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

Love Is Not Provoked to Wrathful Anger

Mini-Love-Lesson  #245

Note: This is the 8th in our What Is Love?: A New Testament reply series based in Paul’s description of love and relational science. 

Synopsis:   The great importance of this teaching for love relationships; powerful and weak interpretations; a fuller understanding of wrathful anger; the high and often overlooked significance of “not provoked”; the power of emotional equanimity for achieving this way of love; some help from a bit of Hindu/Buddhist/Christian integrated teaching – all potently come together in this discussion informed by relational science.

Most Important?

Speaking from a relational specialist and therapist’s point of view, this might be one of the very most and important things on Paul’s list of what is and is not love!  To me, therefore, it deserves your considerable attention.  But then again I’m biased about this.

Please first note that this proclamation of Paul’s has two foci.  One is what we might call provokability and the other is, in this translation, wrathful anger.

Why Is This So Important?

No one knows how much human misery and destruction wrathful anger has caused.  Some think that more than one half of the harm humans do each other would not happen if we did not allow ourselves to be provoked into intense anger, rage, hate and other forms of wrathful anger.  How many love relationships are harmed or destroyed by episodes of anger acted out?

We know from research that most spousal murders, cases of battered children, incidents of familial physical abuse, elder abuse, acrimonious divorces and friend related physical fights resulting in hospitalization involve fits of unrestrained anger.  The vast majority of all this harm involves people who said they loved one another.  Additionally, there are all the couples and families who, via frequent angry fights, limit and block the amount of happy, healthy love they could otherwise have.  On top of that, are all the seriously stressed and often traumatized, bystander children who witness those angry parent and family member fights (see “Anger and Love”).

Paul’s assertion proffers that with real love all of that agony and destructiveness can be made preventable.  As a therapist, I have had a lot of first hand experience seeing couples, families, parents and others with severe anger problems prove Paul to be right.  In my work with the families of murdered children, hardest was where the victim and an almost murderer were within the same family.  But even there, the ways of anger could, with family therapy, be replaced with far better behavior.

I came to this work because I grew up in an alcohol influenced, fighting, Irish family destroyed by endless rage attacks and counter attacks. As could be expected, after that I had my own anger issues to overcome.  The good news is, with a lot of hard work, I and countless others like me worked and grew out of a life of angry self-sabotage and relationship sabotage.  Now, it has been a long time since I have allowed myself to be provoked to wrathful anger.

To get to the how-to’s, we first have to cover a few basics.

What Did Paul Really Mean?

Paul wrote his teachings and inspirations in ancient Greek and for this one he used “ou paroxunetai” which has been translated into English a diverse number of ways.  From a psychological point of view, some of these translations seem a bit questionable.  They include “love does not become angry”, “does not easily become angry”, “is not touchy and vindictive”, “does not blaze out in passionate fury”, “does not fly off the handle”, “does not get upset with others” and “is very slow to take offense”.

Another group of interpretations renders this, in what seems to be a softening and somewhat understating way, making Paul’s pronouncement seem milder than was perhaps meant.  They include versions like “love isn’t irritable”, “isn’t easily irritated”, “doesn’t aggravate easily”, and “is not prone to being quickly upset”.

Lastly, another group of scholars translates telling us “love is not provoked to anger”, “is not easily provoked”, “is not quickly provoked”, “is not provoked to wrath”, “is not stirred to wrath”, and “is not easily or quickly provoked to wrathful anger”.  These scholars include a focus on the provoked concept while others seem to avoid or miss that point.  This, in a psychological sense, appears to be crucial to having an in depth understanding of and the dynamics of anger, along with the workings of anger therapy and ways of conquering wrathful anger.

I have been told the Greek, root form Paul relies on is “paroxuno” to which our word “provoke” is thought to be historically connected.  Couple that with the Greek “ou” which is considered to imply something like “take what follows in the strongest way” and, consequently, we see no reason to make this teaching seem mild or less than powerful.  Thus, we discern “love is not provoked to wrathful anger” and/or “love is not easily provoked to wrathful anger” to be the most powerful and useful of all the English translations we are aware of.

What Is Wrathful Anger?

To get an understanding and sense of “wrathful anger”, look at these somewhat synonymous words and terms: fury, rage, malice, vengeance, ferocity, savagery, vehemence, furor, outrage, hate, spite, unforgiving bitterness, acerbic criticism, intense and pervasive ill will, asperity and violent anger.  Basically, this is the kind of anger that does not just cathartically release frustration or empower the expression of an opinion but rather it is the kind of anger that causes real harm and destruction.

What Does “Not Provoked” Really Mean?

To provoke means to stimulate, give rise to, evoke, arouse or trigger a strong, usually negative emotional reaction.  It also can mean to incite, goad, spur, prod, badger, urge, encourage or agitate anger, unhappiness, violence, hate or any other destructive, hurtful or harmful reactive behavior.

Provocation, connotes something a bit different than saying you, him, her, they or it made me feel bad.  That connotation implies a provoked person had something within them that could be provoked or triggered in the first place.  Therefore, it hints at the psychological truth that the provoked person owns at least part of the responsibility for their own reaction.  This is because the something that was provoked is inside the provoked person and in their personal domain.  That is wonderful because what is inside you, you can usually do something about.

If I think you have all the power to make me feel bad, then it follows I think I am powerless, weak and an emotionally vulnerable and helpless victim.  Thinking that way can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  At the same time, it is a way of escaping all responsibility for one’s own feelings.  I don’t make me feel bad, you do and, therefore, my bad feelings are all your fault and I am blameless.

We learn to think that way in infancy and childhood when we are indeed powerless, weak, emotionally vulnerable and helpless creatures made to do and feel a great many things not of our own choosing or desire.  We start life largely outer and other controlled.  Maturation, to a fair extent, is a matter of becoming increasingly inner and self controlled.  Emotionally, on the maturation road, many people never make it very far.  They remain highly provokable and, as a result, are prone to malfunction in love relationships (see “Changing Your Emotions Via Love and Love Smarts”).

Paul’s “not provoked” speaks to the often unrecognized truth that most people can become very largely unprovokable.  Therefore, you probably can learn to live not much affected by things like criticism, putdowns, angry blaming personal attacks, condemnations, etc..  By doing so, you can be and live unprovoked to wrathful anger and its extremely relationally destructive and health sabotage filled ways.

One step in accomplishing this is buying into and owning the fact that you can, with work and love, have a lot more good feelings and a lot fewer bad feelings.  In doing so, you also can have better and better love relationships with others as well as with yourself.

Lots of this is accomplished with new and better self talk.  Instead of thinking somebody made you feel bad, try the more accurate statement “you and I together made me feel bad and I can change my part in that and not let your part affect me.”  Then add “I absolutely will not give my power away to you to upset me, make me angry, etc. and I will believe and own that I am just fine enough for right now and I can stay that way no matter what words you throw at me.  After all they are only words with tones and facial expressions having only the power I give them.  Your actions tell me you are upset and about that I can care – and perhaps come to show you some of that care” (see “Healthy Self-Love and Not Giving Your Power Away”).

Paul’s “not provoked” has an additional inference.  That is with love’s help, Christians especially but really everybody would do well to learn and develop the love skill of being not provoked and then teach it broadly.

A Big How-To for Becoming Not Provoked

You and your loveD ones together, or all by yourself, can become more and more not provoked.  It might take a long time to accomplish this but as you do it slowly will make life easier and happier as you go.  You can let go of your habit of letting others upset you, make you angry, etc., etc. and learn to replace that with something far better.  This is the best of a number of ways that I know of for not letting wrathful anger, or any other destructive habit reaction, negatively affect your relational life.

The essence of it is this, you learn and work to replace your proneness to be provoked with emotional equanimity and the behaviors that display it.  Remember, it always works better to replace a habit or tendency with a better one rather than just trying to stop that habit or tendency.

What Is Emotional Equanimity?

Ordinary equanimity means when you can mentally, non-prejudicially and dispassionately be able to see both sides of an issue including yours and theirs.  It means being able to see through another’s eyes, take into account another’s differences, viewpoints, understanding, experiences and feelings and, thus, give due consideration to diverse and opposing concepts to your own.  Technically, it means seeing things equally.

Emotional equanimity means to do the above with empathy and love for both your adversaries and yourself.  Both mental and emotional equanimity usually include a mental and emotional calmness when facing provocative attempts to disrupt, derail or emotionally destroy you and what you are all about at the time.  Any person trying to get you angry, confused or feeling bad about yourself in any way or to feel like you are losing and they are winning is included here.

Like learning to easily catch a fast thrown hardball without hurting your hands, you coolly catch and handle whatever negative attributions or accusations are thrown at you without letting your emotions get hurt.  You do not ignore what is thrown but you more dispassionately evaluate it to see if anything is useful in it.  Mentally you also may remind yourself that whatever is coming at you probably tells you more about the sender than it tells anything accurate about you yourself.  Emotionally, you own your own okayness and do not give it away.  You do that by internal, self affirming self-talk if you need to.  At the same time, you emotionally care about the person or persons sending you the negatives while pondering what this tells you about them and what emotional state they might be in.  Then behaviorally you see if you can find a way to show them some of your care while continuing to be care-giving to yourself.  Hence, you love others as you love yourself.

Emotional equanimity is very similar to what the Hindu and Buddhist teachers call the fourth mind or primary way of love.  In Sanskrit, it is expressed as “Upeksha” which includes a loving heart while being nondiscriminatory, unbiased, open, egalitarian and impartial as you sincerely and lovingly consider viewpoints, positions, values, emotions and ways of behaving other than your own (see “Listening with Love”).

Upeksha has been said to offer the love-filled wisdom of seeing things equally.  One of its more recently acclaimed understandings includes it being self lovingly self protective.  Simply put, it does this by being a way of not letting things get to you.  This is not a way of being emotionally detached or indifferent because love is very much involved here along with kindness and compassion.  It is an excellent way of working toward “I win, you win to, no one loses” outcomes and a fine way of integrating and synthesizing the best of people’s differences.  For more on this, you might want to read two books. Teachings On Love and Living Buddha Living Christ both by the world renowned monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

In my opinion, developing your emotional equanimity, or your Upeksha mindset of love is not the easiest or quickest way to not be provoked to wrathful anger but it is, I think, the best way offering the most useful gains and positive advantages for love relating.  It is also is my suspicion that had the ancient Greek language had words for and concepts of emotional equanimity and/or upeksha, Paul might have used them along with “not provoked”.  In any case, arguably to me at least, those concepts seem implied in what he tried to teach us about not allowing ourselves to be provoked into wrathful anger.

One More Thing  You especially might want to talk all this over with a religionist, cleric, person of the cloth, etc. and see what they have to say.  If you do, please mention this site and say that we welcome their input also.  Thank you.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question:  Do you think there Is wisdom you can use in the Samurai teaching “first to anger, first to die”?

Forgiveness in Healthy Self-Love

Synopsis: Looking at forgiveness and healthy self-love; what forgiveness means and does not mean; benefits to the forgiver and the forgiven; the inability to forgive and its special meanings; blind forgiveness; self forgiveness; considering the tenant “love forgives all”.

Looking at Forgiveness And Self-Love

Forgiveness is a part of healthy, real love but sometimes it comes into conflict with healthy self-love.  Healthy self-love requires good self-care and a part of that is self-protection.  Forgiveness poorly done may make you vulnerable to repeated hurt and harm experiences.

Nevertheless, without forgiveness many love relationships cannot heal or continue to grow and fulfill their wonderful potential.  That consequence of non-forgiveness is self-defeating and, therefore, is not healthfully self-loving.  Offering forgiveness usually is an act of healthy self-love because it helps the forgiver improve in several different ways, (more on that a little later).  The problem is forgiveness can be enacted in ways that work against the self and repeated maltreatment may result.  To do really good, healthy self-love in the area of forgiveness often takes some careful study.

What Forgiveness Means

What do you think of when you think of forgiveness?  Is it something you see yourself to be good at or more poor at?  Is forgiveness something you are just puzzled about or do you not even think about it?  Do you desire forgiveness more than you give it?  Do you give it to yourself?  Are there people you want forgiveness from and/or people who want forgiveness from you?  Do you have relationships in which forgiveness could play a more important role?  What’s easy for you to forgive and what is harder?  Are there things you think it is impossible for you to forgive?  Are there things no one should forgive?  What did the way you grew up teach you or perhaps subtly model for you about forgiveness?

For some people forgiveness means giving people a pardon from being punished for transgressions they have committed.  For others it mostly has to do with absolution from blame.  For still others it is a reprieve from punishment or penalty they have been experiencing.  Some see forgiveness as a release and being set free from certain duties and obligations.  For still others it’s all about no longer having to feel guilty.  Forgiveness can mean the end of rejection and being allowed to continue in a love relationship.  Many understand forgiveness as giving them another chance to do something they previously failed at.  There, of course, are those who see receiving forgiveness as another chance to manipulate, deceive and unfairly misuse others.

In a number of religious communities forgiveness is taught as an act of compassion, mercy, generosity, charity, humanity and kindheartedness.  This pretty much is the view of certain ethicist groups as well as those who just are generally good-hearted.  In more so-called “hard-hearted” populations forgiveness is seen as stupid, a foolish mistake, a weakness, a risky needless behavior, an idiotic surrendering of power or at best something very rarely to engage in.

A dictionary understanding of forgiveness purports it has to do with the cessation of resentment and retribution attempts concerning things one feels wronged about.  It also has to do with relief from debts and penalties owed and the ending of claims against one.  Psychologically forgiveness relates to not emotionally holding previously perceived wrongdoings against the wrongdoer.  It also has to do with not wanting to, or acting to get revenge, get even, render payback, be vindictive, retaliate, avenge, punish, hurt, harm, destroy or in any way negate another.  Forgiveness is given, or not given, in relationship to acts others have committed which are judged by you to be wrong, undesirable or faulty.

Forgiveness can involve giving people another chance, not barring people from certain opportunities, and restoring one or more others to a former position or opportunity. Forgiveness also can mean that to accomplish it you probably have to put your emotions about being wronged to rest.  Forgiveness can mean that if you are actively involved with the person you are forgiving that you attempt to at least treat them decently, fairly, democratically, kindly, respectfully and with human-to-human love.  In many love relationships forgiveness means picking up where you left off, making up, being restored to okayness in the relationship, and veering away from anything that would lead to a breakup.

What Forgiveness Does Not Mean

You might have heard the phrase “forgive and forget”.  To forgive and forget is the advice often given when there have been love relationship problems.  Let’s be clear here.  Forgiveness does not mean cognitively forgetting.  Your memory won’t go away because you forgive someone for something.  It may mean you think about the alleged wrongdoing less, and feel much less upset about that wrongdoing.  Forgiveness does not mean you have to stop protecting yourself from possibly being harmed in the future by someone repeating their wrongful actions against you.

Forgiveness does not mean you won’t feel cautious, apprehensive and avoidant of people who you perceive to have caused you hurt or harm.  Forgiveness does not mean that you are required to be involved with someone you no longer want to be involved with.  As the old Texas saying goes “I can forgive a snake for being poisonous but that don’t mean I have to pet it.”

Forgiveness does not mean trust is automatically and fully restored.  The protective mechanisms of healthy self-love may keep a forgiving person at least occasionally suspicious, doubtful and skeptical about anyone they have forgiven.  Forgiveness may mean that they will give someone another chance and perhaps even act in a trusting way but an inner sense of trust is usually best understood as having to be earned by repeated good experience over time.

You can forgive someone but out of healthy self-love decide not to deal with them anymore.  That is done not for vengeance but for self protection.  If you judge yourself unable to withstand being betrayed or otherwise harmed again by someone you love saving yourself is the best, healthy self-love act you can do.  It also may be the best thing you can do for the one you love because it prevents them from again acting in ways that are destructive to you and then possibly having the guilt and repercussions from having done that.  So, forgiveness does not necessarily and automatically have to mean a relationship will continue.

Forgiveness does not mean it won’t happen again.  Whatever you are forgiving someone for may be something they do again.  Is your self-love strong enough to re-experience that?  Whatever it is, if they do it again will you be able to keep yourself sufficiently okay?  Maybe you will forgive yourself for something that you do again.  Will self-forgiveness work for or against you in that situation? 

Forgiveness is not very advisable when it is likely to lead to the repeating of a destructive action, the weakening of self-control, or the rewarding of ‘toxic behavior’.  Forgiveness especially is not advisable when it is perceived as giving permission for repeating a transgression, as it sometimes is.  I once heard a woman say “My screwing around really is OK because my husband always ends up forgiving me after he finds out”.

Benefits to the Forgiver

Did you know there are physical benefits to forgiving for the one doing the forgiving?  Research done at the Stanford University Forgiveness Project shows those doing forgiveness have fewer backaches, less muscle tension, less likelihood of dizziness, fewer and milder headaches, and fewer and milder stomach upset experiences.  Those who act to forgive also tend to have healthier appetites and sleep patterns, more general energy, and more general health and well-being.

Psychologically the benefits of learning and acting to forgive include reduced feelings of hurt, reductions in anger, reductions in stress and depression, becoming more hopeful, more optimistic, and more compassionate.  Research also has shown that forgiveness is often the key to becoming unblocked when there is some obstacle to progressing in life.

Forgiveness enables the forgiver to go on to more productive and enjoyable living.  People who have long been unforgiving and then learn to forgive report attaining a much greater sense of freedom from anguish and negativity.  Generally forgiveness results in a cessation of re-experiencing all sorts of different, negative emotions and then improved self-concept.  In these ways acting and feeling forgiveness is a good, healthy, self-love behavior.  Thus, those wishing to be good at a healthy self-love will do well to work at developing the love skill called forgiveness.

Benefits To the Forgiven

I like to suggest that whenever someone is forgiven for something that the forgiver and the forgiven talk with each other about what the benefits are because people sometimes understand those benefits quite differently.  Naturally there can be a sense of relief on the part of the person receiving the forgiveness.  Hopefully there will be a sense of gratitude and a motivation to live up to some standard of behavior better than before.  That, most likely, will mean less stress and less agony, probably less guilt, and hopefully more harmony in the relationship.  Past that, the people involved may have to sort of make a contract about what the benefits are to the relationship they have with one another.

Does the forgiveness mean everything is okay and they can pick up and proceed as before, or is there a probationary period, or is the relationship dramatically altered in some way?  Until both people clearly know what the benefits of a forgiveness act are, misunderstandings and other difficulties could occur.

The Inability to Forgive

Some people have an inability to forgive.  This has several possible special meanings.  The truly emotionally strong are much more able to forgive than the weak.  The weak, perhaps only subconsciously, understand that they are weak and if their forgiveness were to be betrayed they would be destroyed or hurt more than they can stand.  Hence, they do not forgive, or at least they do not forgive easily.  The problem with this position is the inability to forgive is not very good self-protection.  It usually alienates and isolates people and can keep people stuck in a stagnant life-position.

Some are unable to forgive certain things.  However, what those unforgivable things are has great variation.  Here’s an example.  In several cultures various sexual transgressions are among the hardest things to forgive.  If someone has trouble like this it just may mean that person has been severely programmed to regard sexual transgressions as especially awful.  It also can mean that sexuality is that person’s area of greatest weakness or insecurity.  In a number of cultures and subcultures sexual transgressions are much more easily forgiven but lying and deception, theft, destruction of property, disrespect of family, anti-religious behavior, or some other thing is not considered forgivable.

Inability to forgive often means a person is stuck or blocked in their own healing or healthful growing.  The recommendation here usually is counseling or psychotherapy.  Sometimes religious-based counseling is in order.  The inability to forgive sometimes traps people in a vengeance cycle.  In this cycle two or more people seek vengeance against each other for previous acts of vengeance committed against them.

Thus, revenge-seeking makes one become vulnerable to retaliation efforts, which definitely is not a healthy self-loving way to behave.  Tragically there are whole families, clans, tribes, other large groups of people, and even whole societies who were trained to have great self-disrespect unless they ‘get even’, seek revenge and act to retaliate.  Sometimes the most healthfully self-loving thing people belonging to such groups can do is find a way to exit the group and join with those who are more healthfully love-oriented.  People trained with a strong revenge orientation who later discover forgiveness sometimes report becoming astonished with a resulting lighthearted sense of freedom.

Blind Forgiveness

There are people who forgive too much, too easily and too often.  By doing so they repeatedly set themselves up for misuse and abuse.  They are likely blind to the importance of seeing the repercussions of ‘forgiveness done without wisdom and self-care’.  Frequently this is an important symptom of low, healthy self-love.  Commonly such people are so in need of outside sources of love, affirmation, inclusion, friendship, acceptance, etc. that they will forgive anyone anything in order to get what they think they need.

This means that their forgiveness will be regarded as ‘cheap’ by those they give it to.  When this is the case let me suggest that counseling and therapy for developing healthy self-love definitely is in order.  There also are people who’s religious or ethical position is one of offering endless, easy, quick forgiveness to all, and especially to those who say they desire it.  That can be a prescription for useless martyrdom.  With these people following the logic of “loving others AS you love yourself” might lead to thinking that greater self-protection could be viewed as OK and desirable.


Unfortunately there are a large number of people who can forgive everybody but themselves.  They may see their duty as to give forgiveness to everyone but themselves which in most theologies is absurd.  These usually are people who have been trained in their upbringing for torturing themselves with perfectionistic standards.  That can be a very serious problem and may best be overcome through counseling and therapy.  The healthfully self-loving are self-forgiving.  When they make a mistake or do something they later wish they hadn’t done, the healthfully self-loving work to learn from the experience but don’t de-energizing themselves by wasting time in self-punishment or debilitating inadequacy feelings – it just is not their way.

There may be a period of intense dislike for what they have done, usually quickly followed by an intense dedication to do better.  The healthfully self-loving know they are only human and humans living active, vital lives do lots of things they later wish they had not done.  What counts to the healthfully self-loving is not so much what they have done in the past but what they do now and next with the understanding and dedication to do better.

Love Forgives All

Great love can forgive greatly.  Puny love, not so much.  Several religions and philosophies teach that through the grand power and transcendence of love all things are forgivable.  Certainly the great and wise living exemplifications of love throughout history (Buddha, Jesus, Rumi, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, etc.) are seen as testifying to this tenet.  If your love is truly great you too may be able to forgive all.  Remember that does not mean you, therefore, automatically and necessarily have to act against your own, healthy self-love.  Be wise and whenever possible live within the context of “Love Others AS You Love Yourself”.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question Is there anyone you would do well to forgive that you haven’t yet?

Living Well via Loving Well

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

How Is Your Tree of Life Growing?

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

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

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

Love Well to Live Well in Every Way

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

A Few Important Definitions

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

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

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

Why Love Research Is Hard to Research

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

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

Different Kinds of Love Give Different Kinds of Benefit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Love Prescription for Nourishing Your Tree of Life

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

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

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

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

Micro-Love Feelings and Actions for Well-Being

Mini-Love-Lesson  #286

Synopsis: The importance and benefits of small, quick love feelings and love actions: along with how to get and give them: along with the research into “felt love” is simply but rather well covered in this mini-love-lesson.

Don’t Miss It!

Have you felt loved today?  If not, maybe you missed it.  It’s easy to miss the little expressions of love that may come our way.  We usually can get the big expressions of love, but what about the little ones?  Did someone flash you an extra sweet, loving smile?  Has anyone briefly touch-loved you today in any way, and if you’re not sure, what does that say?  Maybe with some sincerity, someone said, “ I love you, Daddy (or Mommy or anyone else)” and you too quickly and perfunctorily  replied, “I love you too” then went on to whatever concerned you at the moment.  You just passed up a micro-moment for feeling loved.  Yes, it might have interrupted you a little, slowed you down a trifle, but if you had paused and savored it for 10 seconds it may have done you more good than you might know.

Some people learn to notice and savor the smaller “felt loved” feelings and their all-over sense of well-being rises a bit.  With that brief and mild, heightened sense of well-being a person’s immunity mechanisms may function just a bit better, as will their digestion, metabolism, blood flow and emotional mood.  So too, will their general happiness and relational harmony likely benefit.

From Little Benefits to Big Benefits

Every day, short periods of feeling cared about, treated with affection, heart valued, treated with kindness and genuinely and generally loved (not just romantically) can do us a world of good – if we do our job to fully receive the actions that express love to us.  Probably, everybody who is loved misses some of the actions of love coming their way.  Sadly, some people miss most of them.  Missing too many can result in relational harm.  Catching most of them can result in energizing joy, greater relational cooperation and reduced interaction friction.

What “Felt Love” Research Shows

Studies at Penn State found that people who reported having more frequently “felt love” from their Internet actions with friends, family, love mates and even acquaintances, reported more optimism, stronger sense of life purpose and a greater sense of well-being than did those who reported low incidence of “felt love” experiences.  Other research has indicated feeling loved increases health, happiness, relational harmony, general well-being and productivity.

Researchers using advanced statistical techniques at Penn State Institute for Computational and Data Sciences, along with behavioral sciences researchers at Duquesne University, Claremont, and The University of California, Irvine have been exploring love in everyday life.  Their studies confirm the concept that small fairly consistent showings of love, when well received, make everyday life far healthier and happier.

How To Get More Love Coming Your Way

The simplest way to get more love coming your way is to ask for it in a friendly, assertive, upbeat way.  Couples, friends, families and other groupings can decide together to work on showing each other love in little ways more often.  Especially does that work when it’s done in a fun way without criticism, judgment or other stressors.  Another way is to decide to put more micro-love behaviors into what you express to others.  That can work like planting seeds that later grow micro-expressions of love which begin to circulate in your love network.  A third way is to just start talking to your loved ones about micro-behaviors of love and, thus, raise everyone’s awareness of the little ways that count so big.

When talking about micro-love actions, you might want to mention Mother Teresa’s teaching that many small actions of love do you, and others, more good than the occasional grand, great gesture of love.  You could quote her statement “We can do no great things, only small things with great love (from LOVE: The Words and Inspiration’s of Mother Teresa, 2007, Blue Mountain Press).

How To Catch More Love Coming Your Way

One way to catch more of the expressed micro-love actions that may be sent your way is to become more aware of the 12 Expressional Love Behaviors. Practicing mindfulness exercises for each major way love is sent, especially the Core Four and Crucial Four, can be both fun and highly useful.  Mindfulness focused on when and how and with whom one feels loved can increase awareness and lead to greater well-being, various physical health improvements, love relationship functioning as well as better individual psychological health.

Opportunity Awareness

One of love’s best practices has to do with looking for all the opportunities we get to express love through micro-behaviors in everyday life.  More than once I have heard things like “I was suicidal until a smile, a hug, some words of encouragement and somebody told me I was loved”; “They gave me a thumbs up” or “They just came and stood next to me”.  We probably seldom get to know just how much some small, quick action of love expression makes a huge difference in someone’s life.  We now know that some micro-action of love coming our way can make a big, positive difference.

One More Thing: It might be a little act of love to talk over this mini-love-lesson with someone you know.  If you experiment with that, we’d really like it if you would mention this site and its many love lessons – Thank you.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: If you were going to target two people to send a micro-love behavior to, who would they be, what would the behavior be and when would you make it happen?

Starting Friendships That Turn Into Love: The Surprising Big Factor

Synopsis: How to begin on the path toward real friendship love; sometimes go on to real and lasting mate or spouse type love; and the surprising and often determining factor that most people do not know makes the biggest difference in getting started on that path is revealed and well reviewed here.

From Strangers to Best Friends to Lovers

So often the best, strongest and healthiest love relationships once were just budding friendships.  It all started when strangers became new acquaintances.  From there they moved on to deepening friendships and then to true and lasting loves – or not.  What made the difference between those who stayed at the acquaintance level and those who got to a friendship that later turned into an ardent, romantic, real, love relationship?  Some, of course, continued on in deepening friendship love while others traveled the love-mate route.  Either way healthy, real, long-lasting and super enriching love was at the heart of those relationships.  Many of the happiest spouses were once best friends, close friends, dearest friends, great friends or long-term friends.  Those were the people who did not do the fall in love thing but rather did the grow in love thing.

With a little knowledge about love relationships and how they begin, you may be able to start on the path toward great friendship love and/or great spouse type love.

First Comes Getting from Acquaintanceship to Friendship

When you meet someone new, they go from being a stranger to being a new acquaintance.  It is that first impressions important time.  But the most important, early impression’s factor may surprise you.  It could, in fact, be one you might never have thought about because it turns out few people have.  First, it will be good to have a little background knowledge.

Do you know that in the first 30 seconds of meeting someone new, a very important non-conscious process begins to happen deep in your brain.  It is one that may determine whether, or not, you and this new person get to move on to real friendship or stay at the acquaintance only level.  Once you learn about it, your conscious mind can work with that subconscious process to get really good and better results.  By doing that, conscious plus subconscious synthesis, forming a real friendship that could become a mate love union becomes much more possible.

The Surprising, Biggest Factor That Can Start the Friendship Process to Begin

It is not so much what you say nor is it all about the qualities and intonations of your voice.  Neither does it have much to do with how you dress or your general appearance.  The big surprise is that the most important factor in starting a face-to-face, personal interaction that then can move toward friendship probably is your physical movements, or lack thereof.  Yes, that's right, apparently how you move makes the most substantial difference in the beginning of befriending a new acquaintance.

That is because the deep subconscious mind, where mostly we think friendship choices largely are made, evaluates people for friendship by the way they move their hands, arms, legs, body, head and most importantly their facial muscles.  Each of these gives clues to who a person is psychologically.  The subconscious reads and interprets all those movement clue and starts to render positive, negative or neutral valuations.

Some years ago, a UCLA psychologist reviewed the relevant research and concluded that in face-to-face, personal interactions about 55% of your general, emotional impact on another person has to do with your facial expressions.  No other factor got that high a percentage.  Since then, other research has added to and elaborated that researcher’s findings.  Those research efforts have given us a much more complete picture of positive, personal interaction formation, i.e. friendship beginning.

More recent research has discovered such things as the fact that within 30 seconds of meeting someone new, deep in your brain (in the amygdala and posterior cingulate cortex -- for the medically minded) yay or nay friendship choosing unconsciously already has started to occur.

If the choosing is more yay, another part of your brain (the ventral tegmental section) will help motivate you toward increased, assertive, friendly interactions with a new person.  It also may motivate you to start moving various muscle groups in ways more likely to be interpreted by the person you are talking with, as emotionally positive and friendly.  Consciously, you probably are not likely to notice any of that happening.  However, adding conscious awareness and thinking about this non-conscious process can make it all work far better.

How to Use This Friendship and Love Knowledge

If you greet someone new by first boldly striding toward them, head up, shoulders back a little, arms swinging open a bit and with a big smile on your face, for many you probably are off to a pretty good start before you have said a single word.  If you do the opposite of those things, walk up to them with timid steps, hunched over, stoop and shrug, look down and away, keep your arms close to your body and immobile without any hand gestures, frown, scowl or look stone-faced – very probably it will not get off to a good start.

The trick is to be a bit mindful of your movable parts.  The subconscious of whoever you are talking to is likely reading your movements and is psycho-emotionally moving minutely toward or away from friendship with you because of these movement factors.

You do not have to fake anything.  Genuineness counts and phoniness sometimes can be perceived quite well.  You just have to ask yourself, are your movements genuinely representing you and who you want to be at the moment.  If you are not feeling so great, you might have to re-center your focus and mobilize your energy toward genuinely desiring to get off to a good start with this new person in your life.

When Your Movements Are Most Important

Here's another surprise from research.  Changing your facial expressions, your stance, posture, hand gestures, head turning and other movements all become increasingly important while you are verbally silently listening to your new, potential friend talking.  A nod when you feel a compatibility with what that person is saying, a look of interest with a bit of leaning forward when you are seated, looking attentive and making other small, appropriate, facial, expression changes for whatever emotions are being indicated, all help to move your joint interactions to go toward friendship beginning.

It is important to realize that your movements, in essence, are talking while you are verbally not speaking as well as when you are talking.  If your body language is talking in a harmonizing way with the new person you are interacting with, things are likely to go well.  If your motions convey your feelings are positive about that person, real friendship bonding becomes much more likely.  However, if you are not making pretty good eye contact, doing movements that convey you are disinterested, distracted, or bored or even worse uncaring, interaction harmony probably will not occur and you will be stuck at the acquaintance level, at best.

Let me suggest spending some time pondering what your movements are usually saying and what you want them to convey.  May I also recommend researching and studying some of what is known about nonverbal communication (sometimes called expressional communication) and, maybe then, its effect on friendship development.  After that try practicing micro-movements in the mirror followed by more practice of the same with friends, family and finally with strangers.

One stone-faced fellow I suggested this to reported practicing flashing smiles at strangers in a department store.  The very first day he attempted that, a rather strong personal connection occurred which quickly led him to becoming a no longer, lonely single.  So, be careful with all this because you never know what it may lead to.

If you would like to go deeper into this subject, I recommend checking out “Amity, The Journal of Friendship Studies” from the University of Leeds, UK and Stanford University's ongoing, friendship research projects, publications and courses to take.  Also, check out these other mini-love-lessons:  “Friendship Love and Its Extraordinary Importance”, “Behaviors That Make and Grow Friendship Love”, “Understanding Friendship: from Mild Geniality to Profound Love”.

Of course, there is so much more to learn and practice concerning starting friendships and the love they might lead to.  Hopefully, this mini-love-lesson will help you to get off to a really good start, if that's what you want to do.

One more thing

It might help to start or deepen a friendship by talking about the things in this mini-love-lesson with someone else, perhaps an acquaintance.  If you do that, please mention our site and its many mini-love-lessons, thereby, helping to spread love knowledge.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Love Question:  To have a truly loving friend, do you have to know how to be one?

Is Doing Love More Important Than Feeling Love?

 Mini-Love-Lesson #285

Synopsis: Two questions: what happens if we are programed subconsciously to mostly focus on love feelings more than doing love?  And what happens if we choose to focus mostly on the LOVE DOING approach?  Reportedly the Love Doing approach has many positive, life-changing aspects.  Accompanying is a brief introduction to Doing Love at Three Levels and the 12 Major Action Groups of Love Behaviors by which love is done according to our research.

A More Important Question Than You Might Think!

Do you know about LOVE DOES?  Love Does is the name of at least three things.  One is an international organization working to save children and other victims of sex crimes and abuse worldwide.  Another is a straightforward easy-to-read book about doing love and its importance.  It is by Bob Goff, an international law professor activist for human rights.  The third is a socio-philosophical position in the new natural science of Loveology which holds that feeling love is important but doing love is more important!

For quite a long time feeling love seems to have received the bulk of attention.  Do you love me?  Do I really love so-and-so?  Is this real love?  Do we love each other enough?  Those, and many other similar questions, are all love feeling-focused queries that loom large in many people’s lives from time to time.  They join with social edicts like “you will know it’s true love when you feel it!”  And “let your love feelings guide you”.  Plus, “true love is that overwhelming emotion that makes you do what love insists you do, no matter what”.

Love, Not a Feeling, Not an Emotion, Instead a…

The preponderance of recent, scientific evidence points to love not being an emotion or feeling but rather a natural, inborn, vital system that triggers or produces many diverse emotions.  This evidence gives confirmation to love being a systemic process occurring naturally in the brains of higher order lifeforms, and maybe others, which is then manifested in love behavior or love doing.

Sometimes we feel love and sometimes we don’t because we are busy feeling other things.  However, once a love connection is well-established we usually can consciously tap into it and feel its presence.  Think of loving your child, grandmother or anyone really dear to you and you are likely to know and briefly feel your love for that person.  Remember, emotions actually are mostly felt short-term and then replaced by other emotions.  Established Love is long-term, even lifelong, whether at the moment you are feeling it or not.

Don’t Make this Great Mistake!

There is a very mistaken and destructive teaching about feeling love.  It is that all we need to do love is feel it.  Like, somehow our feeling love will guide us to do the right love relating actions and the magic of love will take care of everything else.  Maybe there will be a few emotional bumps and scratches leading to then living happily-ever-after, or so goes the myth.  Although our conscious, reasoning mind can doubt this, another part of us so dearly wants to believe this is a truth of love, that we often do believe it.  Sadly, acting as if this is true can ruin a budding or false love relationship that might grow into the real thing.

If this myth were true, the divorce rate would be far lower, parental child abuse much more uncommon, spousal murder unheard of and every lover’s anniversary would get remembered, romantically planned and well celebrated.  The truth is love feelings come and go naturally and are only erratically related to love relating.  Love relating is learned and is best skillfully developed and practiced to be successful.  Love feelings turn out to be only so-so guides to love actions.  Consistent, quality love or best-love behaviors mostly are a matter of skill acquisition and development, just like all other high quality actions.

How We Learn Doing Love

If we grow up in a loving home, we subconsciously may have absorbed love’s best practice knowledge and do it sort of automatically.  Otherwise, high-quality love actions can be purposefully learned and continuously improved, just like any art or skilled craft .

Sometimes people put enough thought into the how to’s of doing love in romance, into child raising or some new deep friendship and then, once the love relationship is established, for various reasons the love behaviors begin to fade or they quit doing the actions that convey love.  If that happens, the love relationship suffers and may even die.  At best, it will become only mediocre compared to what it might have been.

Good love consistently enacted takes good habit formation and updating with renewed new learning.  As Ovid, the great love poet of Rome taught in the year one, lasting love takes skill!  Skills are learned best by repeated practice with skill improvements being deeply enjoyed.  Becoming skillfully love actionable, loving and lovable usually does an amazing amount of good and brings on an astonishing array of good feelings for all concerned.

The Do Love Approach

Doing actions of love can be accomplished whether we feel love or not.  They can happen out of a commitment to be loving, a belief love behaviors are of high value and importance, out of religious faith or philosophy, and out of a sense of gambling on doing caring love actions as a best practice when we don’t know what else to do. “When in doubt do love” can be a guiding best practice when we know what the love action options really are.

To help become aware of those options we briefly introduce Love Actions at Three Levels and their component 12 Action Groups of Love Behaviors.


Level I ,   Core Love Actions                                                                      

(Basic concrete, more specific love actions which form the building blocks of higher-level love doing behaviors)                                    

Core Action Groups of Love

1. Touch love behaviors

2. Expression love behaviors (facial expression, tonal expression, gestural expression, postural expression, etc.)

3. Verbal love behaviors

4. Gifting love behaviors (object gifts, experience gifts and service gifts) 

Level II ,   Crucial Love Actions

(Behaviors essential to ongoing, quality, lasting love relating)

Crucial Action Groups of Love

5. Affirmation love behaviors

6. Self-Disclosure love behaviors (being emotionally transparent, open, intimately self sharing, going psychologically naked, etc.)

7. Tolerance love behaviors

8. Reception love behaviors (actions obviously indicating positive reception of love showing it has been received)

Level III ,   Cardinal Love Actions

(Higher order, broader range love behaviors, often with larger and longer impact and effects)

Cardinal Action Groups of Love

9. Nurturing love behaviors

10. Protective love behaviors

11. Well-Being love behaviors (includes differentiated love actions of healing, altruism, humanistic, humanitarian and benevolent love behaviors)

12. Metaphysical/Spiritual Love Behaviors

There is much more to learn about each of the above groups of behavior that express, demonstrate, send, transmit, create, cycle, channel and generate love.  Research exists on each showing they are statistically differentiated, separate yet interconnected, independent categories of how love gets done.  Furthermore, some indications exist that each of the 12 action groups of love may have somewhat different physical health, psychological health and relational health benefits.  More information about each can be found at this site and others.

We hope to provide a “how to” book more fully delineating each of the 12 action groups of love in the not too distant future.  We are pleased and boastful to say information about the 12 action groups of love given through workshops, in various presentations along with use in counseling has been quite helpful to many people already.

From Doing Love to Feeling Love

Feeling love can lead to doing love but it can also work the other way around.  A great many people find that once they are doing more of the actions of love, they start to feel it more and especially is that true of love’s many joyous and great to feel emotions.  Also occurring while or after doing love actions are love’s emotions of being deeply touched, profoundly moved, greatly empowered, awesomely affected, passionately inspired and heart-warmingly infused.  Even when those great emotions are not felt, love action gets an lot of good done and that is a huge positive to be proud of and pleased about.

One More Thing

With whom might you enjoy talking over this Mini-Love-Lesson?  Who else might you mention it to?  Who do you know who might benefit from it?  Help spread the word that love relating knowledge can make love relating better by telling them about the several hundred of mini-love-lessons available at this site – Thank you!

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

♥ Love Success Question: After reading this Mini-love-lesson are you probably going to be a more doing love oriented person?

Picture Thinking for Making Love Work Better and Better

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

Picture Thinkers Proclaim

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

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

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

Thinking in Pictures

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

Your Brain and Thinking in Pictures

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

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

Three Kinds of Picture Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Other People's Pictures

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

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

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

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

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

One More Little Thing

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

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J Richard Cookerly

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

Cheating and Love, in Love Relationships

Mini-Love Lesson   #221

Synopsis:  A rather fresh view of cheating and its problems; surprising origins; dynamics; multiple causes; possible outcomes and what to do about it lovingly is quickly, yet broadly and very helpfully, covered here.

Cheating In Spite Of Love

"I love them both, what am I to do?  I tried to break it off with one then with the other but it never works,  I secretly always go back and start up again.  Sooner or later, one of them will leave me or maybe even both will leave me at the same time so, I guess I'll just keep lying to the both of them until then."  "I'm sure I truly do love my spouse but I just have to have others, so I lie and cheat and hate myself for it but, for now at least, I won't stop."  "I'm very conflicted.  I don't know why I cheat, I just do but I also dearly love my spouse"  These remarks, and many like them, are commonly heard in the offices of every good therapist who works with love relationships.  The good news is they all represent situations that, with some hard work, usually are healthfully and positively resolved in those offices.

Many who really do love also cheat.  A great many more seriously consider cheating.  Others fearfully suspect cheating is occurring in their own love relationship.  Cheating especially is thought to occur eventually with people tangled in false love syndromes.  Studies show over 50% of the marriages in Western world countries experience affair problems usually involving a lot of destructive deceptions inherit to cheating.

Cheating often brings on a great deal of lying, mistrust, stress, anxiety, depression, conflict, guilt, shame, general misery, profound confusion, family harm, breakups and divorces even among couples who truly love each other.  However, most committed couples who experience a cheating problem do not break up or divorce.  They find another way and stay together.  Some even use the cheating experience to strengthen their love relationship.  Love can conquer and heal the harm cheating so often does.  Of course, there are those who get away with it but they usually do not escape the draining strain and stress that usually comes with cheating.  Then there is the fact that cheating is often very dangerous.  In all too many situations, it can get you beat up, hospitalized, possibly crippled or even killed.  Then why do so many choose to cheat?

It is true some people cheat because they really do not love their spouse or love mate, but quite frequently that is not the real problem.  You can love and still cheat on the person you love for a whole host of different reasons.  Nevertheless, most cheating harms love because it involves dishonesty.  Remember, It is almost impossible to build something real and lasting out of that which is false and contrived, even when real love exists.

The Importance of Getting Clarity

Cheating, deception, lies, manipulating interactions and all that usually go with cheating often cause a cluttered, conglomerate of confusion and inner conflict.  So, getting clear about some of the issues involved is highly useful.

Some say it really is not cheating unless you and another, or even third parties involved, have a clear, mutually understood agreement about what cheating is and what not to do.  In counseling I have heard people say "What I did wasn't cheating because I didn't love who I had sex with", "It was only a one night stand so that shouldn't count", "Yes, we stimulated each other to orgasm but we didn't have intercourse, so that wasn't cheating, was it?", "Even if you loved Joe only in your mind, that still is cheating on me", "If you so much as look at any other woman, you're being unfaithful to me", "Sex with others is okay but don't you dare fall in love with anybody else but me, because that's really cheating ".

Most people seem to think that everyone has the same understanding of cheating which is just like their own, but they don't.  Phenomenology shows us no one has exactly your understanding of everything, especially not anything having strong emotional impact.  So, it all has to get talked out and clearly agreed upon, hard is that often is.  If you are going to get clarity about cheating and everything related, it probably is going to take interactive, uncomfortable, mutual, hard, communication work.  Unspoken agreements are best thought of as disagreements in waiting.

Two Base Points of Cheating

In most love relationship, cheating is oriented around one or both of two points.  One point is love and the other is sex.  It commonly is suggested that males, especially psychologically immature and insecure males, are concerned mostly about sexual cheating.  On the other hand, females, especially more psychologically mature but insecure females, are concerned largely about cheating related to love.  Bisexuals and transsexuals are thought perhaps to be more equally affected by both.

What may be more important than gender orientation is the strength of one's sex drive and/or the strength of one's drive or need for healthy, real love.  Also, very much involved is one's sense of being secure about sexual adequacy and/or one's sense of security about being lovable and love able.

Cheatings Two Biggest Causes?

Cheating is thought to be pretty much nonexistent among a fair number of the indigenous tribes of South America.  That is because they share a belief that babies are best grown out of multiple contributions of different male’s semen.  Women seek out and bed men with different qualities so that their offspring will have those male’s various qualities.  Bedding just one male makes for too few qualities in one's child.  This belief system also expands the number of men who take father responsibility for helping the child grow up.

That example, and others like it, suggest and point to a possible, real root-cause of our problems with cheating.  That root-cause is our deeply incorporated, cultural training about sex, spouse type love and monogamy.  Had we been brought up with a mores like those indigenous peoples of South America, we might have no need for romantic dishonesty and, therefore, no need for cheating.

This also suggests that those who can get more free of our standard, cultural training about spousal love and monogamy may be able to better love their way through cheating and affair problems.  Indeed, freedom from cultural control may help explain why so many couples do not end their relationship when cheating and affair issues occur.

The second major reason for cheating being so prevalent may have to do with our biology fighting our cultural training.  There is a growing amount of evidence and analysis pointing to the conclusion that a particular biological imperative rules.  That is that 1) males are built and driven to plant their seed in multiple vaginas and, 2) females are built and driven to get the seed of different men who have various desirable qualities planted in their vaginas.  Especially, might this be a natural truth for both higher quality males and females who have more survivor qualities to offer the human gene pool for our species continuence?

Apparently, this two-part, biological imperative operates somewhat independently of our natural, psycho-biological imperative to love-bond with others.  Successful, emotionally close, pair bonding (poly and throuple bonding) examples exists around the world and throughout history which have not been emphasized, where sexual monogamy has.  Our natural state in love relationships may be much closer to that of the bonobo apes.  They are seen as more family, friendship and small-tribe love bonded than pair bonded while still being very actively, multi-mingling sexually.  Interestingly, various indigenous peoples around the globe are found to have similar behavioral norms and to be without so many problems of jealousy, possessiveness, sexual insecurity, divorce or cheating.  Lots to think about, right?

Other Reasons for Cheating

"I had to cheat because I had to find out if I was still desirable".  "Actually, I cheated because the outside love and care I got gave me the fuel I needed to keep working on my marriage",  " I think I cheated mostly because that's what successful people do when they reach the status I have attained in life",  "It helped me a lot with my self-love",  "I did it out of vengeance",  "Everything else we both were doing in life was dishonest, so being dishonest in love and sex came easily",  "All my friends were doing it and it seemed like fun",  "To be truthful, I identified with being bad and cheating is so bad",  "Others I knew were getting away with it and I was so envious",  "It's what the people in my growing up family did, so why could I be any different",  "My spouse was far too goody-goody, straightlaced and normal.  I just couldn't live that way, so I started a secret life apart",  "I tried it out of boredom and got to really liking it".

These are but a small sampling of the multitudinous reasons people discover for their cheating.  Only occasionally the reason given is that a spouse is no longer loving, or attractive, or sexual.  Sometimes the reason is to escape or find somebody better than their inadequate or abusive spouse.  While the reasons are important, far more important is figuring out what to do about it.

Other Forms of Cheating

Cheating and deception can concern and does occur regarding money, substance and behavioral addictions (like gambling), family, status, personal history, religion, politics, food, health and a good many other things.  But it is the love and sex areas where cheating is the big deal that concerns us most here.

The Poly Cure for Cheating

In the history of Europe and the Americas, every so often there appears a new attempt at one approach or another for solving the problems inherent in monogamy, or if you prefer, serial monogamy.  Polygamy, communal sex, group marriage, swinging, open marriage, free love, and more recently, poly amore alternate lifestyles are but a few of the many examples available.  With each attempt, there are people who make it work quite well and those who do not.  Common to many of the attempts are emphases on open honesty and getting okay with people having both sex and love in multiperson ways.  Common also is condemnation by the more conservative and those threatened by the new and different.

With the advent of the social sciences, what makes these different love relationship ways succeed for some and fail for others is becoming more understood.  One answer may be this.  It seems that those who learn and practice the behaviors that demonstrate love well may be able to make any form of love relationship work better, including monogamy.  Those who more poorly, or less frequently behave in the ways that convey love, more likely fail at each form of love relating, also including monogamy.  So, perhaps it is not the form but the love abilities of the people engaging in the form that makes the difference.

Cheating is hardly ever a loving action.  It is an action that risks hurting and harming another person and perhaps several others severely.  Cheating in some situations may be the healthiest alternative available as well as the least dangerous and least destructive to all concerned but those situations are rare.  There are those who attempt open honesty and who are willing to work out "I win, you win, everybody wins" type solutions.  And there are those who may be truly unable, as well as unwilling, to go for "tri-victory" outcomes.  Likewise, there are counselors and therapists who do not have what it takes to help others achieve two party, let alone three party resolutions, when cheating and affairs have been involved.  But with other nonjudgmental counselors, it can be done.

The Couple's Cure for Cheating

In my experience working with couples who have a cheating issue and supervising therapists who deal with similar issues, what helps the most is a very love-centered couple’s counseling, largely done in conjoint sessions where the couple meets together with the therapist.  Such therapists work in an unbiased way, are rather loving, practical, highly truth oriented and willing to experiment with couples outside the box toward possible solutions for improvement.  Couples’ group counseling may follow and greatly add to the strength of improvements.

The Individual’s Cure for Cheating

For individuals, I have found individual group therapy to quite often be the most advantageous and efficient treatment, though singular individual counseling may work well too.  The challenging but supportive and non-condemning ways of a good positive-focused group therapy can work wonders to help people give up a cheating way of going about relating and to risk replacing it with ways that are much more lovingly truthful.

For more help related to cheating, you may wish to consult these mini-love-lessons: “Love Affairs: Bad?, Good? and Otherwise”, “Trust Recovery and Love”, “Protecting Those You Love from Yourself”, “Forgiveness - A Much Needed Love Skill”, “Checking It Out - As a Love Skill” and link “Conclusions, Confounding and Corrupting Your Love?”.   I also heartily recommend reading Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jetha.  In my biased view, serious cheating issues are best dealt with with the help of a good love knowledgeable therapist, well-trained in relationship therapy, not just individual therapy.  You might be able to find one of those therapists via your national marriage and family therapy and/or counseling associations.

One more thing:  let us suggest you talk to some people about your thoughts and feelings concerning this mini-love-lesson on cheating and this site’s many other love lessons.  Think about quoting and using the following quotable love question to include in that talk.

As always –Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

♥ Quotable Love Question:  If we can love two parents, several siblings, four grandparents and other relatives, including stepparents and multiple friends all at the same time, why do we think we can not have real love for two or even more lovers simultaneously?