping is a formalized research approach which arrives at a descriptive model of a subject being studied which is created from social-psychological research into its defining characteristics, traits, features, distinguishing qualities and often times its functions, dynamics and idiosyncratic peculiarities.  Informally, prototyping means forming a mental picture or model of something from what some of its parts seem to be.

Prototyping is similar to crowd sourcing and in criminology it is similar to profiling.  An example is, if you want to know what a tree is or what people think a tree is, you ask 1000 people what they think.  Some may say it has leaves and others pine needles and pinecones but if they all say it has roots, a trunk and foliage which is usually green in the spring those last three, agreed on items, can go into your model prototype of what a tree is.  Of course, that is an oversimplification and there are rather advanced research procedures, algorithms and other statistical treatments involved in the actual research.

The prototyping of love has been undertaken by researchers in a number of fields especially sociology, social psychology, cultural anthropology, family studies and child psychology with contributions from sociobiology, sundry brain sciences, experimental animal comparative psychology and others.  But they are not the first to attempt prototyping love.

The Wisdom of Early Efforts

Smart, wise, insightful and inspired people have been listing the characteristics of love for a long, long time.  Plato in his Symposium on Love, Ovid in the Art of Love, St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians, Rumi in The Sufi Path of Love, Stendhal in On Love, Jung in his work on arch types in the collective unconscious, and Fromm in his The Art of Loving have all made contributions to creating a prototype definition of love.  Some of their ideas are lasting, some problematic, some useless and some just wrong.  However, taking together they all provide valuable observations for the historical prototyping of what love has been seen to be.

Likewise, every major religion has descriptions of what love’s characteristics are as have several schools of philosophy.  They all add to the pool of observations for prototyping the historical wisdom concerning what love is.  In my view, they all deserve considerable attention.  Likewise, the sciences are giving us differing but slowly more and more useful ideas which include those arrived at by the social prototyping approach.

Toward a Prototype Definition of Love

In a new field coming to be called Loveology (see “Is There Really A New Field Called Loveology?”) researchers are busy trying to weave together the wisdom of the ages and sages, the best contemporary thinking, and the many scientific approaches and discoveries for understanding love.  This includes the social scientists’ attempts to arrive at a psychosocial, definitive, prototype of love.

One such effort showed love to involve a prototype having 12 main attributes.  They are: (1) trust, (2) caring, (3) honesty, (4) friendship, (5) respect, (6) concern for others’ well-being, (7) loyalty, (8) commitment, (9) acceptance of another’s way of being, (10) supportiveness, (11) wanting to be with the loved and (12) high and manifold interest in the loved.

A moderately different set of results came from emphasizing characteristics for a prototype of committed love in established relationships.  Those research revealed characteristics were: (1) loyalty, (2) responsibility, (3) keeping one’s word, (4) faithfulness, (5) trust, (6) being present for the other in good and bad times, (7) devotion, (8) reliability, (9) giving best efforts, (10) supportiveness, (11) perseverance and (12) concern for the loved ones well-being.

In other research, a prototype emphasizing positive feelings and emotions resulted in a rather different prototype of love.  It showed love to involve the emotions of: (1) caring for the loved mixed with wanting to feel helpful to the loved, (2) having a strong desire to be in the other’s presence while feeling care coming from the loved, (3) experiencing a feeling of mutuality of trust and (4) feeling a sense of mutual toleration and acceptance of faults, shortcomings, etc.

Social and comparative psychology prototypes for understanding what love is and how it is done, have been arrived at by researching the observable and reported behaviors of love in humans and in a variety of other animals around the world.

Higher order lifeforms, especially mammals, seem to do a lot of tactile love actions including caressing, licking, cuddling, snuggling, grooming and rubbing.  Tonal love behaviors also are thought to occur via a variety of comforting and connecting sounds.  Love expressional gestures through certain head movements, postural movement actions, forelimb behaviors and tail wagging also are thought to be evidence of love.  Gifting love actions involving food, nesting and play experiences occur in many species.  Caretaking and protective behaviors also are common.  Some species are suspected of communicating love via amazingly rapid, brilliant, color changes especially the cephalopods (cuttlefish, squid, octopus).  Some think that a good many of our animal cousins might communicate love through scent changes and olfactory generated responses.

All of that might get included in a prototype of general animal love.  Of course, it actually would be different for each species.  That these actions convey love is supported by comparative brain science research which suggests similar brain regions, neurochemistry and neuro-electrical activity occur in human and other higher order animal brains when love is involved or thought to be occurring (see “Dog Love Is Real Love”).

How to Help Yourself with a Prototype Model of Love

If you are serious about love, you can do the work of either selecting or creating your own, prototype model of what love looks like, gets us to act like and feels like.  In a fuzzy, indefinite, subconscious sort of way, you probably have one of those already though you may not be consciously aware of it.  With conscious effort, you can weed out its mistakes and improve on it.  Then you can use it to do love better, know when real love is happening or not happening, think about love more clearly and in more informed ways, select the most appropriate and productive love actions, untangle love problems and come up with better love issue solutions, etc.

Here is an example.  Gunther had on his prototype list of love’s traits “love is kind”.  He realized on close self examination, that what he felt for Loretta and how he acted toward her did not involve much kindness.  He was, he honestly confessed to himself, more controlling, possessive and demanding though very sexually interested and pleased with her.  He set out to be more kind and their relationship gradually turned into more of a sexual friendship but not what he would want for a marriage or lifetime love mate, like he previously had thought.  Loretta came to a similar determination about her relationship with Gunther.  They are still friends but seeing others now.  Gunther concluded that without the analytical tools provided by his prototype of love, a life damaging mistake likely would have been made.  Loretta concurred and was thankful.

10 Quick, Practical, Practice Love Prototype Exercises

To get some practice in using a prototype of love, look at the first list above under Toward A Prototype Definition of Love, the one that begins (1) trust (2) caring, etc.  Now, think of someone you do, or may, or might love and who you hope does or could love you.  Then with that person in mind, apply and work with the following questions.  You also can adapt this into a couple’s effort.

1. Checking this list of love’s traits, does it seem he, or she, really loves me? (Note: you also can think about a group such as a family)
2. Checking the same list, does it appear I really love him, or her?
3. Using this list, does it seem I really healthfully love myself?
4. Thinking of these traits, how can I, or we, do our love better?
5. What traits of love might need to get more attention in my, or our, love relationship?
6. Which of the prototype traits of love do I, or we, see as most important right now?
7. Which of these traits do I, or we, see as least important and am I making a mistake to see them that way?
8. Which of these traits and characteristics of love do I, or we, probably need to learn a lot more about?
9. If I, or we, get better at enacting some of these traits, how well can I, or we, know for sure our love relationship is improving and growing?
10. How am I, or we, going to make our work on getting better at these prototypical love traits fun, exciting and rewarding? (Remember, fun with work can be much better work)

Some Problems with Prototyping Love

Once upon a time, social prototyping the nature of our earth would have led to describing it as flat.  When too many people share a mistaken idea about what something is the mistake can go into the prototype.  That definitely is a danger when it comes to a social prototype of love.  Also, when there is too much widespread ignorance about a subject, social prototyping fails.  Unfortunately, love ignorance seems rather abundant.

The good news is, lots of people find it a lot easier and more useful to define love in a prototyping way than they do any other way.  So, if you use it, be careful and know prototyping has its shortcomings.

One More Thing

I bet you can get a lot more out of this mini-love-lesson by talking it over with others.  While you are at it, why not tell them about this site’s broad-spectrum of love-related subject matter, wealth of love knowledge and how you’re using it?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: If you’ve been hurt in a love relationship, could thinking with a good prototype of love help you avoid getting hurt that way again?