Over 250 FREE mini-love-lessons touching the lives of thousands in over 190 countries worldwide!

Showing posts with label behavior. Show all posts
Showing posts with label behavior. Show all posts

Dog Love Is Real Love !

Mini-Love-Lesson #206

Synopsis: The exciting, new, and not so new, scientific evidence offering proof that dog’s love is real love put simply, some of the many and often surprising benefits of a love relationship with a dog, and what you can learn about real love from a dog and a dog’s love is summarily presented.

Canine Love and People

Time again in my psychotherapy practice, I saw love of and from a pet, mainly dogs, make a huge, sometimes life-saving difference.  Sometimes a depressed and lonely person getting a dog turned the tide of a deteriorating life into one moving up and forward.  Frequently in treating hurt and troubled children, a pet dog and its love proved to be amazingly therapeutic.  Many times getting a canine pet, especially a puppy, greatly aided parents and whole families become more love-oriented.

Pet dogs in the lives of the postwar trauma and disabled veterans, who I and my colleagues treated, was often crucial.  Some couples I worked with first learned some of the most important how-to’s of love from their pet dogs.  In divorce and love-loss recovery, dog love has been vital in preventing breakdowns, suicides, addiction relapses and countless hours lost to depressive malfunctioning.

But of course there are the disbelievers who say dogs really can’t love only humans can do that, and there are those who are quite sure that for dogs it’s just all about food.  There are the skeptics who ask, “How can you can really prove dogs can really love” and they say to dog lovers “Aren’t you just anthropomorphizing and seeing what you want to see?”  Plus, they ask, “Where’s the definitive evidence?”

Also from health insurance companies has come similar ideas justifying denials of services for canine assisted psychotherapy.  And that is even though increasing numbers of research studies have appeared which show how much it helps.  In fact, a whole movement for canine assisted counseling and psychotherapy has blossomed into existence.  I’m familiar with a number of therapists involved in pet assisted therapy.  They tend to claim, sometimes only secretly, that it is the love relationship between the patient and the dog that makes the therapeutic difference.  However, they have avoided reporting so officially because that isn’t thought to be acceptable in certain circles of professional influence.

Of course, for ages dog owners have proclaimed they absolutely know their pets truly loved them and they truly love their pets.  Countless true stories exist about dogs heroically saving their masters and even members of their master’s family’s lives.  Sometimes even after experiencing great pain and injury themselves.  But was it really because of love?  Well now, thanks to the brain sciences, we are beginning to have solid, science-based proof that dogs give and get real love.

The Brain Sciences and Dogs Who Love

It took a while to teach the 90 subject dogs to be still in MRI machines to get their brains scanned, while half received food in one experimental trial condition and half received verbal love messages in another.  One hypothesis was the data from the dog’s brains would show high activity indicating they valued the food in the reward centers of their brains far more than the verbal love sounds coming to their ears.  It was surprising to learn that for many dogs the two proved equal; the food did not elicit a greater response and wasn’t superior.  But in a significant number of others dogs, the neurological brain activity measurements proved the verbal love messages and sounds to be much more rewarding and more important than the food.  So, for dogs, receiving a verbal, behavioral love input was shown to be equal to, or superior to receiving food.  More brain science research on dog love is continuing at Emory University under the direction of neuroscientist Dr. Gregory Burns.

Other findings have showed that dogs can recognize and differentiate their master’s face from other human faces.  When they make this recognition their brains light up much like humans do, from infancy on, when seeing someone who they share a love relationship with.  It has long been observed that dogs go more quickly to their masters who exhibit loving behaviors including just loving facial looks.  These dogs also then begin to give actions of affection to their loving masters.  This strongly suggests that the limbic system brain centers that process love and the neurochemical reactions of processing love are likely to be much the same in humans and dogs.  That is exactly what the research evidence is increasingly pointing to.

Now, as we begin to scan inside the dog brains, we are beginning to see amazing similarities in how dogs and humans psychoneurologically process love.  The brain activity evidence shows that the neuro-electrical and neuro-chemical events in the limbic system of dog brains react much like a humans does when getting and when giving behaviors commonly associated with love.

Consider any two living beings having similarly structured brains.  When in the brains of any two such living beings, the same regions of their brains react the same way neuro-physically, neuro-electrically and neuro-chemically; and also when their accompanying, observable behavior is much the same, there is a most logical interpretation to be arrived at.  That interpretation is it is only reasonable to conclude that those two being are processing (i.e. mentally experiencing, thinking/feeling) much the same thing.  This exactly is what is proving to be true with dogs and humans interacting with each other while exhibiting the behaviors commonly associated with love.  Thus, the preponderance of this growing body of evidence points to dogs love being real love.  We are not likely to get much better evidence for this conclusion until someone invents a real way to actually do the Vulcan Mind Meld.

What Does Animal Comparative Psychology Have To Say?

The psychologists who compare the actions, reactions and interactions of animals with the same in humans are not at all surprised at the kind of results or conclusions just mentioned.  Not so long ago, the great comparative psychologist, Dr. Harry Harlow, proved that to baby monkeys receiving mother love was more important than receiving food.  Some infant monkeys even would starve themselves to death preferring to receive loving contact comfort from a mother surrogate rather than give that up for acquiring needed food.  No one expected that result and when it was discovered that part of the experiment was altered so infant monkeys did not have to suffer further starvation.

Harlow also discovered that baby monkeys who did not sufficiently receive the behaviors that give love in infancy and childhood were never able to successfully mate or healthfully interact with other monkeys.  This was true until they were given monkey therapy in the form of being lovingly treated probably by graduate student lab assistants.  Just like with human babies, non-loved and little-loved monkey infants were prone to early death involving failure to thrive deterioration syndromes.

It is to be noted that at the time of that research few researchers using animals thought that love, or for that matter most psychological factors, had much of anything to do with animals’ physical health and survival.  Consequently, it was Harlow’s discoveries which led to a revolution in the improved treatment of lab animals and after that zoo and circus animals; and the effects of those love findings are still spreading.  Human infants already were receiving much better love behavior treatment because pediatric research had discovered the same thing Harlow did with lab monkeys.  His famous research book is Learning to Love .

Now through comparative psychology’s efforts, along with neuropsychologists and other neuro-scientists, we have learned what looks like a very important general truth.  That truth seems to be that all higher order species, and especially mammals, have brains that make similar, healthful responses to the behaviors that are associated with giving and receiving love.  Therefore, the evidence more and more points to many animals, including dogs and humans, being able to give, get and do real love.
Hence, the preponderance of available evidence points to what dog owners have always known.  You really do love your dog and your dog really does love you.  It is a real love relationship and it can do you a world of good to have that love relationship.

The Many Benefits of Loving and Being Loved by a Dog

When you have a good love relationship with a dog, your stress hormones are likely to be lowered as is your bad cholesterol.  Your neurochemical reactions which allow and help you be happier will be much more active, and your immunity mechanisms will work better at keeping you from getting sick or infected.  The relating you do with others is likely to be more love-oriented and more effectively responsive.  If others see you with your dog, they are likely to be more positive toward you than they might have been.  Playing with and walking your dog will get you more exercise.

If danger is around, your dog is more likely to become alerted to it before you and then may alert and save you from some dire occurrence.  If you are ill or wounded in some way, having your pet dog around is likely to help you heal faster and maybe heal better.  If you are recovering from injury or engaged in any other kind of recovery and rehabilitation, it is much more likely to go better as you keep lovingly interacting with your pooch.  Psychologically, a love relationship with a good pet dog often acts like a good antidepressant and an anti-anxiety medication with no bad side effects.  On and on go the benefits; we don’t have space here for all of them so far discovered.

Learning Love from Dogs

Once long ago, as a scout with other scouts, I was in a large wigwam listening to an ancient Lakota Indian wise woman tell of how the great spirit put dogs into the life of humans to teach us how to love.  It seems, according to that wisdom filled legend, we were not all that good at love until the dogs taught us how.  They taught by example of love’s loyalty, caring concern, forgiving nature, playful affection, protection focus and a host of other ways love gets demonstrated.  So, I suggest you look to your pet dog to model for you some of the best ways love gets done.  Translate what you see into human behavior.  Then see if you can do as well at love as your pet dog does.

Now one more little thing.  You might want to share this mini-love-lesson with a dog lover you know or with someone you think might do well to have a pet dog.  Also you might want to check out this other mini-love-lesson, “Pet Love”.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Do you give much thought to how much more enriched your life is or may become because of “interspecies love”?

Getting Healthy, Real Love in Your Life

Synopsis: Jocelyn’s ‘no real love’ problem; Repeat failures; A dozen great ‘how to’s’ for getting the real thing; Love as a happy, habit and getting zestful about it.

Jocelyn came to me after a speech I had given on the dynamics of healthy, real love saying, “My problem is getting what you call healthy, real love.  Several times I thought I had the real thing but it turned out to be false.  Dr. Cookerly, what can I do to get the real thing?”

Jocelyn and a great many other people wonder about the same thing.  If you are a person wanting to know how to do this here are a dozen ideas that may be of considerable help.  First, know there is an all over principle.  You had better take the subject of love seriously and use your mind as well as your heart to achieve love success.  Lots of people don’t take love very seriously until they have a love relationship disaster.  Then they may take it quite seriously.  Others fail at a love relationship but never seriously look at understanding love itself, or the ‘how to’s’ of succeeding at love.

Consequently, they are likely to repeat their failure.  Like every other important subject success is far more likely for those who really study, learn and practice the ‘how to’s’.  So, if you really want to succeed at love more than you have so far look over the dozen ways that may help you achieve that success.  Here’s a ‘get started’ suggestion.  Go over this list and pick out only one or two items to begin on.  Then really work at them and perhaps get those you care about to do the same with you.  If you do this  I’m betting you’ll be really happy you followed the suggestion.  After that you can go on to other items in the list and probably achieve even greater love success.

How to’s for Getting Healthy, Real Love in Your Life
1.  Learn What Real Love Is We have two kinds of learning to consider.  ‘Experience learning’ and ‘Cognitive learning’.  They work well together.  Think about who has loved you best: parents?, siblings?, family?.  Maybe you have been best loved in your life by a dear friend, a pet dog or maybe grandparents.  How did they deliver love to you?  What did that feel like?  Whoever loved you best has provided you at least some ‘experience knowledge’ of love.  When you were born somebody loved you well enough to keep you alive because without at least some love a baby dies in infancy.  That means at some deep level you have some ‘experience knowledge’ of love.  With work you may be able to tap into that and raise at least some of it into conscious awareness, and that can help guide you.  Easier, but still requiring some work, is to ‘cognitively learn’ and purposefully study what is known about healthy, real love and how it is done.  To help you with that go to “The Definition of Love” and related entries, elaborations and discussions in the left column on this page.

2. Learn About False Love Study what are seen to be the major forms of false love and how to differentiate them from real love.  There are a great many ways people get into false love situations.  False love often results in enormous emotional pain and destructiveness, sometimes even leading to death.  To help you get healthy, real love review the mini love lessons on “False Love” in the Site Index, and pay particular attention to the entry “A Dozen Things Love Is and A Dozen Things Love Is Not”.

3.  Learn and Practice the Eight Major Ways of Directly Doing Love A great deal of research effort in social psychology went into discovering the ways people give, communicate, deliver and send love.  Out of this came a clear understanding of eight groups of behavior by which love is done in all types of love relationships.  You can learn and practice these ways and by doing so probably greatly improve any love relationship.  To do that I, somewhat egotistically, recommend you read part two of my book Recovering Love where these ways are covered in some detail.  Also consult the Site Index for “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love”.

4.  Learn and Practice Healthy Self-Love The ancient commandment is to “love others as you love yourself”.  Without sufficient, healthy self-love most love relationships with others suffer.  One can take the eight major ways of doing love mentioned above and apply them to oneself usually with great benefit.

5.  Get Good at Giving Love Essential to getting love is giving love freely, often and much.  Healthy, real love is a free gift that tends to grow the more you give it away, especially when it is combined with healthy self-love.  Actively go looking to wisely give love wherever you can while at the same time being open to getting love.  Don’t just wait for love to find you.  Go after it and as you do keep giving it along the way.

6.  Repeatedly Mix Romance, Sex and Affection With Your Lover-Love For ongoing, couple’s type love it’s best to have ongoing romance, sex and affection and repeatedly mix those into love-mate relating.  To help you with this you may wish to check out the love and sex related mini lessons in the Site Index, such as “Lasting Sex and Lasting Love”, “Men Doing Well at Love”, “Can You Talk About Sex with Love”, “Do You Want to Say Love When You Mean Sex”, “Making Love or Having Sex”, etc.

7.  Engage in Spiritual Love Practices Search for and find your own best way of relating to and with love spiritually.  Whether it is with standard prayer, oceanic awareness of the universe, the awe and wonder of nature, practices that help you feel connected to life and your fellow humans, respect for the mysteries and unknowns of existence, or regular religious observances, finding a way to connect love and spirituality within you is often marvelously healthful.

8.  Ask for What You Want, With Love Sharing your wants with a loved one is a way to share yourself.  Not sharing your desires, wishes and requests keeps those you care about in the dark needlessly guessing, emotionally distancing you both, and frequently leads to mis-perception, mis-interpretation and relational abrasion and dissonance, along with possible destruction of the relationship. It also keeps you from getting what you want, and within your wants are usually hidden your needs.  Check out this site’s entry on asking for what you want, “Love Complaints vs. Love Requests”.

9.  Be Love Assertive You have three choices.  You can be submissive, aggressive or assertive.  Submissive surrendering may get you treated nicely but it’s just as likely to get you abused, sacrificed and destroyed.  At best it relies on charity.  Aggression means to attack in an attempt to hurt, harm and destroy in an attempt to make yourself the winner and someone else the loser.  Assertion, especially assertion with love, means to put yourself (your thoughts, feelings, actions, desires, etc.) forward preferably done in a way there are no losers.  Assertion provides the ‘I win, you win’ possibility especially when love is added.  Therefore, assert all your ‘stuff’ with love.

10.  Become Good at Receptional Love When anyone does anything that might be an expression of their love for you receive it well in such a way that they see you really got it, then digest it, enjoy it fully, and be nurtured by it.  Do not dodge it, deny you merit it, or in any way negate it.  To receive love well is a gift to those who love you.

11.  Amply Reward Your Lovers (mate, kids, parents, friends, etc.)
To get love in your life, freely and amply reward any and all love and love-like actions that come your way. Also reward those you would love for their ways of being themselves, their achievements and what they take joy in.  Praises, compliments, return expressions of love, hugs, pats on the back, doing favors and hundreds of other actions can be ways to reward.  Especially do this when there are actions of love demonstrated toward you.  Rewarded, real love behaviors tend to increase real love.  This often is not true for various forms of false love.  Reward often and show your love both in your way and in their way.  Check out in the Site Index the entry “Love in the Fridge”.

12. With Joy Study and Practice the Ways of Love Ever More Make learning about love a happy habit.  Then, full of good heartedness, take more pleasure in practicing what you have learned.  Healthy, real love done well can make people joyous.  That’s true for both the giver and getter.  So get into the joy of love, learning how to do it ever better.  Delight in learning by teaching – which is one of the best ways to learn, relish every love and love-like action that you deliver to others and that comes your way.  Get zestful about all love learned, showed and shared.

There’s lots more but this much can be used to get yourself further along love’s rich and incredibly rewarding path.  Remember the scriptural quote “The greatest of all things is love”.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question Of the above 12 points which one grabs your attention the most, and what is that guiding you toward?

Changing Your Emotions Via Love And Love Smarts

Mini-Love-Lesson #202

Synopsis: For many, this mini-love-lesson presents a fresh and different than usual approach to both discovering new learning from your feelings and for changing them for the better with love-befriending techniques and through some rather different ways to think and behave in regard to your own emotions, especially the ones you don’t like to feel.

About Bad-To-Better Feelings

When you feel bad, even real bad or maybe just blah or sort of neutral; do you want to feel better?  Of course you do.  But do you know how?  Many people don’t or aren’t very good at it.  Some people even think it can’t be done but maybe they just don’t know how.  There are ways to do it which you can learn, and with practice you can accomplish the changes quite well and healthfully.  Also, you might want to assist your loved ones in learning these love connected skills.

Some Stuff to Know and Think About Concerning Emotions

To change your emotions from bad to better and best, you will do well to first know some things about emotions.  Emotions are part of your feeling system.  You have two kinds of feelings, physical and emotional.  Your emotions are processed in your brain but also effect your body.  Because emotions are inside you, you can effect them (change them).  To do that you may have to give up the idea that they are entirely caused by things outside of you and over which you have little or no influence, let alone control.  That means changing the way you think and maybe the way you talk, especially to yourself.

When you say “he, she or it made me feel . . .” you may be subtly and subconsciously giving away your power to change your feelings.  He, she or it did not make you feel anything.  They only triggered, or assisted or activated your internal feeling system.  Your internal feeling system can be strongly influenced by the other two major psychological parts of you – your thinking and your behaving.  To change your emotions, change your thinking and/or your behavior.  Of course that is much simpler said than done.

How You Catch, Is Key

Think of a game of catch the ball.  Somebody throws the ball at you and how well you catch it determines whether it hurts or not, and whether or not you get to play catch with them and have some fun.  How well you psychologically catch what is thrown at you, determines how you psychologically feel.  When being cussed at or criticized, some people catch it poorly and get all upset while others can disregard it and be unaffected or even be amused.  If you are cussed at or criticized in a language you do not know, you are likely to be mostly puzzled but not hurt.

Sure, the nonverbal or expressional part might make you a bit apprehensive but it does not have the same effect as if you understand the language.  If what they send at us made us feel something, we would all feel pretty much the same thing when it reached us.  Like we all react the same way to a bullet entering us, we bleed.  It is your linguistic understanding that causes it to hurt, or upset you or whatever feeling you get.  That feeling occurs in your head where you can have influence and make (catching) changes.  You learn to emotionally catch, the way you do growing up.  You can improve on that now.

Bad Feelings Are Your Friends Trying to Help You

I once had a really brilliant little kid in therapy who said, “I guess God made evolution put that bad feeling in me for a good reason.  Without it I would never have learned to forgive and love my mother and myself for what we did to each other”.  He had learned that he does better when he learns from his hurt and that is part of why it is there.  And, no, you do not get to know about the thing with his mother.  That is private and confidential.

You have to learn that hurt is the enemy of harm (that is one of the big things to learn about emotions).  Here are some examples.  Anxiety warns you that something harmful may be approaching, so look for it.  Fear says the same thing only stronger and gives you power to escape faster.  Anger gives you emergency power to fight perceived threatening destructiveness.  Depression helps you inventory what is wrong in your life.  Very frequently depression has something do with a lack of sufficient healthy, real other love or self love.

When you hurt after hearing something negative aimed at you, it is a message telling you “maybe you need to catch better”.  All your feelings, both good and bad, were created in you to help you.  So, learn to befriend them, listen to what they are trying to tell you and then cooperate.  Doing that usually gets bad feelings to get over and be done with faster than trying to fight or ignore them.  Trying to influence your emotions with just chemicals (e.g. drugs) or escapist behavior, may only help you miss their message and make things worse in the long run.  There is a role for meds to play when bad feelings overdo it but medication is best used along with counseling or therapy.

About Seeking Help

Like all human systems, your emotions system can overdo or under do it.  None of our human systems are yet perfected.  Fear can turn to dysfunctional panic, anger to irrational rage, and so forth.  This especially can happen when people have not learned to work with their feelings and hear their feeling’s guidance messages.  It also can happen when there are certain neurochemical imbalances in the brain.  When that happens seek professional help.  A good therapist usually can work wonders.
Emotional education can help.  It can be argued that at least half of our emotional pain seems to come from love problems of one sort or another.  For more on dealing with love related hurt and negative feelings  link to the mini-love-lessons Dealing with Love Hurts: Pain’s Crucial Guidance and Dealing with Love Hurts: A Dozen Love Hurts to Know and Grow From”.

What Love Has To Do with Changing Bad Feelings to Good Feelings

Have you heard the concept: “Love all your parts and all your systems, and they will be more likely to love you back better.  Especially love the ones you do not like and think you do not want.  That is the way to bring them into harmony with the rest of you so they can do you their maximum good, which is their purpose”.  What do you think of that concept?

To help you think about that, consider what Maxine thought.  “I just couldn’t stop worrying.  I over-worried about everything and nothing helped.  Distractions, drugs, alcohol, sex, cognitive behavior therapy, religion, they all did a little good but only for a little while.  Then a new therapist got me to talk and listen to my inner worrying self in a semi-hypnotic state.  She told me my worry was just a presentation of a possible problem.  But I would never do what I was supposed to do about the problems, which she told me was to make a plan and then do something about the problem, or go on to something else if there was nothing that could be done.

My worry myself also told me I just get stuck on the problem’s presentation.  That is because I don’t love and believe in myself enough, nor believe that I am competent enough and can come up with adequate solutions, which don’t have to be perfect solutions.  I was astonished that all that knowledge was in me and I just had to lovingly listen to the part of me that knew it”.

“With my therapist’s help I worked on growing my healthy self-love and believing what my worrying self told me.  It was even more amazing when my worrying self evolved into my solution suggesting self.  Now when I worry, I listen really closely and get the guidance message.  I don’t know exactly how that works but it does work for me.  I now love and respect that part of me that worries but that also comes up with solutions.  It’s a precious part of me I was ignorantly trying to reject and ignore, but now I embrace it with love”.

More Love Please!

This love is so often, at least a part if not the whole solution, needed for the emotions you want to change.  So, you might consider just going and asking someone who loves you to show you love, and see if that helps.  If you have a good loving dog or other pet, go get a dose of their love and see what that does.  While you are at it, give yourself a hug and some good, self loving, affirmational talk.  Getting more love is like putting high-octane gas in your tank.  It helps you go further with more power and more calm confidence.

The Thinking Different to Feel Different Approaches

Sometimes a new insight, a different understanding, the mental re-framing of an event, or reasoning something through, changes emotions for the better.  That often occurs in psychotherapy and personal counseling.  Another type of thinking also accomplishes changes in emotion.  This is the positive cognition approach which sometimes uses positive imagery, affirmational language, heightened emotional motivation self-talk and confidence building terms, sayings and slogans.  It does not go through investigative reasoning very often but rather works to directly create emotional change. 

Non-conscious and semiconscious approaches, such as occur in pictorial thinking and the thinking that goes into music, movement and art therapies sometimes bring about marvelous changes in emotions.  When any of these are dynamically coupled with healthy self-love, love of life, altruistic love and spiritual love focused thought techniques, they seem to have a more powerful effect, at least for a lot of people.

The Motion Emotion Love Connection

If your emotions are not what you want, out of healthy self-love decide you are going to treat yourself with a big dose of positive, upbeat movement.  That’s right, motion can change emotion especially when done with a healthy self loving thought process.  If you talk to yourself with some positive self loving affirmations and push yourself into dancing around the house, going for a run or vigorous walk, doing happy movements exercise, bouncing a ball off the wall and catching it, marching to vigorous music or any other way you choose to move, you are very likely to change your emotions for the better.

Remember before or after you do the upbeat different motions approach, or any other approach, to change your feelings, it will be important to listen and figure out the guidance message coming from your less than pleasant emotions.  Otherwise they probably will have to come back and try to deliver their maybe unpleasant but actually friendly message again.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Possibly all your life you have been practicing some other approach to dealing with what you perhaps think of as negative emotions.  It also is likely that no one around you has been effectively modeling for you the approach of loving befriending and working cooperatively with all your feelings.

Therefore, it may take quite a bit of practice to counter and reform your habitual way of dealing with certain emotions.  Working on making these changes with a counselor’s or personal coach’s help can speed the process.  Working on this sort of changing as a couple or with friends doing similar work also can be quite useful.  However, you do not have to believe in this process before you experiment with it.  It is not a true believer system.  It is a “do different to get different” system. Know that it usually does take repeated effort.  So, with good, healthy self-love why not give it a go?

Help us spread the word.  Tell somebody about this site and our free mini-love-lessons, and how knowledge about love and love-relating helps.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love success question: How much do you know about your own and other’s emotions; where did you get your knowledge; and is it doing you any good, especially in your love relationships?  You might want to read any of a number of books about emotional intelligence.

Equality Quality in Love - a Super-Good Love Skill

Mini-love-lesson  #201

Synopsis: The values, payoffs and subtleties of treating others as uniquely different but equal, and how it is best for that to be a part of a healthy, good, love relationship is presented here with a few author’s self disclosures.

My Unseen Flaw

My bad!  I was so unaware until an intern of mine pointed out a flaw in the way I was treating some of my patients.  Unknowingly, mostly in group therapy and in lots of very small subtle ways, she pointed out that I was acting in ways that favored males over females.  And I thought I was so democratically equal in the treatment of everyone but she was right.  It was right there on the tapes.  I interrupted females more often than males, I nodded approvingly more often at males than females.  I dealt with the guy’s issues longer and maybe even better especially in group therapy.  And in a host of other tiny ways I did not exemplify my own value of loving equality.

Group therapy can be pretty much like a family and I was doing about the same as the family males I grew up around, and I did not want to be like them.  But there it was and so I had to go to work on me and change.  I asked my patients and other interns and they all agreed that I seemed a bit differential in favor of males.  Ouch!  I did change, and sure enough, my work with females got even better results.  I also became a lot more aware of the subtleties of treating people more lovingly by way of equality.  What a good gift that excellent intern gave me!

The Quality of Equality

I learned a lot in the poor, slum neighborhood where I spent my young childhood.  There was an old, Irish gentleman that used to singsong-speak to us kids in ditties.  Here is one that went more or less like this.
    “There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us, it behooves the most of us to treat the rest of us with all the love that’s really there for all of us.”
(Yes, there are other versions of this but that was his version)

See if you agree with this idea.  People are so incredibly different from one another that the only sensible way of seeing them is as unique equals.  It is my contention that treating each person with the respect of an equal who is wonderfully and intriguingly different from all the rest usually tends to get the best results.  Of course, I don’t always live up to that ideal and I sometimes let my prejudice programming of old still have influence.  But now I catch myself sooner and put more energy into my personal, always growing programming of equality.

I also suspect most prejudicial disrespect is just a big “I’m okay but you’re not” psychological game.  It is likely based in an attempt to hide from one’s own personal fears of being inadequate by looking down on others instead of on oneself.

Loving others by treating them democratically and as equals, I suggest, is a superior trait in a person.  Though that is a bit of a paradox, like a lot of paradoxes it turns out to have a lot of truth in it.  This especially is important in close relationships.  Inequality treatment seldom, if ever, leads to closeness, or much of anything else that can help a love relationship.  It can lead those treated unequally to keep secrets from you, to resist what you want, to make sneaky passive-aggressive attacks on you, to secretly sabotage you and may lead to out and out rebellion.  It also can get you hated and distrusted or at least disliked.

Treating children slowly and in small steps, increasingly more and more democratically, with doses of growing equality until they are functioning as equal adults usually works well.  Children nurtured like this also tend to feel quite well love-bonded with those who treated them this way.
That is part of a larger truth.  Minorities, the disadvantaged and those with less than equal power who are treated more equally and more democratically tend to work more cooperatively and productively.  They also tend to make contributions that they otherwise might not.  The prejudicially ignored, suppressed and repressed often tend to react secretly against the prejudicial, one way or another.

Historically this likely was true of a great many of the wives of old, and currently is true for a growing number of today’s wives living in situations of inequality found all around the globe.
So, you might want to consider the question “how well are you doing at loving others by treating them as true equals who in many ways may be different i.e. unique one-of-a-kind people.  If you do a good job of that, you may be seen as a bit superior.

What Anti-Equality Prejudice Are You Programmed to Have?

In the Chicago slum neighborhood of my early childhood, it was seen as appropriate to disrespect and look down upon the people of 11 national backgrounds, 5 ethnic groups, 3 religions, 4 of 6 social classes, 4 racial groups, 3 political persuasions, those of weird sexuality, all females and sundry others.

Whatever your experience and training in being prejudiced might be, I suggest you discover it and work to eliminate it.  That will help you be more loving, lovable, happy and superior to who you were before you did so.

Romantic Love and Equality

If you are in love with somebody and you do not treat them with democratic equality, are you loving them as well as you might?  Some might even question whether you have healthy or real love for them.  If they do not treat you with democratic equality, appreciating your unique differences, are you being well loved?  If the two of you together do not establish your relationship as one of unique equals, what will happen to your teamwork when you face the difficulties life frequently brings?

Singles as well as couples hoping for good, romantic love do well to be aware of the issues of equality involved in interacting and doing love-relating.  This especially is important for the increasing number of people getting into love relationships with people of differing social and cultural heritages.

I worked with a  lot of the singles who were frustrated and longing for more love than they had.  They did better when they changed one big factor.  They broadened their horizons, so to speak, and started mixing with new but very different groups of people than they were used to.  Some joined co-ed sports teams.  Others explored different spiritual and religious groups, still others got into the art or music of another culture.  More and different education experiences were quite helpful to many.  A lot of them got active in good causes.  With the different people they met, they risked being very friendly, assertive, and then flirting, and a bit later even seductive.

People of different cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, races, religions, political history, avocations, vocations, educational backgrounds, recreational involvements, sexualities, travel preferences and anything else they could think of that might be different from themselves were considered and explored.  The results almost always were at first discouraging but then, if they kept at it positive, good things started happening.  Many had to put away their prejudices and learn how to be enriched by the very differences they at first had thought too odd, distasteful or worse.

Purposefully putting the quality of meeting and treating new people with equality and as uniquely worthwhile paid off in the form of new adventures, new enrichments, new friendships and, yes, new romances resulted and new love grew.  Of course, it did not always go well, and even when things went well sometimes new, undreamed of problems arose.  Frequently these new romances did not fit the previously held “happily ever after/no problems dreams” of the participants but then again how many great loves do?  The good news is, real love often prevailed.

A lot of internationally mixed couples come to counseling when one of the couple insists on having a modern relationship of loving equality.  When there is a fair abundance of healthy, real love, that usually is achieved but not without work.  Overcoming a cultural heritage of gender inequality can be a very tall order but it is what more and more couples are choosing to do and to do with love.

Equality and Healthy Self-Love

Feeling and treating people as equals, I suggest, is a gift of self-love.  That is because it opens you up to what others have to offer which usually is quite a lot when you look for it.  It also gets you treated better by those people and by the high-quality  people who respect equality-oriented others.  Disrespect and putting others down and treating them as inferior just cuts you off from the many goodies people of diversity have to offer.

Some say, treat others as equals because it is the golden rule right thing to do.  Others say it is the charitable way to be toward those who are disadvantaged.  Still others remark, it promotes democracy and peace.  Then there is the group testifying that treating others is just practical because it works far better than not treating others with equality.  I say, yes, to all that and there is another great reason.  Treating others as equal is an excellent way to do some enriching, healthy self-love.  Embrace the differences and the people who are different and you will be enriched in ways more than you can imagine.  See everybody as a unique, multifaceted, work of art and give yourself the reward of appreciating and enjoying that creation.  It really is the self-love thing to do.

Equality As a Quality Gift of Love

Isn’t having an inner mindset or attitude that all people are to be viewed essentially as equal but intriguingly and uniquely different, a pretty fine way to think and act?  Isn’t viewing those people who are very equality-prone in the way they treat and deal with others, something you can admire and respect?  Isn’t striving to be more like them a worthy goal and one you will feel good about achieving?  If you become good or better at the skill of treating your loved ones with the quality of equality, might not everybody benefit?  Won’t each of your love relationships, including the one with yourself, flow smoother and grow stronger by way of relating in equality as opposed to inequality?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

How about you tell somebody about this mini-love-lesson and this site so you help spread knowledge about love and so you have somebody new to talk all this over with.

Hunting for Love

Mini-Love-Lesson # 198
FREE: one of over 200 mini-love-lessons touching the lives of thousands in over 190 countries – worldwide!

Synopsis: To hunt or not hunt for love; conscious and subconscious hunting; the hunting controversy; hunting while married; those who give up hunting; science versus tradition; those who can not be bothered; five big helpers for good hunting and more are looked at in this mini-love-lesson.

Who’s Not Hunting?

Everyone’s hunting for love who has a paucity of love in their lives according to certain behavioral scientists.  They are hunting either consciously and knowingly or subconsciously and do not consciously know it but they are, nevertheless, hunting for love.  That is thought to be true even for those who do not believe in hunting for love as well as those who think purposefully hunting for love works against finding it.  With rare exception, those hungry for love and especially those love-malnourished or love-starved one way or another are looking for the love they naturally need.  Or at least so goes that thinking.

Have you ever heard someone say something like, “I’m waiting for love to find me, and I went to the single’s club just to make friends and have something to do, but I wasn’t really trying to find love.  I wouldn’t feel right doing that”?  There is evidence that suggests our natural need to be loved and give love pushes our hunting behavior whether we are aware of it consciously or not.  If that is so, it seems our inborn drive for love will not let our conscious mind be fully in control of this vital need.  It will make compartmentalized thinking and denial mechanisms block our awareness, if that is what it takes.  At least that is what some researchers and love theories postulate.

So, do you judge this thinking may be generally true?   Is it true of you right now?  Are you hunting for love and know it, or maybe do not know it.  Could this explain some of your behavior?  Does this  explain some of the behavior of people in your life?  What about important people in your past?

The Married and Still Hunting

It would appear many love-hungry, married people also subconsciously and sometimes consciously hunt for the love they feel they need even though they are consciously, vehemently against doing so.  Time and again during marriage and affair counseling I heard things like, “I don’t know why I sat next to the single guy at the meeting, I just did.  Do you suppose that’s where my affair really started?  I certainly didn’t know that was what was happening at the time”.

Arguably, many of the under-loved and married are on the hunt most of the time.  Those who are doing it entirely consciously may be also readying themselves for divorce.  That seems especially true for those who tried and tried to get more and better love-relating to happen in their marriages but to no avail.

Another thing I heard a lot in marital therapy goes like this: “She tried to get me to go to marriage counseling many times and I just wouldn’t go.  Now she’s divorcing me and has a lover.  What am I to do?  Is too late?”  That is the kind of statement many therapist who deal with couple’s, love-relating issues hear time and time again.  The relational therapist’s reply usually contains something like, “Possibly it’s not too late.  Let’s see what we can do about it”.  Oftentimes, with a good relational therapist, that leads to reconciliation but many times not.

What about Those Who Give up Trying?

It is true some people have been so hurt, so broken hearted and have become so afraid of trying again that they really do not consciously or subconsciously search for love.  That does not mean they do not still long for the love that would do them great good to have.  Some of these people can do okay and even do well by living on a healthy diet of love with good friends, family, children, pets, their religion or deity and sometimes with a cause usually involving helping or enriching others.

Giving up on hunting for love is not always about romantic love.  Sometimes it is because of family love-relating gone drastically wrong.  Heavy-duty friendship betrayal also can play a role here.  Sometimes what is involved is severe physical and/or emotional abuse, rape, incest or some other serious maltreatment.  It also simply can be about loss of a deep, strong, usually long-lasting love.
Sadly, there are a lot of people who feel they dare not risk any love relationship, at least not with human beings because it may lead to too much heartache like they have felt before.

Another thing some therapists frequently hear goes something like this, “Getting the dog saved me from suicide” or “I stay alive because the animals at the sanctuary (farm, ranch, refuge, etc.) need and love me and I love them”.  Secretly, these people usually admit that one day they might start to seek romantic love again but not yet.

There also are those who previously had a great and fulfilling, couple love but their love mate now is gone and they are carrying on tolerably well.  They seem to do okay enough living off their inner reservoir of love, built up over years with a really good love partner.  Then there are those that have been severely hurt by a love relationship gone wrong and they essentially turn into hermits.  I have never seen that work in the long run, though in the short run it can allow some time for healing.

The Controversy over Deliberately Hunting Love

In some circles, there is a fair amount of controversy concerning purposefully or deliberately hunting for love.  One school of thought says deliberately hunting does not work because romantic love only happens when you are not looking for it.  Remember, love is supposed to be blind.  It sort of is like romantic love has to ambush you, sweep you off your feet or trip you up so you can fall into it and it can totally possess you.  That is supposed to be the way to happily ever after.

Some reply to that scenario like this.  Remember that although falling in love feels like flying, similarly like other forms of falling, it so often ends in a crash in which you can get really seriously hurt and harmed.

An opposing school of thought goes like this.  Generally, people do best at most forms of achievement by deliberate and deliberated upon action.  That way both their conscious and subconscious minds do not have to fight each other and can work together toward the same goal at the same time.  For most people, conscious attention given toward learning and improvement-making practice works best.  There is a lot of evidence to say that hunting for love and love relating are no exception.  While love is a natural phenomenon that may just spring up in your life, or slowly grow in your heart, successful love hunting and love relating takes learning.  A good hunter is one who continuously learns more and more about hunting well.

Assertive Hunting

Assertiveness means actively being willing to make the first move to connect, increasingly probing into and revealing more personal knowledge, sharing feelings and often simply asking for what is wanted.  Walking up to someone and saying, “You look interesting, I want to meet you” is truthful and both brave and efficient hunting behavior.  Can you do something like that?

How to Hunt for Love – Five Basics

1.    Start with Self  To hunt and find love, start by becoming more loving and lovable.  So, are you improving your loveableness and your love-abilities?  Are your skills at giving genuine, heartfelt love increasing?  How about your skills at receiving love well?  Finding what could become Great love may take you becoming great at love.

Were you hoping to be loved in spite of your anti-love flaws and your non-loving ways.  We all have those.  Well, that does happen but those who do their part at love-behavior-improvement have a lot better chance.

2.    Go Forth Boldly, Carefully, Truthfully and Often  Enjoy, but be wary of attraction, both coming and going.  Don’t confuse attraction with love.  They are different!  Be friendly assertive!  Remember, active choosers tend to be safer and do better than those waiting to be chosen, and certainly do better than beggars, buyers and manipulators.  As you go, be increasingly real with some finesse.  Playing games, faking, over or under presenting yourself, forever hiding your less-than-perfect parts, your history, etc. may help catch but not keep someone.  The quicker you assert your truths, the quicker you test for tolerance and acceptance ability in the person you are love-relating with, both necessities for healthy love.

To questions you don’t want to answer, reply with some charm and something like “you don’t get to know that about me, at least not yet” and don’t volunteer explaining that response.  Remember, it’s a bit of a numbers game.  Those who go (out and about and go different) more often get more, often.  For carefulness, don’t play “strike one you’re out, or anybody’s out, and the game is over”; but maybe after three or so strikes, it is time to at least think about hunting elsewhere.

3.    Defend with Self-Love  When something goes relationally awry, use your healthy self-love with self-affirmation to defend against putdowns, rejection, disregard, disapproval, anger, indifference, neglect and everything negative coming your way.  Listen and seek to understand but don’t quickly take-to-heart negatives.  They likely say more about the sayer than about you.  Remember, that without self-love, other love suffers – sometimes greatly.

4.    Risk Asking for What You Want – Behaviorally  Happily saying “I want some affection” is good but is not as good as following those words with something like “so I’d like you to kiss me right now”.  This is because until you describe the behavior that gives you what you want, another person likely is not going to clearly understand exactly what behavior you are hoping will happen.  Remember, no two people really think anything exactly alike.  Hinting and thinking, if they truly love you they will know what to do and will do it, might work after you know each other for 10 years or more, at least some of the time.  However, asking for what you want behaviorally more efficiently explorers for a couple’s potential communication competence.

Especially kindly but assertively, ask for and give self-disclosure concerning what is important to you, and him or her, and what you are passionate about.     Increasingly ask personal but not too early sexual questions, and remember to practice good listening skills all along the way.

5.     Discuss Love Early   If you are going to hunt for love, you might as well get right to it, gently and with finesse, but clearly.  Probably talking about love in general at the very first, looking to see things like if the topic scares who you are talking to, if love is confused with sex, if they are hunting for it, if they are working at trying hard to dodge it, etc.. might reveal important things to know.  Then get around to what happened about love to them before you met them; are they willing to work at and with love to improve love-relating skills, etc..  For discussing love, you might want to use the mini-love-lesson “20 Smart Making Love Questions” plus any other mini-love-lesson from the Subject Index that grabs your attention.

Good hunting!

How about helping spread the new love knowledge a bit by telling someone about our mini-love-lessons???

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: How do you feel about someone else who is hunting for love targeting you as the goal of their hunt – do you feel turned on, happy, flattered, curious, angry, worried, scared or what?

Attitude Gifts of Love

Mini-Love-Lesson #294

Synopsis: Here we encounter attitudes as a choice rather than just reactions; furthermore attitudes that are healthful to ourselves, our love ones and our love relationships.
To be met with a smile, a cheery hello or open arms is to be met with an attitudinal love gift.  To be around an up person on most average days is to experience daily, healthy doses of attitudinal love.  To encounter a person who is repeatedly, personally up on you is to be love nurtured repeatedly. 

What Are Attitudinal Love Gifts?

To adopt, present and maintain a demeanor that is positive, pleasing, cooperative, and copacetic to benefit your loved one’s well-being and moods are great attitudinal gifts of love.  Interacting with a countenance of loving kindness, compassion, happiness and equanimity are important examples of attitude love gifts also.  

It Is A Choice

Purposefully choosing to have a countenance of happiness on most days, a compassionate demeanor on difficult days and an attitude of caring composure during times of conflict can contribute greatly to healthy relationships.  Manifesting and maintaining a positive attitude can be learned and practiced by those who give time and effort to that worthy goal.  By doing so, an additional benefit is we will be more free of negative moods and their harmful, stressor effects.

When we think of a gift, commonly we think of an object in a box with a big bow.  As you can see, there are multiple other kinds of things to attend to.  

A Beneficial Love Gift To One’s Self

Don’t forget to give yourself loving, attitude gifts.  Sometimes we are just to darn hard on ourselves.  When we have a healthy, positive attitude toward ourselves, we accrue all kinds of healthy physical benefits.  Stress might be lowered and life enjoyed more.  Those we love possibly will want to spend more time with us and be happier in our presence.  Our love, work and play might happen without as many problems and may function better.  Positive psychology proposes that living life with a positive attitude benefits all concerned.

From the Buddhist teachings on love, much can be learned about attitudinal love gifts.

On difficult days, choose to give a genuine attitude of caring love.

On great days, choose to share an attitude of celebratory love.

On ordinary days, choose to spread an attitude gift of joyful, happy love.

One More Thing

How about telling someone about this mini-love-lesson and this website about love?  Spreading the positives about love really might make your world more love enriched. 

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

♥ Love Success Question: What is your usual countenance or most common demeanor given to those you care about most?

Other recommended Mini-Love-Lessons related to Gift Love

A Best Gift of Love?

Rewarding Gifts of Love

Behaviors That Give Love – The Core Four

Yourself As a Great Source of Love Gifts

Conclusions, Confounding and Corrupting Your Love?

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson explores the questions – Are your conclusions your secret enemy, can two people see reality the same way, do you know if you are ‘conclusion-sabotaged’, and what to do instead of conclude and thereby avoid your love being conclusion-sabotaged.

Are Your Conclusions Your Secret Enemy?

Andrew concluded Barbara was cheating on him so he broke the relationship off.  Caroline concluded Doug was trying to suppress and control her so she began to lie and deceive him.  Edward concluded her family hated him and, therefore, she probably did too, so he gave up having anything to do with them and started having fights with her.  Fiona concluded she would never be good at sex, then she gave up on it.  George concluded Helen kept thinking about men with bigger penises than his and, therefore, she was dissatisfied with him, so he got depressed and felt hopelessly inadequate.

Inna concluded she did not have what it took to have and hold a man’s love, so she retreated into living alone and lonely.  Jeff concluded Kaylee reading romance novels meant she wanted somebody else, so he started spying on her.  Lorraine concluded Mike did not love her because he could never figure out what she wanted without her asking for it, so she started looking for love elsewhere.  Donald stopped talking to her when he concluded she never would listen to him because she always interrupted him.

It turned out all these different people’s conclusions were wrong.  And these conclusions helped destroy, or nearly destroy, relationships that might otherwise have worked better if the people making the conclusions were not so very certain they were so very right, so very often.  Even when some of their conclusions were partially right, holding so firmly to those conclusions blocked them from being able to really hear any alternate or differing perceptions or opinions from their loved ones.  This resulted in them being strongly sabotaged and destructive to having love-filled interactions.  More than one disheartened person, breaking up with another, has said something like, “You think you’re always so right; You are wrong, and that’s why I’m done with you.”

Can Two People See Reality the Same Way?

Phenomenologists,, including those psychologists and brain scientists who study how we perceive and understand what we perceive, have concluded that the answer is emphatically NO!  No two people understand anything exactly the same way.  Every perception of reality in one mind/brain is at least in some small and perhaps important way, different from every other mind/brain.  When you get deeply into it, you find out every person thinks and feels at least a little bit differently than every other person about everything.  Here are some common examples of how we do not experience reality the same as others.  Food that is good on one person’s tongue is not on another’s.

In the same room, one person feels cold, and another hot and a third just right.  The colors you see are not exactly the colors anyone else sees according to vision research.  If your perceptions and understandings of how simple things like these are different, think how different you are from others concerning complicated things.  This means your truth is not other people’s, and their truth is not yours, at least not exactly.  Just like our fingerprints are not exactly the same as anyone else’s, so too are our thoughts and feelings.  At least that is what the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates.

You may be rather right about something, but someone else may be more right, or essentially also right but from a very different perspective.  That means what you have concluded is obviously true and perhaps, to you, simple to see and understand but it can and will likely be seen differently by someone else.  Also many things may be legitimately perceived by others as contradictory to what you perceive and understand.  Looking from different perspectives, you both may be right, but without each other’s perspective you may come into conflict with each other.  Remember, the blind man who holds the trunk of the elephant, and the blind man who holds the tusk, hold very different realities about what an elephant is.  Both still have a lot to learn about what they are so certain is ‘the truth’ about what an elephant is.  Sometimes you and I, and everyone are a blind man.

Consider these often passionately held conclusions: “all men cheat”, “ a good man will never cheat”, “ all women will cheat if they can cheat upwardly”, really good women don’t cheat because they don’t like sex anyway”, “cheating only matters in societies where the people are sexually insecure”, “cheating can make some marriages better”, “cheating is always destructive to every relationship”, “only those weak in character cheat”, “cheating requires bravery and boldness and is most frequently done by the strong and successful”, “cheating is trashy and low class”, “cheating is a privilege commonly afforded to the upper classes and the wealthy”, “open marriage means never having to cheat”, “open marriage means your cheating all the time”, “cheating is always an extremely important issue”, “cheating for lots of people in many parts of the world is just not a very important issue”.

There are people who hold each of these conclusions to be true, and they can present evidence to support their position.  Some would say there is some truth in each of those statements.  Others would say each of those conclusions is true for some people and not for others.  Still others might say what is cheating to one person is not to another.  Interestingly, even when two or more people hold any one of these conclusions they may choose to act very differently from one another because of that conclusion.  But, of course, whatever you think about cheating is absolutely right, and without question, and should be considered obviously and completely true by everyone else.

Do You Know If You Are ‘Conclusion Sabotaged’?

“I know you’re upset with me.”  “You did that just to get back at me.”  “I know exactly how you feel.”  “I know what you’re thinking.”  “You never change.”  “I know perfectly well why you did that.”  “I know it didn’t happen that way, so you must be lying.”   All these kind of statements indicate the likelihood that collusion-sabotage is occurring.  It is sabotage to a relationship if you think or talk this way, because these types of declarations all represent the likelihood of being blind to alternate possibilities.

Thinking that way makes you vulnerable to negative surprises.  If you are communicating with these types of conclusionary statements, you are likely to be coming across as close minded, dogmatic and dictatorial.  That usually is very sabotaging because it frequently helps people want to either prove you wrong, or hide their truths from you, and eventually distance themselves from you.

Listen to how different these ways of saying the same ideas might be said.  “I’m guessing you’re upset with me, and I’d like to check that out.  What are you feeling?”  “Could it be that you did that because you want to get back at me for something you think I did?”  “I think I have felt things sort of like what you’re feeling, so I kind of understand what you’re going through, and I care.”  “Let me guess what maybe you’re thinking.

Then tell me if I’m close, or if there is an alteration needed so I can really understand you.”  “I have ideas about why you may have done that, but suppose you tell me what you think.”  Both thinking and talking in this more open and exploratory way, more frequently, leads to better communication and improving relationships.  So the good news is, if you or a loved one are conclusion-sabotaging, you can change to a way that  usually is more harmonious, connecting, complete, accurate and successful.  It also is a more loving way of going about things with a loved one.

What to Do Instead of Conclude?

The first thing to do is to ‘own up’ to the fact that you are human and humans frequently have blind spots, jump to false conclusions, become solidly sure of things that are not true, have problems with accuracy, and seldom are great at seeing the larger picture.  Humans also distort their perceptions of reality by way of their own past experiences, their own inner needs, what was modeled for them growing up and by conclusion-drawing-systems trained into them by family and culture.  Furthermore, humans usually don’t know that there memories tend to change over time.  Since your human, you are subject to all of that, so it will behoove you to stay aware that what you think and conclude may be improved on.

The second thing to do is to change your conclusions into ‘guesses’.  They may be excellent, well-informed guesses, frequently spot-on guesses, and guesses that may have worked very well for you in the past, but none of that means your next conclusion (‘guess’) is right.  Suspect the Bible is right when it says “we see through a glass darkly”.  You can hold strongly to your guesses so long as you are open to hearing alternate possibilities, and open to receiving new and different input.

If you think and talk with the idea that you are making estimations, possibly flawed judgments, and at best only tentative conclusions, your thinking and your communicating likely will work better.  If you turn all your conclusions into hypotheses, often best checked out with the input of others who think differently than you; then take the input you get into account, and see if you can improve or elaborate on what you think; my guess is that things may go smoother in you communications with loved ones if you so this – so try it, OK?

The third thing to do is gamble on ‘your best guess’ and do it with strong confidence but know it is a gamble.  You are human, therefore, you may be mistaken, wrong, insufficiently accurate, right in some part but not in another, in need of more data, ill-informed, or only partially knowledgeable.  You may wish to abide by the adage that says “only God knows, and the rest of us are guessing as best we can”. With this approach we often are able to become much more open, democratic, accepting, tolerant, searching, and likely to arrive at better conclusion-guesses.  We also are much less likely to be conclusion-sabotaging, or let other’s conclusion-sabotage occur.  Now know, you don’t have to conclude that any of this is true!

If you hit an impasse with a loved one and can not understand or accept a differing view, I suggest saying, without rancor, “We just see that (or remember that) differently”, and mean it, not concluding one of you is right and the other is wrong.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
What do you think of the statement that says “You can be right, or in a relationship – but not both at the same time”?

Quality Love, Quality Life?

Synopsis: This mini-love-lessons starts with an important life quality question; then goes on to a real life case; questions of “The most important factor?”, “What biology tells us about love”, then what constitutes high-quality love; and achievement of high love/life quality.

Is Your Life Quality Determined by Your Love Quality?

A growing body of evidence points to the quality and quantity of love in your life having a whole lot to do with the all over quality of your life. 

High-quality life means you are deeply pleased with the way your life is going, often happy, physically and mentally (especially mentally) healthy, successful and productive, and generally can be considered to be enjoying an enriched, growing and satisfied life.  Without sufficient amounts of these factors and feelings, life can be evaluated as being of mediocre to poor, or worse quality.  Overtly, life can look to be of high quality but covertly it may actually be quite problematic and of low quality.

Here is an example.  Milton was by all accounts a big success.  He had good health, money, status, influence, a record of outstanding accomplishments, peer and community respect, a seemingly ideal family and a whole lot more.  Milton, however, was deeply unhappy.

Two psychiatrists diagnosed Milton as depressed and prescribed various psychiatric medicines which did nothing, or apparently made his condition even worse.  It was not until a new therapist got Milton to examine the love factor in his life that things started to change for the better.  He began to see how loveless his life really was.  His nice marriage to a ‘trophy wife’ had no genuine love in it. Milton’s relationship with his children was distant at best. Friendships were all superficial.  Milton’s dealings with his parents and other family were only perfunctory.

Worst of all, Milton’s feelings for himself were summed up with the words “not good enough”.  His feelings about life, spiritual factors, meaning and purpose were merely mild as far as he could tell.  Milton had felt loved by his grandparents and deeply mourned their passing when he was in his twenties.  The fact that he once had felt loved is probably what had kept him going long after they were no longer in his life.  Now, however, he came to suspect he was in a state of serious love malnutrition, and that was ruining the quality of his life.  He saw it might even destroy his life if he didn’t do something about it.  Milton then went into several forms of counseling and therapy.

Marriage counseling was a great success because it led to a very amicable divorce and then to him later meeting a woman he could really love and who could truly love him.  Family counseling led to far better, love-filled, improved connections with his children.  Group therapy opened him to finding and growing real friendships, and individual therapy resulted in increasing healthy self-love.  It took a long time and a lot of hard emotional work but it was worth it!  Milton now says he loves life, and he now leads an exceptionally high quality life, full of healthy, real love while before he only had the trappings of a quality life.  He also jokingly says he doesn’t think he could get depressed even if he tried.

Is Love the Most Important Factor?

Milton’s experience may not be relative for everyone.  Certainly other factors besides love can make a great deal of difference to a person’s quality of life.  Physical health problems, severe poverty, war, crime, injustice, profound failure and loss, etc. all can greatly invade and have their destructive influence on one’s quality of life.  However, it may be that having high-quality, healthy, real love in one’s life may be the very most important factor in many people’s life.  Maybe yours?

There are many examples of people having all sorts of difficult problems but having ample, high-quality love in their life often makes the difference as to whether they felt they did or did not have a good life.  There also are countless examples where people having what they considered a bad life experienced it all changing for the better when healthy, real love came into their life.

There also is evidence pointing to various forms of false love, mediocre love and infrequently expressed or demonstrated love being correlated with or leading to a lesser and sometimes diminishing quality of life.

What Biology Tells Us about Love?

We learned that healthy, real love is biologically important when it was discovered in pediatrics that infants physically die of ‘failure to thrive’ illnesses when they do not experience the behaviors that convey love in their first year of life, even though they are well fed and well taken care of physically.  We learned this again when it was discovered in developmental psychology that infrequently loved children become what was diagnosed as psycho-social dwarfism i.e. the tendency not to physically grow except when being behaviorally loved.  These results were laboratory confirmed in animal comparative psychology when Harry Harlow’s experiments with infant monkeys got very similar results.

We learned this again when in rehabilitation medicine it was discovered that people in good i.e. well loved marriage, family and friendship relationships, recover from wounds, disabling accidents and debilitating illnesses far faster and far more often than those lacking such relationships (when all other factors are essentially equal).  The preponderance of evidence in these and other fields such as social psychology, the brain sciences, psychoneuroimmunology, medical sociology, etc. points to the arguable conclusion that both the quantity and quality of love in your life greatly effects a great deal about the quality and even the length of your life.

What is High-Quality Love?

One way to understand high-quality love is to look at the five major functions of healthy, real love.  When there is strong quality love frequently given or shown, both the receiver and the giver of that love are thought to experience the benefits of those five functions sufficiently and often in abundance (See the mini-love-lesson “A Functional Definition of Love”).

First, high-quality love can be seen to provide us with a sense of full and satisfying, often intimate, and a very personal connection with others.  In the absence of this connectedness there can grow a sense of both aloneness and loneliness, personal isolation, depleting emotional distance and disconnection.

Second, high-quality love can be seen to provide us with substantial safeguarding, looked after by loving others.  With safeguarding from loved ones, can come a sense of greater security and safety.  Without this safeguarding there is greater endangerment, sometimes accompanied by a sense of insecurity, apprehension and anxiety.

Third, with quality love there are efforts to help us improve, grow and generally be better than we were in a wide variety of ways.  With that can grow the sense that our improvements in any and all areas are important, wanted, encouraged, assisted and enjoyed by those who love us.  This, psychologically, both nourishes and nurtures us and helps us feel personally affirmed and meaningfully supported.  Without it there can be feelings of insignificance, abandonment, lack of personal importance to another, negation and dis-affirmation.  Without such efforts our all over improvement in life tends to be less supported, less sustained and generally hampered compared to those who have improvement assistance from their loved ones.

Fourth, quality love has a healing effect both mentally and physically. When we are physically or emotionally hurt, harmed, sick, disabled or in any way in need of healing, we heal more, faster and better when we experience being loved.  Part of this is that our loved ones take better care of us.  Another part of it is that feeling loved stimulates our self-healing mechanisms to operate better.  Another part of this healing effect of love is mysterious and perhaps spiritual or metaphysical.  Those without healthy, real, quality love in their life are thought to heal slower and less thoroughly.  It is also thought that their chances of survival with life threatening illnesses are less.

Fifth, real and healthy quality love is understood to reward our love actions, feelings, thoughts and our love receptions with greater happiness and often deep, profound, inner joy well beyond that of those who do not experience much quality, real love in their lives.  Fake and false forms of love apparently can and do provide initial or erratic, short-lived happiness and even occasional ecstasy, but this then fades or turns to agony.

Quality Love in Your Life Can Greatly Improve!

Like most other arenas of life, the arena of love in its many forms and types can be an arena of your functioning in which you purposefully improve.  You may be working at doing just that right now by reading this mini-love-lesson.  Of course you have to do a lot more than read.  You have to put into practice what you read about doing.  Unfortunately, there is a broad, cultural training which teaches the presence and quality of love in your life depends on being lucky or on some other force outside yourself and not on your own efforts.  Like everything else of importance, luck can play a role but your best chance of succeeding at love and having high-quality, real love depends mostly on your own ability to explore, experiment, study and develop your own love abilities.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Would you rate the quality of your life and the quality of love in your life to be ‘at the same level’, ‘improving’, ‘holding steady’ or ‘worsening’?

Expressional Love Behaviors – The Last 6 of 12


Mini-Love-Lesson #292

Synopsis: Here are 6 more of the 12 things to know for succeeding at doing the very important way of love known as expressional love, including greater sexual love and 7 significant questions to ask yourself.

As we said before, love must be done, not just felt.  Let us also remember that the better we do love the more our love is likely to be effective, helpful, healthful, successful and wonder-full.  Remember too, expressional love may send as much as 93% of the actual communication in a face-to-face, personal, love interaction.  

To accomplish expressional love’s best actions, there are a dozen, lesser known, love sending behaviors.  We covered the first 6 in the blog post titled “Expressional Love Behaviors – The First 6 of 12”.  Now, let’s cover the last 6.  They may seem rather technical but they contain some really useful, concrete information.  Being genuine is always a best practice for relationship success.

7. Approach and Avoidance Action Messages

Love relating often involves approach or avoidance relationship signals and actions.  Think about approaching anything.  First, we notice it, then we read the signals of its approachability and then we choose to go toward it or avoid it.  Now think about love relating.  The importance of comprehending the signs and signals of our loved ones helps us determine whether or not to interact with them.  If we do not accurately read those signals, we can stumble into mis-communication and mis-understanding.  

Also important in this process are the signals we send.  The actual action of approaching a loved one can broadcast the love message that we want to be close to them physically and emotionally.  How we do that is best coordinated with their emotional state.  For example, if they look sad, we might approach more carefully and caring.  If they look happy, we might make a more exuberant approach.

If we expressionally project an approachable countenance, it can lead to so many relational benefits.  Connecting and bonding, functioning together and teamwork, and intimate knowledge of each other are only a few of the perks.

There also can be avoidance or distancing issues communicated by our signaling behaviors.  Sooner later every couple, family and ongoing friendship faces a situation where someone wants to approach some topic and the other person wants to avoid it.  This can lead to conflict if not handled well.  Consider this couple’s conundrum.  

Kelly wants to introduce Chris to a new sexual activity.  Mischievously, Kelly shows Chris a photo of the desired activity in a sexy magazine.  Chris freezes up and moves away from Kelly.  Instead of getting upset, Kelly decides to be more loving and considerate of Chris’s obvious discomfort and stiffness.  When Chris sees Kelly’s soft, caring look, it triggers a relaxation of Chris’s tension.  Kelly seeing this relaxation, moves a bit closer and makes an open arms gesture.  Chris smiles and moves into Kelly’s arms.  

This couple had a wordless, expressional conversation about whether to approach or avoid a touchy topic.  Doing that helped them get to a successful point where they were comfortable enough to openly start talking together about this sexual issue.  This example shows how important sending, recognizing and receiving expressional signals can be to richer communication in love relationships.

8. Receptive and Reciprocal Love

Suppose a person is handed an unexpected gift from a loved one.  Do they smile and look pleasantly surprised?  Or feeling interrupted, maybe they look mildly annoyed, put the gift down (to open later) and turn away?  The way we expressionally receive and respond to an act of love frequently sets off a positive or negative cycle in our close relationships. 

Here is a little, seven question survey to help you access the strengths and weaknesses in your receptive and reciprocal, expressional practices.

  1. Are you good at noticing smiles aimed at you, and smiling back?

2. When you hear loving tones of voice coming your way, do you respond likewise, or with flat tones, or gruffly, or are you often non-responsive?

3. If someone who loves you leans toward you as they talk, do you tend to lean toward them, become a bit rigid, lean away or stay as you were?

4. If you are greeted with open arms by a loved one, do you respond with open arms that are wider, not as wide or with no arm gestures at all?

5. If a loved one moves closer to you, do you move closer to them, do you stiffen or relax, do you move away or do you do nothing?

6. If a loved one looks and/or sounds troubled, sad, upset or aggravated, do you look and sound caring, annoyed, threatened, angry, baffled, unaware or what?

7. Does your everyday demeanor around your loved ones usually look and sound happy, friendly, loving, positive or more neutral, more unhappy, irritated, grouchy, indifferent or otherwise negative?

Whatever your responses to those questions are, do you wish to make improvements in your love reception responses?  If you do, how might you go about that?

Be careful of automatic responses.  They can be seen as mechanical and insincere.  If you dare, instead pepper replies with extravagant motions, exuberant gestures, chipper voice tones, and zany facial expressions that show your reciprocal love in lively ways.  Some might see that as overdoing it.  Cultural, societal, family and personal experiences influence that perception.  A lot of this may be repression training.  Look at young children who naturally are expressionally animated.  Observe the spirited interchanges of people in Latin cultures.  More and more with the help of the behavioral sciences, we see positive expressional freedom as healthy.

9. Expressionally Communicating Emotional Responsiveness

We have touched on this before but this area is so important it deserves fuller treatment.  In all our love relationships, it is immensely useful to keep current about our loved one’s feelings.  This is the art of tuning-in and then responding to those emotions.  Our loved one’s feelings might change more frequent than we think.  They can change in strength, in a different direction or in the kind of feeling projected.  Our job is to accurately read those emotional expressions.  One cannot over-estimate the importance of two indicators – facial expressions and voice variations.  Sometimes gestures, postures, positioning and all the other expressional ways of influencing a love communication are of considerable significance in reading a loved one’s emotions and then responding appropriately.

Showing a fitting emotional response to a loved one’s feelings helps them to handle bad feelings and enriches good feelings.  It also helps to grow the bond between those who love each other.

To be a star when doing expressional responsiveness, let’s look at a few basics regarding emotions and feelings in general.  Technically, all of us have physical and probably emotional feelings almost all the time, even in our sleep.  Many of the smaller feelings never reach our conscious awareness.  Some feelings reach our semi-conscious awareness in the form of intuition, hunches, notions, impulses and things like that.  Our responsiveness can be affected by any of those.  All of our emotions are thought to have evolved to help us survive and thrive, even the ones we call bad.  For example, fear tries to keep us safe, anger gives us emergency power, depression may get us to inventory what is wrong.  Good feelings guide us toward what to do again and can assist us in getting through bad feeling times.

If a loved one is happy or is having any other pleasurable feeling, it is best to respond in kind.  If a loved one expresses a bad feeling, usually it is best to respond empathetically with care.  This tends to show you believe in them and in their ability to improve, thus, helping to restore their own confidence and courage.  The general rule here is be stingy with advice at first and go further into problem-solving only if met with clear, eager receptivity.

Active listening is a good way of responding expressionally.  In active listening, your mouth says very little while your expressional behaviors say a lot.  With facial expressions, tones, gestures and postures you continuously can show your love.  If you are puzzled, you can look quizzical which communicates you are trying to understand.  Never underestimate how much love relating is accomplished by emotional interacting or how much emotional interacting is accomplished by expressional communication.

10. Gestural Love Communication

Did you know that the more you talk with your hands the more likely you are to get your message heard?  Preachers, politicians and ardent lovers seem to be adept at this.  A great many impactful messages can be communicated by hand, arm, head, and once in a while even by foot gestures. 

Gestures come in many forms and can broadcast different meanings.  You can wave at someone as an act friendship love or you can wave off someone from danger as an act of protective love.  You might gesture approval and affirmation with a thumbs-up gesture or agreement by the OK hand sign (be careful about hand signs, they can mean very different things in different cultures).

Subtle gestures also can be a part of our ability to send and receive love.  If you welcome the approach of a loved one with a recognition smile and a brief hug, they probably will feel lovingly welcomed.  If you accidentally keep your hands in your pockets or down at your sides that could be interpreted as a subtle, anti-love rejection or a devaluing gesture.  A V for victory sign flashed at a loved one can be an obvious “I’m proud of you” love message.  In more sedate or formal settings small gestures, like a slight head nod still can send strong messages of love. 

Some loving couples develop their own personal and private, gestural language.  A hand held over the heart may mean “I love you”.  While seated at a gathering, wiggling a foot in the direction of an exit, secretly may suggest “Let’s go home and be alone together”.  Certain types of smiles may beckon a loved one, shrugs may communicate “I don’t care” and a wince might suggest “I just got my feelings hurt and would like your loving support”.  Couples that grow in love, tend to increasingly and effectively interpret many mini-gestures and are guided by them.

Couples, families and friends, from time to time, get body language messages confused which makes for unhappy situations.  In counseling, I heard a wife tell her husband that at a party the night before, she had felt rejected by him.  She had crossed her legs at him, over and over, and she concluded he had rejected her request.  He looked baffled and said “What request”?  She replied, “You know perfectly well that means let’s go home and make love”.  With astonishment he swore he had no idea it meant that but from now on he certainly would abide by that seductive inducement.

Some gestures have fairly widespread understanding, at least in Western society.  A loved one is struggling with anguished feelings.  If you lean forward and assume an open body posture, they likely will feel cared about.  If you lean back and cross your arms, they may interpret you as rejecting or closed off.  In a noisy, crowded environment, pointing toward someone and clapping can convey strong praise and camaraderie.  Copacetic feelings often rise when hand dancing movements are used.  Italians have the best reputation for energetically gesturing conversely, upper crust, English speakers not so much.  Whether gesturing is with tiny movements or bold and vigorous ones, good use of gestures can be very additive to love relating.  For a best practices approach to love, we recommend you give expressional, emotional responsiveness some of your sincerest attention.

11. Non-Verbal Vocalization

Here is a somewhat obscure area of expressional communication called Paralinguistics.  It is a bit complicated but it has its importance.  Researchers report paralingual factors may be four times as important as the words used in face-to-face, personal conversation. 

Scientists in this field, study everything about spoken communication except the words. 

Besides the words we speak or their dictionary definitions, there may be as many as sixteen factors that influence vocal intercourse.  Don’t worry, we are not going to cover them all.  

 Non-word components of speech include things like volume, inflection, pitch, pauses, rates of speech, spacing of words, sighs, grunts, pacing, hesitations, cadence, accent, noise making and other related stuff.  These non-verbal vocalizations get subconsciously analyzed and then influence how we interpret, understand and choose to react and interact.  Consider how these things can affect the messages we send to our loved ones.  

We can affect the potency of our love messages by understanding and using some of this paralinguistic knowledge.  For instance, if we focus on our tones of voice, we may determine whether or not they are as loving as we want them to be.  Also, volume, speed of speech and pacing can be custom tailored to each of our loved ones.  Impressions we do not want to make include weak and whiny, frenetic, sing-song, always annoyed, dull and boring and so forth.  The impressions we do want to make with our voice expressiveness include up-beat, sensitive, interesting and interested, positive, loving and so forth.  If with our voice tones we can sound melodic, effervescent or joyful, we can make our love more impactful, rich and welcome.  Honing and sophisticating our ways of showing love using these factors can help us treat our loved ones as special and unique.   

12. Expressional Mirroring for Love’s Sake

Now, we come to an expressional area that encompasses all the above into one best, practices package.  If you want to help a dear one that is troubled, you could try expressional mirroring.  That also is useful in dealing with those who seem closed to hearing outside input or who just seem hard to reach.  Expressional mirroring is a way to help them feel emotionally understood and loved.  If it is done well, it frequently leads to new ideas and better dealing with hard to handle issues.  One caveat, it does not work with everyone. 

When a troubled loved one is expressing something that obviously is quite important to them, try this.  With empathy, begin to mirror back to them their movements and their voice modulations while saying very little verbally and listening intently.  If they lean one way or another, you do too.  If they smile, so do you.  If they start talking softer and slower, you say something slower and softer also.  If they make a gesture, you make a similar one.  Many who begin the art of mirroring start with more miniature behaviors until they become comfortable with mirroring. 

 New practitioners of love-by-mirroring usually have some doubts, worries and questions about this approach.  One concern is, “Won’t those I mirror ask why am I doing the same things they’re doing?”  Surprisingly, that question almost never arises.  But if it does, you can reply with the truth by saying, “It helps me feel really with you and with your emotions.  Another worry is that your loved one might feel they are being made fun of.  That probably will not happen if your empathy really shows.

Empathy is a way of riding with them as they continue their emotion-filled journey of struggle.  Don’t add anything new with words!  Just keep mirroring.  Mirroring helps to behaviorally show you are feeling what they are feeling as well as viewing what their mind is viewing as they reveal it.  Essentially, it is sort of like trying to live inside their drama as they describe it.

With mirroring, it is amazing what can accomplished.  A loved one often feels profound acceptance and deep emotional understanding.  Emotional strengthening also occurs with being well loved.  Loving through mirroring often tends to be an extremely intimate experience.  

Mirroring is a great way to help people with catharsis, tension release and stress reduction.  It seems to clear the way for new insights, for arriving at solutions and for achieving a sense of closure.  It also is a way to help your loved ones arrive at their own answers.  Quite often it appears to help open mental doors to hearing new inputs, suggestions, recommendations and fresh expressions of care and love.  However, it is surprising how often that guidance is not needed after a mirroring experience.

Mirroring also can be integrated with reflective listening.  Basically, the practice of reflective listening involves saying back to a person, versions of what they have just said, coupled with the emotions they are describing and expressionally exhibiting.  Simple example: your loved one, with a big huff and a scowl says, “Your mother told me I don’t look good with long hair”.  A reflective response might be, “Awww, that hurt your feelings”.  

Recipients of mirroring frequently express feelings like, “You really understand me”, “I felt so alone in my problems but now I don’t”, “You went to the trouble to really know me and I feel so loved”, and “I don’t know why I feel so much better but I do”.

Note: It is important not to fake but rather to more accurately convey your emotions as you interact with loved ones using the above suggestions.  Remember, it is not likely to be real love if you have to fake it.

Benefits of the 12

Again, marvelous benefits can accrue to those who becoming mindful and active with these 12 lesser known expressional behaviors.  Relationally, love connecting, bonding, nurturing, communicating, teamwork and emotional understanding improve.  Individually, these valuable and skillful ways to convey love can enhance everyone’s love-ability

One More Thing

How about telling someone about this mini-love-lesson and this website about love?  Spreading the positives about love really might make your world more love enriched. 

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

♥ Love Success Question: How often do you think about how well you are doing your love – showing, giving, demonstrating, etc.?