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Showing posts with label myths. Show all posts
Showing posts with label myths. Show all posts

What Your Brain Does with Love - Put Simply

Mini-Love-Lesson #208

Synopsis: Where your heart resides in your brain and what that has to do with the many emotions triggered by love; how feeding your brain love makes you healthy are all presented and surveyed in this mini-love-lesson; more.

The Heart in Your Brain

First, in cherished tones, you hear the words “I love you”, or perhaps you feel a tender loving touch, or maybe you see a precious sweet smile on the face of a beloved one, or it could be any of the 383 other loving behaviors (so far discovered, Swenson) which can activate your sensory systems to help you experience love.  Next, as your nerves are stimulated by a love input they send electrical messages to centers and circuits of your deeper, ancient, non-conscious brain designed for receiving and processing love.

That deeper part of your brain primarily is where your psychological heart resides.  It is where you process love, being loved and loving.  It also is the part of that sends out electrical and chemical messages to other parts of your brain and to many parts of your body activating them to function more healthfully, and generally to beneficially guide you.  Then those messages stimulate your brain to make a variety of neurochemical compounds which in turn help to make you conscious of starting to feel the many, various, good, emotional and physical feelings of love.

All of that happens mostly quite naturally, automatically and also largely non-consciously at first.  But your subconscious knows and is responding.  When it comes to love, it seems that the conscious, aware and thinking mind, to a large extent, gets bypassed at first.  Some have postulated that perhaps nature does not really trust the conscious mind to handle anything as important as love, other than to be aware of feeling it after it is up and running.  Notice, people tend more often to say things like “I realized I love him (or her)”, or “suddenly I just knew I loved (so-and-so)” rather than saying things like “I can tell I love that person a little bit and maybe that love is growing”.  That occasionally does happen.  Perhaps also that is why you can not feel your love for someone all the time but it is there all the time where you can draw on it when it is called for.

You purposely can come to sense love when it exists in you and, thus, know you love someone, but this is just the awareness of love and not the love itself.  Because love neurologically is not an emotion but rather a natural, complicated, internal, deep brain process which you sometimes feel or sense.  It also is a process which can give you a great many different emotions, among which are feeling loving, feeling loved and feeling lovable.

Love and Its Accompanying Emotions

While love happens, you frequently do become consciously aware of the feelings of being loved, and/or loving, or just a sense of love itself.  You also may get a wide range of other, accompanying, positive feelings which the experience of love triggers or sets off in your brain.  When love is being experienced, there can be accompanying positive feelings of tenderness, intimacy, ecstasy, serenity, passion, emotional closeness and connection, compassion, ebullience, preciousness, empathetic care, oceanic awareness and a great many other fantastic feelings.

Identifying love as only an emotion is grossly inaccurate and can lead to mis-judging its emotional richness, nature, power, importance and functional dynamics.  In turn, that can lead to a great many missed opportunities, misunderstandings and relational mistakes concerning love.  Some of those can be quite tragic.  Remember, feeling love is natural but love relating is learned.

Blocked and Anti-Love Interference

The whole love process described above can be blocked, confounded and in essence sabotaged by other things that go on both in your brain and in your life.  For instance, a former love relationship that was too often or too severely painful can cause you to be extra reluctant and cautious about entering a new love involvement.  If you have been trained or subconsciously programmed to be more oriented to one, or more, of the false forms of love you may greatly misinterpret or overlook a current, real love opportunity.

Too much emphasis on sexuality, romance, marriage or strong personal insecurity also can get in the way of healthy, real love development.  Substance addictions, compulsive avarice and status desires, plus simply plain ignorance about love also provides lots of dangers.  These are but some of the many things that can block or interfere with processing love healthfully and doing love-relating successfully.

Love and Your Brain for the More Anatomically Fascinated

You could skip this section if you are not intrigued about knowing some of the brain/body details of love’s psychoneurophysiology and neurochemistry.

There is a lot we don’t know yet and what we do know is like everything else about the brain – complicated.  Nevertheless, here is a little bit of more technical brain knowledge concerning what your brain does with love.  These knowledge bits can be used to lookup much more complete information than is given here.

First of all, the preponderance of research evidence shows love not to be an emotion like it is so often misidentified.  Rather, love, at least in part, is seen as a natural, very healthy, systemic, brain process involving many emotions and a whole lot more than that.  Brain-wise the process of love is more similar to the biological process of turning food into energy or your body’s systems and for keeping you free from infections than it is to being just a simple emotional feeling.  Unlike an emotion, real love is not a temporary, or frequently fleeting feeling.  Rather, once real love is established it likely is going to be with you from then on, and some postulate even after death.  A relationship may end but if there was real love that will remain even though there might be many contravening variables about other aspects of the relationship.

Your psychological heart mostly is in your brain’s limbic system.   Love processing involves a good many of your limbic system’s component parts.  Thought to be included are your insula, anterior cingulate cortex, caudate nucleus and putamen, all of which show heightened activation when you come in contact with someone you feel love with or for.  Lower activation also occurs in the amygdala, posterior cingulate, and the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortices in the right hemisphere of your brain.  Those changes in brain activity show love to be at least a twofold process.  One, increases good or positive feelings and the other decreases your negative or bad feelings.  Among those are a lowered sense of fear and a heightened sense of safety.  Changes in the activation rate of those brain parts also mean you become less outer environmentally aware and more internally and emotionally aware as the love process happens.  Worry decreases and as love-induced endorphins and dopamine levels increase so does your all-over sense of happiness and well-being.

Also thought to be probably involved with the love process in your brain are your hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus, temporal lobe, orbitofrontal cortex, septal area, corpus callosum, frontal lobe, fornex, mammillary bodies and limbic cortex.  Each of those may have to do with different aspects and factors of the love process.

When referring to a couple, some may say “they have chemistry” that certainly is true.  Love makes a host of neurochemical things happen.  Chemical changes in your brain and body frequently include changes in androgen, testosterone, pheromones, serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, epinephrine, norepinephrine and phenylethylamine, and that is just what researchers have discovered, it seems so far that I know about.  Each of those helps you process different aspects of loves dynamics.  For instance, oxytocin helps you with feeling love connected and bonded with another.  Please note, these are natural, good chemicals that are produced by our bodies when love occurs.  So, those who get lots of love in their lives don’t need similar kinds of pharmaceuticals or street drugs with potential toxic side effects.

From Your Brain to Your Body

The chemicals your brain makes when it is processing love go into your blood and flow through not only your brain but also through the rest of your body.  Everywhere they go they work to have a great variety of beneficial and healthful effects.  It seems that each of the three tiers and 12 major categories of loving behavior [see A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love] may trigger different, healthful benefits.  Some are quite invigorating, energizing and mobilizing for action.  Others are calming, soothing and make for antidepressant serenity.  Quite a few have various kinds of physical healing effects.  Others are more healing in a psychological sense.

Feeling loved from any source can sort of work like food giving you energy, sometimes a great deal of energy.  Feeling serenely loved especially is good for lowering stress and the body’s reactions to stress.  Feeling loving toward others brings on one set of physically healthful effects, while acting loving toward others adds another set of physically healthful, biophysical reactions.

Getting and giving different behaviors that convey love has a positive effect on your immune system’s functioning, can lower your bad cholesterol and can help your T cells fight cancer.  The health benefits go on and on, with research discovering more all the time.

Feeding Your Brain Love Makes You Healthy

Your psychological mind and your psychological heart are in your brain.  The brain is in your body and they are all linked together affecting each other.  Experiencing healthy, real love works like a vital health food and a rather miraculous medicine.  The more you interact with people you love, and are loved by the more your brain produces helpful responses that affect your entire body’s health.  This also seems true for those you like and those you are liked by.  More love equals more health.  That is what more and more research is showing.

The more you are absent from healthy, real love input, the more you are psycho-physically malnourished or even starved and the more likely you are to have a physical and/or psychological health malfunction.  Mixing a lot with people doing false love is like eating non-nourishing, junk food.  Even worse, is to be around and interact with negative, anti-love acting people.  That is akin to eating toxic and poisonous food.  Also bad for your health is a lack of healthy self-love, and self-hate and self negation are even worse.

If at your work, or somewhere else you spend time, involves a lot of contact with non-loving, false love or anti-loving people, you had best counterbalance that with healthy self-love and with others who love well.  Remember, it is very important to “love others as you love yourself”.  It is likely your health depends on it!

One More Thing

How about sharing and talking over this mini-love-lesson with a friend or two and, thus, spread some love knowledge into our rather love ignorant world.
As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: How much real healthy love, shown physically and psychologically, have you been feeding your brain lately?

Is Depression Love Starvation?

More and more evidence is stacking up suggesting that much of what we call depression might just be, or be caused by, love malnutrition or love starvation.

Healthy real love, especially of the nurturing supportive type, can be said it to work like a vital energizing food and also like a very healing medicine.  People who receive the major behaviors of well demonstrated love seem to not experience much serious depression.

If they do experience depression they seem to get over it better and faster than others.  We know that severe love loss can result in severe depression for a great many people.  Loss of a major source of love often can lead to marked neurochemical imbalances and other biological problems, sometimes even resulting in death.

Abandoned infants who are physically well taken care of by others but do not receive the actions that demonstrate love suffer from failure to thrive, failure to grow and infantile depression illnesses.  We also know that several mammal species that experiencing loss of a parent, mate or offspring tend to exhibit the same biological and behavioral symptoms as humans do.  This includes observable symptoms of depression like pronounced lassitude, unresponsiveness to pleasure stimuli, sleep disturbance, eating disturbance, etc.

Being ‘loved on’ and veterinarian antidepressants are the preferred treatments for these animals.  In most cases similar treatment works well for humans also. Consequently with this evidence, and many more documented examples, we might conclude that a deficiency of healthy, real, nurturing love may result in one or more types of severe depression.  Receiving the behaviors demonstrating love from people who have the attitudes and feeling states of love seems to offer the cure in many cases of depression.

In the helping professions there is considerable evidence showing the similarity of, or connection between, love loss and depression.  A number of addiction counselors point to the most common cause of relapse in alcoholism and substance addiction as probably being one type of love problem or another.

All long, ongoing love life problems involve depression according to some relational therapists.  It seems that especially mate love, family love, deep friendship and comrade love, plus healthy self-love and spiritual love when lost, absent, or markedly reduced almost inevitably result in the same symptoms as diagnosed depression, according to certain counselors and therapists from various fields. In rehabilitative medicine good, supportive family love is known to be extremely helpful in helping amputees overcome the despondency that usually accompanies limb loss.  Love loss also can be seen as a major precursor to suicidal depression, a frequent trigger to fatal overdoses, and a strong contributing factor to fatal and near fatal accidents.  Depression along with love loss is thought to be a frequent factor in all these human tragedies.

What’s the Cure?

New or regained love often is seen to quickly alleviate depression in many people.  New and regained love are known to enliven and energize people making them more disease resistant, neurochemically more healthy, and prone to live healthier lifestyles.  Doing a good job of receiving nurturing and supportive love from any-and-all sources offering healthy real love can be a primary deterrent to depression.  This is especially true when there has been a loss, or great reduction of love, for a person who has only one major love source.  So, if you loose someone who loves you turn more to others who love you, and work at soaking up their love-filled care and concern.

If you don’t have anyone else go to a love-centered counselor who can help you get started on finding and building a loving network.  And don’t let anything get in the way of that.  Building or connecting with a network of healthfully loving people probably provides some of the best insurance against the depression that comes with love loss.  Those who are strongly participating members of a highly healthfully loving couple relationship, family situation or friendship group fair far better when it comes to handling depression than do those not having such love filled relationships.

Those who learn and practice healthy self-love behaviors are thought to be the people who are most quick to recover from depression linked to love loss.  Those who practice healthy self-love affirmations and behaviors may be the most depression resistant.   People who work together to improve their love behaviors toward each other and toward  themselves, and those who work to develop more spiritual love actions seem to recover from depression at faster rates and more thoroughly.

Cure your love life issues and you just might cure your depression.  That is the hopeful possibility presented here.  But wait, what is meant by ‘love life’?   That’s crucial to understand!  Lots of people think sex when they hear the term ‘love life’, or just hear the word love.  Ask a person how their love life is and you may get a blush, a leer, or an offended look because they think you’re asking about their sex life.  It seems a pity to me that sexuality has usurped, and perhaps somewhat blinded us to the much larger and more important meanings of a term like ‘love life’.

Here your love life has to do how well, how much and how often you give and receive the behaviors, communicate the thoughts, and experience the wide array of physical and emotional feelings which give evidence that healthy real love is occurring.  From that understanding there flows a number of questions you might want to ask yourself.   “How well do I actually do healthy real love?”  “How often do I show my love?”  “How good am I at receiving the demonstrations of love from others?”  “How well do I do at communicating my thoughts of love?  Do I have them?   How frequently?”  “Am I doing healthy self-love sufficiently?”  “Am I good at enjoying the feelings that love can bring?”  There is a lot to this meaning of ‘love life’.

If you are wondering how do we define healthy real love remember a working definition  is given, explained and discussed in this blog’s first entries, but in brief here is our more detailed working definition:
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.  Love is further defined by its five major functions: (1) to personally and profoundly connect us, (2) to provide competent balanced safeguarding, (3) to improve us in all healthful ways, (4) to heal us and maximize our recovery from being sick or injured, and (5) to reward our behaviors from and with love via the many joys of love.
Note that in this definition love is not an emotion, nor is it sex, nor is it everything else listed in the blog entry about what love is not.

A very important consideration is that there are false forms of love and they, unfortunately, may act to increase depression, not cure it.

Your love life may contain many types of love, or it may not.  Life partner love, sibling love, parent to child love, child to parent love, higher power love, and a host of others are all to be considered as important in your development of a healthy enriched love life.  Any, or all of those types of love can be important for countering depression and it’s effects.  That means there are a lot of wonderful, healthful, possible ‘antidepressant’ relationships you can’t get from a pharmacy but you can get from real life.  Don’t leave out healthy self-love.  Without love-filled relationships susceptibility to some form of depression appears to be much more likely and common.

It is important to know that some forms of depression may have nothing to do with love-malnutrition or love-starvation.  Some depressive conditions are caused by imbalances in brain chemistry or other neurological problems.  Remember your mind (including your psychological heart and gut) is in your brain.  Whatever affects your brain can very strongly affect your mind, heart (love), and gut (emotions).  Therefore, bad brain chemistry can get you depressed all by itself.

Whenever there is no evidence of  biologically or physically caused depression suspect a love problem.  Ask yourself “How goes your love life?”, which may include healthy self-love, romantic love, life partner love, family love, spiritual love, love of life, love of your life purpose, the healthy mix of love and sex, love of people, etc..  If there are areas that seem empty, confusing, or areas that emotionally hurt when you focus on them then maybe you have a love deficiency that might lead to depression.  You also could have the ‘emotional poisoning’ of a false love to deal with.  Remember, healthy real love works like a vital energizing food and a very curative medicine.  If the love in your life isn’t helping to fight your depression, or seems to be making it worse, it may be a type of false love.  If that seems to be the case a good therapist probably can help.

Now there is another great big important question to ask yourself if you are trying to understand your own depression or trying to understand a loved one’s depression.  The question is “How is your depression trying to help you?”  That’s right – help you!

Consider the proposition that all your parts, systems and the machinations by which our species has been adapting and hopefully improving over millions of years, are all trying to help you.  Therefore, depression, anxiety, fear and all other ‘bad’ feelings are trying to do you a ‘good’ service, just like physical hurt tries to help you.  For example, if the physical pain in your side gets you to the surgeon who removes your abscessed appendix before it kills you, then the hurt saved your life.  All ‘bad’ feelings are ‘good’ in that they are all trying to provide you some kind of assistance.  You might even say they are trying to love you.  Yes,  these emotional warning systems can overdo it, under do it, and mis-do it – like all human systems, but their basic purpose is to aid you.

It’s the hurt you feel when touching a hot stove that gets you to yank your hand away before there is any real damage.  Fear and anxiety get you to be more cautious possibly when you need to, anger gives you more power when you don’t have enough – although it is clumsy power, boredom tells you “that’s enough” of something and it’s time to do something else, and so forth.  They all are there to assist you and even though these emotions are not fun to feel,  it’s a much better idea to work with them than to work against them.

Now let’s take a look at depression, the non-chemically induced kind.  When you have a feeling of being depressed notice what you usually do.  Usually you don’t do much of anything.  You sit around or lay around mostly inactively.  Notice what you think about.  Usually you think about what’s wrong and all ‘downer stuff’ of your life.  That’s what depression wants you to do, to not do much so you’re not distracted from thinking about what’s wrong.  Depression does you the service of getting you to be still long enough that you can focus on the unpleasant things you want to dodge thinking about in your life. Depression gets you to think about those very things.  Depression is the ‘take inventory’ feeling.  Cooperate with your depression and take your personal inventory, and then make a plan to do something about what you’re depressed about.  That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

If when depressed you take a lot of pills, get drunk or anything else that dodges taking inventory  your depression will be your good friend and probably get worse until you take the inventory, make a plan and start carrying it out.  At least that’s how I’ve seen it work with a lot of people in my practice.  Yes, your depression could overdo it to the point you can’t think straight and, therefore, can’t take a good inventory.  A good therapist can help you with that.  If it were not for depression there would be a lot of things people might never face until it was too late.  Depression has helped millions of people get out of bad marriages, dead-end jobs, lousy families, repressive political regimes and unfulfilling lifestyles.

If it weren’t for depression, and the service it provides, those people might have stayed until their situations totally destroyed them.  The idea is ‘work with your depression’.  Find out what it’s trying to tell you, and make the improvements in your life which you probably have been avoiding out of fear.  At least that is often the case when dealing with purely psychological or “normal” depression. 

Perhaps frequently the improvements you will need to make have something to do with not getting enough of the right kind, or the right amount of healthy real love.  Possibly you’re staying in a loveless relationship out of duty.  Maybe you’re stuck in a meaningless career due to a lack of gumption that a healthy dose of self-love might give you.  You might think you’re trapped in a draining lifestyle because you love your kids, mate, etc..  You may need to fix the source, type or amount of love your getting, add new sources of love, or disentangle yourself from a love life situation more harmful than helpful.

Surprisingly some people discover that depression begins to alleviate the minute they start taking a realistic inventory, even though it hurts to think about the situation they are in.  Others find it doesn’t get better until they are enacting the plan that came from the inventory.  Sometimes when people start working their plan anxiety or fear arises because now they are facing their real issues.  Then they may back off from enacting their plan.  Often psychological or normal depression (which can be experienced as quite intense) gets worse when a person backs away from carrying out their plan for improvement.  That seems like a pretty clear guidance message to keep working the plan.  It also is the healthfully self loving thing to do.  Sometimes we go through life situations where our choice seems to be either to get anxious or to get depressed, take your pick.

With enough healthy self-love usually we pick the ‘anxiety route’ and go do what were afraid to do, but perhaps more cautiously.  That choice changes things for better or for worse, but it least it’s different and usually not depressing.  Often getting out of depression means forcing yourself to cross a sort of emotional desert before you can find new emotionally fertile land to live in.  With enough healthy self-love you will be important enough to yourself to persevere and make it across the ‘depression desert’. Healthfully loving friends and family can provide emotional oasis experiences along the way.

If you or anyone you care about struggles with strong or repeating depressive episodes there are three things to do.  First, check with a physician, possibly a psychiatrist to examine whether or not there may be a physical cause or contributor to your depression.  Second, and sort of simultaneously with doing the first thing, go looking for a good love oriented and hopefully love knowledgeable therapist.  Third, and more or less simultaneously with the other two, take a good, broad and deep look at the many parts of your ‘love life’ searching to see how you are going to improve it.

The good news is that almost everyone who learns to do this really well makes the needed changes and gets a largely new, improved and healthier life and love-life. Frequently, but not always, this alleviates the depression.  Aim to live undepressed and love enriched and you probably will do just that if you are willing to work at it.  I can say this with confidence because I have seen and helped literally hundreds of people do exactly this.

In closing I can say, not all, but much of depression does indeed seem to be, or stem from  love starvation – a lack of healthy real love of one type or another.  So often when a person experiences the powerful, vital, natural process of being highly valued, and when that person experiences someone desiring for, acting for and taking pleasure in their well-being they experience love and get better.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J Richard Cookerly

Anti-Love Myth # 1: True Love Means You'll Know What to Do

Synopsis: Our sweet, pretty, horribly destructive, super common, love-ruining myth in example; A group’s help; Care and cure effort; Two answers for why we keep perpetuating the myth; The triggering of useless self attack; Ruining your children’s romantic future; The two brains improvement you can make; and Restaurant behavior & love relating.

With an anguished look Francine moaned, “If I have to tell him what I want that spoils it.  If he truly loves me, he just will know what to do and he’ll do it.  Won’t he?  That’s the way real love works, doesn’t it?”

Upon hearing this the other seven members of Francine’s counseling group all groaned in unison.  My trainee assistant therapist then said, “How has thinking that way been working for you so far, Francine?”  Quizzically she replied, “Maybe not so well, but perhaps I just haven’t found the right guy who really loves me yet.”  Again members of the group groaned.  Cheri, said, “I have an ex who relied on that myth and all it ever did was cause a lot of trouble and fights.  I always was having to guess and usually I guessed wrong.”  Jake spoke up and added, “Yeh, I get so frustrated with my wife never telling me what she really wants.  I really love her but she doesn’t give me a clear message that I can work with.  She expects me to ‘read her mind’ and I never can.  This could lead us to the breaking point if we don’t do something about it.”

I then asked, “Francine, what do you think the word communication means when we say we all have to learn how to really communicate with the ones we love?”  Francine replied, “I don’t know, I never really thought about it.”  I replied, “Could it mean you and your lover have to take a lot of the guesswork out of your relationship?  Maybe it means we all have to tell each other what we secretly hope for, dream about, and directly ask for what we need and want.”  With some energy Francine strongly said, “I think I get it and I’m going to work on that.”  So she did and with good results over time.

Loretta who just had been listening then made this comment, “Without asking for what I wanted, when my husband didn’t say or do just the right, loving thing I thought it meant I had done something wrong, or he was mad at me, or maybe he didn’t care or he was just being cruel.  When what I wanted didn’t come my way I’d feel guilty and try to figure out what I had done wrong and why he was punishing me.  I’m sure I seemed pathetic and whiny.  I see now I was not sending any clear message at all, just hoping he’d magically know or guess how to be nice to me.  When he ‘failed’ to come through for me I would get pouty.  When I acted like that he would get mad at me and I would feel too afraid to even talk to him, let alone tell him what I needed or wanted, so I guess he never really knew.  It never crossed my mind that he had no idea what I wanted — that he actually couldn’t know.  What a mess not asking for what I really wanted made.  It would have been so simple and I think we’d still be together today if I’d known that.”

Brandon then brought up the question “Why do so many people believe that awful myth which says ‘If you love someone you’ll know what to do, and you’ll do it, and it will turn out to be the right thing?  Why do we rely on a false myth that love makes us ‘mind readers’ when it causes a lot of pain and misery, and no doubt a lot of breakups?”

Understanding how many people come to believe this ‘love myth’ which turns out to have such an anti-love effect can help us guard against it.  There are two parts to the thinking about that.  The first part applies to when you are a baby your parents are repeatedly figuring out what you need and want, and give it to you without you asking for it because, as an infant, you can’t.  You may look distressed, or cry or look unhappy, then someone feeds you or changes your diaper or because they love you they make you feel better one way or another.  Therefore, you grow up being conditioned to think that those who love you automatically will know or figure out what you need and give it to you without you having to learn how to identify it, ask for it, or accurately inform anyone about how you feel.

All you have to do is look or sound a little unhappy and those loving people will sweep in and take care of you in a way that satisfies.  When you are a child that works because your wants and needs are mostly simple.  Adulthood is much more complicated and individualistic, so we have to learn to communicate our wants very clearly or we don’t have much of a chance of getting what we need or desire.  The dependence on loved ones being mind readers, therefore, basically is a childish way of operating and it often does enormous damage to adult love relationships.

The second part is that we in the Western world have been conditioned, at least somewhat, by childhood fairy tales.  In the fairy tales Prince and/or Princess Charming always automatically does the right thing which always leads to "happily ever after" without anyone having to really communicate.  Think of Snow White.  She is laying there in her coffin and the prince comes along and automatically does the one correct thing that brings her back to life.  He kisses her and she pops up full of hugs and kisses for him.  How did he know to do that?

It’s inferred that love gave him the immediate, perfect knowledge of what to do.  He didn’t have to research it, consult wise men or white witches, study old scrolls, remember what some wizard once said, or form a committee to study the matter.  He just immediately, automatically knew what to do and did it because that is ‘the magic of love’ according to the story.  To a large extent our romance mythology is built on this kind of understanding of how love is supposed to work.  We keep teaching this destructive myth to the detriment and destruction of many love relationships that otherwise might work out fine.

Think about it.  Notice that this way of operating can work in fairy tales and romance stories because only one brain is involved in scripting all the roles.  In real life you have at least two individual brains thinking individualistically.  For there to be joint, cooperative, successful action those two brains have to communicate with one another.  Only occasionally will both brains think enough in similar fashion for people to have pretty much the same thought simultaneously.  That phenomenon can be enjoyed but not relied upon.  Therefore, mutually communicating your feelings and especially your desires, then jointly working out what to do next is the way to go – if you want frequent cooperative success.

By the way, you might want to give some thought about whether or not you are perpetuating the "love gives magical, automatic knowledge" myth to your children and, thus, perhaps assisting them toward future romantic agonies and maybe failure.

Here’s the dilemma. You either can hold on to the sweet, pretty but false romantic myth that love magically can guide those who love you to take care of you ‘just right’, or you can go to the trouble to learn to clearly communicate your thoughts, feelings and especially your desires.  If you accurately communicate what you want you at least have a chance of getting what you want, of course, there is no guarantee.  Furthermore, if you are a decent listener you actually may come to understand what your beloved really wants or at least realize what questions to ask to find out.  If you hold on to and depend upon the myth – well, you can guess what you’re odds are of getting what you need and want.

Many of my patients have heard my analogy of restaurant behavior and love relating.  If you go to a restaurant and don’t ask for what you want, you are highly unlikely to get it.  The wait-person can’t read your mind.  If instead you say, “I’d like a steak, medium rare, with mushrooms on the side and a baked potato with sour cream and chives, and broccoli also” you have a far better chance of getting more exactly what you want.  Likewise, in a love relationship if you come home tired and worried, and just plop down and hang your head, you might not get the hug and attentive listening that you really want.  All your mate can do is guess what to do and they may guess you want to be left alone.  But if you say, “I’ve really had a rough day and I’m worried about tomorrow.  Will you give me a big hug and listen to me with love for about 5 minutes?  I think that will help us have a much nicer evening together” the chances are much better that your mate will understand what you want and hopefully help you with that.

As always – Grow and Go with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question Are you in any way afraid to ask someone you love for what you want, and if so how are you going to get past that?

Startup Love is Never Enough !

Mini-love-lesson  #196

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson is about helping people get beyond just having startup love and growing on to having lasting love that can work for a whole lifetime and much more.

What Too Many Couples Say!

“It looks like our honeymoon period is over”.  “It seemed like we were so in love at first but now it’s all fading out”.  “Is our love starting to die?”  “We were so great in the beginning but now we’re just getting to be another unhappy couple like so many of the couples we know”.  These are the all too common kinds of comments a great many couples make after a startup of seeming to be very in love.

But wait!  Research shows there are a whole lot of other couples who rapidly recover from that potentially disastrous slump and others who never experience the “honeymoon is over” thing.  They, in fact, just keep getting better and better.  So, what makes the difference?  Is it luck, fate, the stars, communication, is it that one or both of them are doing something the others are not, or what?

Real Answers That Help

For some couples the answer is they didn’t have real love in the first place but rather a form of false love.  It could be limerence or some other false love which means they need to learn about real love and its differences from false love and then what to do about it.  For many other couples they had real and sufficiently healthy love at the start, but there were two very important things about love they didn’t know or didn’t know in a deep and solid enough way.
The Block:   Part 1 of the Primary Answer
The truth is it might not only be about what they do not know.  It might also be about a falsehood so many couples have been taught or subconsciously programmed to believe.  This falsehood blocks them from learning or deeply realizing a preeminent and profoundly needed understanding of an unwanted truth.  It is an understanding of what it really takes to succeed at real love-relating over time.  So often the blocking false teaching has to be given up before what really works is able to be learned at the required gut and heart levels.  That turns out to be harder than it might sound because the teaching usually has gotten rooted deeply into our subconscious belief system, and we so want to believe it, and reject whatever contradicts it.  Therefore, let’s deal with that blocking falsehood first.
A Ruinous Doctrine of Romantic Love
A thrice divorced client in great anguish asked me a question I have actually heard put many ways, many times from my patients and clients.  “Once I fall in love with the right person, isn’t that love going to be enough for the rest of my life?  So why do I have to do anything more about love?”  I replied, “If you really have deep love for someone and find out you can get better and better at loving them, won’t you want to do that – get better and better at love?  Isn’t that what true love would have you do?  If you have children, wouldn’t you work to be better and better at loving them?”  The client thought for a moment and then with a look of enlightenment said, “Help me doc, I have so much to unlearn and even more to learn.”
Don’t you or didn’t you want to believe that One day you meet your one-and-only, true love and you both automatically fall in love with each other.  Then by the nature and magic of love you both also automatically live happily ever after.  And that is all you have to do about love.  Succinctly put, that pretty much is the core of the romantic doctrine.
Do you know that it is quite possible that some version of this guiding romance dogma is alive in your very own subconscious mind?  Worse, it could be subtly steering you toward the likelihood of your own romantic ruin?  That can be so, even if your conscious mind sees big problems with it as a guiding, operational principle for your love life.  The research shows that this doctrine, indeed, may work for those who do not get to have an ongoing, real love relationship over time, like Romeo and Juliet who’s lives ended in their teens, and possibly for precious few others.
Do you ever wonder why in so many of the great romance stories, both new and old, the couples do not get to be together for even as much as a year before something wipes one or both of them out or separates them forever?  Possibly it is because if they were a longer lasting couple, the authors of those love stories know the couple would start having problems and would have to learn the real secrets of lasting love or break up.

The Block:   Part Two of the Primary Answer
The Much Avoided Real Secret of Lasting Love
Have you ever run into the idea that families are people farms and what makes them successful is how well the couple starting the farm knows how to work their farm with love.  Please notice the word work and how different that is from the romantic doctrine’s words automatic and magic.
Successful, lasting love-relating takes skillful work.  Ovid, Rome’s great love poet, taught this in the year 1 AD (or CE).  It takes the work of learning how to do love work.  It takes the work of learning loving teamwork; it takes the never-ending work of learning how to give out and take in healthy, real love ever better; it takes the work of growing healthy, real love; it often takes the work of practicing healing love; and it takes the work of learning how to individually love each of the individuals involved in your love network, including yourself.  It also takes the work of learning how to keep fresh or repeatedly refresh, renew and re-enliven your love relating.  The good news is with improvement oriented practice everyone can learn how to do skillful love work.  And more good news, probably it also will be immensely rewarding to you and those you love.

What Startup Love Is Good For

Startup love is only good for starting up.  It seems to be Mother Nature’s way of helping couples get started but after that you have to learn, work and practice a whole lot more than Mom Nature provides.  If you are going to get to have strong, lasting and improving love, you will have to work at it.  Lasting love is complicated, challenging, confusing and lasting love requires continuing commitment and continuing improvement-focused-behavior, in spite of victories and defeats, advances and setbacks.  Becoming complacent with victory or too easily giving up with defeats, is not a path to a strong, growing and lasting love.

Startup love between parents and newborn infants works much the same.  After the early, natural, initial, love bonding of a parent with a child, comes all sorts of work on how to love that particular child in the particular ways they need for their growth and development  (At this site’s mini-love-lessons see Parenting Series: Paul’s Points on Love for Parents).  Those parents who go to the trouble to learn about the major ways of nurturing a child with the appropriate behaviors of love have been showed to do much better than those who do not learn that knowledge or practice it.

Startup love in friendships, with comrades, new family members, with pets and others can work the same as with couples and infants but instead often may depend on slow growth, love development.  In any case, startup love is best seen as something to be added to, by deliberate work at doing better and better love skills development.

If Your Love Is Crashing, Sinking, Fading, Drifting, Slumping or Plateau-ing???

If you sense or suspect a love relationship of yours is doing one of the above, start by thinking about your ways of love-relating.  How are you relating with love and how can you improve relating with love to and with your loved ones?  To learn how to do better, you can do a host of different things.  You can read all the mini-love-lessons listed in the Subject and Title indexes of this site which seem to apply or grab your attention.  You can study the eight major ways or categories of behavior that social psychology research has discovered helps love get delivered from one person to another (Start with the mini-love-lesson titled Behaviors That Give Love – the Basic Core Four). You then can read more about those in our book Recovering Love.

You can work with St. Paul’s list of what love is, what it gets us to do and be in the New Testament.  You can work at talking your beloved’s love language by studying Chapman’ s The Five Love Languages.  You can see if you can find a real-love knowledgeable couples or family therapist, counselor, personal coach, cleric, mentor, guru, or other guide and work with them as an individual, or better yet, as a couple or as a family.  You can look for and go to personal growth and relationship classes, workshops, retreats and also online courses having to do with healthy, real love development.  You can read everything you can get your hands on about growing healthy, real love – which you are already doing by reading this.

In other words, you can start, by yourself or even better with a loved one, doing the work of learning the how to’s of better love relating.  I again want you to think of a farm.  If the people running the farm just rely on nature to produce the crops they soon would go back to living as primitive hunter/gatherers and sometimes starving.  This, in fact, is the same with love.  In regard to love, many live at the hunter/gatherer, primitive people level, unaware that they can do far better.

If you learn, practice and keep working to improve your work of farming love, you very likely will do very well.  If you rely only on startup love thinking it is so great it will last you a lifetime and, therefore, you do not have to work at it – well, good luck, because you probably are going to need it.

Help spread love knowledge, tell somebody about this site!

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: How do you feel about hearing that you could have inside you a misleading, destructive, non-conscious program effecting how you go about love?

Does “Feeling in Love” Come from Real or False Love?

Mini-Love-Lesson #179
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Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson presents ‘feeling in love’ and the lost wisdom about it; the harm that comes of relying on it; the questions of if it doesn’t come from real love where does it come from; what to do with “feeling in love”; does it always fade; what the brain does about “feeling in love” and “ being in love”; another big danger; then ends with the good news about feeling in love. (Who do you know that might benefit from mentioning mini-love-lesson?  You might mention it to them.)

Lost Wisdom about Feeling in Love

Not so long ago it was widely recognized that because you felt wonderfully “in love” it did not mean for certain you were in a state of real love.  Many instead knew it could be infatuation, or a crush or maybe just lust.  Others thought it could be that you were temporarily bewitched or merely enamored, enraptured, besotted, hart struck or, my favorite, twitterpatted.  In any case it was common wisdom that these words meant that what you were feeling might not last and, not for sure, were real love.

This was rather helpful because it assisted people in being patient and waiting long enough to see if ‘feeling in love’ would last and was real.  Two world wars seem to be what changed all that.  ‘falling’ in love quickly replaced long engagements and got much more popular.  So did quickly having sex and quickly getting married before the war or one of its horrid ancillaries killed one of you.  That seems to be the way it often works in desperate times.  The trouble with that is it set the new norm of believing that ‘feeling in love’ was all it took to mean it was the real thing.  The wisdom of “wait-and-see” was lost.

The Harm Done by Relying Only On ‘Feeling in Love’

Listen to Dolores, “I knew I loved my husband but was no longer ‘in love’ with him.  Then I met and fell head over heels in love with Chuck, had an affair with him, divorced my husband, devastated my kids, had arguments with my family and friends and generally messed up everything.  But at the time I didn’t care because I knew I was totally and passionately ‘in love’ and that was all that really mattered.  Two years later Chuck and I were done.  My ‘feeling in love’ just turned off.  So did Chuck’s and he quickly found another woman.

“With professional help, I now know what I felt for Chuck was a false form of love called “Limerence”.  I tried to go back to my husband where I now know real love existed but it was too late.  He had a new lady in his life who was busy making him and my kids happier than I had.  If only someone had taught me that ‘feeling in love’ could not be relied on.  Somewhere I had learned just the opposite that ‘feeling in love’ meant it was the real thing, but it wasn’t.”

Dolores’s story sadly is the story of countless others.  Real love lost, traumatized children, needless divorces, and much worse – these are the tragedies of relying too greatly only on ‘feeling in love’.  And this is all because so many people now believe merely ‘feeling in love’, even if intensely, means it must be the real thing (Check out the Problems and Pain section of the Subject Index.).

If It’s Not the Real Thing, What Is It?

‘Feeling in love’ can lead to the real thing but more often it does not.  ‘Feeling in love’ is frequently the result of one or another form of false love.  The false love called Limerence that Dolores identified lasts 2 to 4 years on average.  The ‘I’ phase of an IFD pattern romance seems to have a super strong ‘feeling in love’ component which also almost guarantees profound disappointment, demoralization and depression in the ‘D’ phase.  Unresolved Conflict Attraction Syndrome and Thrill and Threat Bonding frequently appear to sort of do the same thing. (For more complete descriptions and cures for these false love syndromes check out the e-book, Real Love False Love.

What to Do with ‘Feeling in Love’

When ‘feeling in love’, enjoy it fully!  Know it may lead to the real thing but no matter how good and strong the ‘feeling in love’ is, don’t rely on it as proof of real love.  It is not enough.  Learn the other signs of what is real and what is false and don’t be in a rush.  Remember, real love is patient. (See “How Love Works – 7 Basics” and “Falling Out of Love – or Was It False Love” mini-love-lessons at this site).

Does ‘Feeling in Love’ Always Fade?

So many people report that after a certain amount of time the passion, the romance, the sexuality and the intense ‘feeling in love’ experiences fades away.  They also often report those are replaced by a calmer, steadier, often deeper and more profound sense of love.  Many do not seem to know that if they purposely think and do the right set of actions they can bring back the ‘feeling in love’ experiences.  However, those feelings probably will not be constant or seemingly automatic as they once were.

In truth, you would not want them to be intensely with you all the time.  This is because there would be little room or time left for all those other wonderful feelings of ongoing, deep and profound love.  Also there is the occasional, often high sense of spiritual love that can come later in always growing, love relationships.  It sort of is like this.  You would not want a meal of your most favorite food to be your only food, day after day, after day, after day forever.  Love can be given and received in far more wonderful ways than just the passionate, romantic way.  But remember, you can bring that back too from time to time with the right love skills (See “Learning About Love – Together”, “The Three 3’s of Love” and “Is Love Ignorance the Problem?” mini-love-lessons at this site).

The Brain and Both ‘Feeling in Love’ and Being in Love

We now are beginning to have evidence about how the brain processes love.  There is evidence that suggests our brains process real love and false love differently.  This evidence also suggests that real love is very healthy for the whole body and false love usually is not or, even worse, it often is toxic.  However, we don’t have enough evidence to say these ideas are proven.  The thing we call ‘feeling in love’ by itself seems to operate like a precursor to lasting love which may or may not then follow.
Real love seems to activate certain regions of the brain, alter our brain chemistry and perhaps cause important bio-electrical changes.  Some think every cell in our body has at least a little to do with processing love and certainly is effected by love.

All these processes can go on whether you are consciously aware and feel them or not.  It is important to know that feeling something is not the thing itself.  We may sometimes feel and sometimes not feel our breathing or certain digestive processes but they are there whether we feel them or not.  Likewise, the evidence suggests real and lasting love is there all the time but we only feel it from time to time.  We, however, can develop the skill to purposefully tap into it, or become consciously aware of it whenever we wish.

Feeling in love often is quite strong and gets a lot of our attention for a while, maybe even a long while, then it changes.  It changes either into just going away or being something you temporarily can re-create from time to time in real love relationships, if people in the love relationship have the skill and know-how to do that.

Another Big Danger of ‘Feeling in Love’

‘Feeling in love’ in the brain operates in ways quite similar to certain kinds of serious drug addiction.  The evidence suggests healthy, real love doesn’t do that.  Withdrawal from ‘feeling in love’ is, in neurochemistry terms, rather similar to withdrawing from an opiate addiction.  ‘Feeling in love’ and several forms of false love sometimes trigger the brain chemistry of obsessive-compulsive disorders.  Indeed, much of the ‘feeling in love’ experiences associated with false forms of love sometimes involves destructive, obsessive-compulsive and addiction-prone behavior.  At least that is what the evidence is pointing to.

Healthy, lasting, real love, as we currently understand it, does not lead to those reactions and disorders.  This is one of the reasons that people in addiction recovery are advised to stay away from ‘falling in love’ and ‘feeling in love’ until their recovery is well established.  Otherwise relapse and its horrors become much more likely (See Recovering Love: Codependency to CoRecovery).

The Good News About ‘Feeling in Love’

Feeling in love can feel great, be part of a great life adventure, get you to do a lot of things you will be glad to have done that you never would have gotten into otherwise, can involve incredibly great sex, help you discover a lot about yourself you otherwise might never know, uninhibitedly experience another person, have incredibly intense emotions – both high and low and, best of all, just possibly might lead you into the wonders of healthy, lasting and fulfilling, real love.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Like a good chef, are you occasionally or even frequently learning new recipes for creating fresh, ‘feeling in love’ experiences?

A Romantic Myth That Kills Love

Synopsis: This mini-love–lesson first focuses on your danger; gives examples of the problem; looks at the sabotaging myth’s dynamics; views the “pretty poison fairytale”; touches on the problem of conflicting gender training; and gets you to the avoidance answers which usually work.

Are You in Danger?

Is a romantic myth hurting your chances at a happier and healthier relationship life, full of real love, and you don’t even know it?  That is what seems to happen to millions, sometimes even to the point of destroying an otherwise possibly good, love relationship.  Romantic myths can be so lovely and at the same time so “anti-love” in their effects.  How does that happen?

Romantic myths get into our subconscious as we grow up, and then they may guide us later in life without us consciously knowing it.  Sometimes they guide us into relationship disaster.  More times they just steal chances for happiness and make for a lot of difficult and miserable relational experiences.

Four Examples, One Problem

Abbey angrily said, “If I have to tell him what I want, that spoils it.  If he really loved me he would know, wouldn’t he?  When I told him exactly that, we had the worst fight ever!  I don’t know if it’s worth it for us to go on.”

In considerable frustration Fred related, “My lover plays this stupid guessing game, making me figure out what I’m supposed to do next, to show love I guess.  I almost never get it right and then I get punished with cold rejection.  But what I don’t get, and really need, is information about what exactly is wanted.  Once in a while I get some vague clues but even if I figure them out it doesn’t help for the next time it happens.  I’m at such a loss.  I’m about to give up trying it’s so frustrating.

In despair Jessica told of her guy breaking up with her, after she, as gently as possible, had told him he had gotten her the wrong birthday present, and not only that, but he had given it to her in the most unromantic way, and at the worst time and place.  How could he have gotten it so wrong?  And she lamented, “By now I would’ve thought he knew me well enough to know how to love me without me having to tell him”.

After a disappointing sexual episode Harvey reported he had asked Misty what exactly she wanted, and what was the right way to make love to her.  Misty then haughtily proclaimed that telling him answers to questions like that was such a total turn off.  Furthermore, telling him things he was supposed to already know made her feel unfeminine and like she was forcing him, and that would never work. It was then that Harvey decided to go back to his old flame, Sarah Jean, because there was no guesswork there, and they had the best sex together ever anyway.

As you can see, this myth can kill many special moments of love, make people feel pressure instead of love, spoil loving occurrences, and entrap people in love-dysfunctional assumptions and expectations.

The Sabotaging Myth

In each of the above cases the underlying, destructive myth goes something like this.  If you have to tell or ask for what you want from someone, who is supposed to love you, it spoils the giving and receiving of that love.  And your lover should know what to do without communication just because they love you.  After all, your mother knew what to do when you were an infant and unable to ask.  Doesn’t that prove that love just knows?”  This myth also teaches that ‘clearly asked for love actions’ are to be discounted and rejected.  It implies that true love gives the right knowledge and if you truly love me you’ll know what to do without me asking you, informing you, or Lord forbid, teaching you how and what works best for me.  However, sometimes I can give you a little glimpse of a clue.  But that’s all.  Thus, dream and crystal ball gazing are required.

So many couples in my couples counseling get immensely happier and far more functional as a couple when they give up that myth and start asking clearly for what they want from each other.  Some are unhappy about giving up the myth but they get so much more when asking that it ends up not mattering after all.  Others are unhappy because they have to go to the trouble to actually identify what they themselves do want and then communicate it clearly.  But that too is the adult way that actually works, as I see it.

I like to suggest, and perhaps you’ve heard me say before, love and restaurants work the same.  No matter how great they are, they both require people to do a clear job of asking for what they want.  Try going to a nice restaurant and do not ask for what you want, then see what happens.  About the same thing that happens with many couples who don’t ask– not much.

A Very Pretty Poison

This lovely, poisonous myth started getting into our heads when we were little children by way of fairytales.  Consider the fairytale scenario.  Prince Charming always, and usually immediately, does exactly the right thing without having to ask the advice of a wizard, wise elf or anyone else.  Nor does he go get a consultation from a White Witch, ask other princes what they did, or find a magic manuscript that will tell him what to do.  He just knows and he knows instantaneously.  In Snow White, he suddenly opens Snow’s casket and kisses her dead body, and lo and behold, she pops to life.  Love’s magic know how got him to do that.

It is pretty much the same story in Sleeping Beauty except for the adult version where she needs a spanking to wake up in a fit of pleasure – pain ecstasy?  In Rapunzel the right prince is the only one that figures out to tell her to let down her extremely long hair so he can climb up and save her.  So, we learn that true love means you will do exactly the right thing when you need to.  If you don’t, it either means your love is not real, or you are too ignorant, or you are being mean.

Jump to modern romance novels where the main hero automatically knows just how to romance and make love to the main heroine without her having to tell him anything about what she likes.  It must be real love because he is the one who knows.  No talking is necessary.  Sometimes in the modern versions it is the gal who automatically does the right romantic thing.

You might ask, why does this work in fiction and not in real life?  The answer is that in the ‘love and romance stories’ one brain, the author’s, writes all the scenarios.  In real life relationships two brains are involved and that necessitates communication because no two brains think all that much alike.  With years of knowing each other, better guesses can be made, but even there changes and surprises sometimes occur.

Our Conflicting Gender Training

Part of the problem is our conflicting gender training.  For ages, as kids, most of us guys avoided the romantic scenes while many of you gals were paying rapt attention.  You learned what romance was supposed to look like, and we did too to some extent, but mostly we were interested in things like football and making gadgets work.  Culture is changing now but the changes are nowhere near complete.  About sex, love and romance the guys and gals still are not learning the same stuff and the old romantic myths still have a lot of power.  That sets us up for many disappointments, brings on much misunderstanding, and results in a lot of couples being unhappy and sometimes breaking up.

Where Do We Get the Right Know-How?

The often unseen or avoided answer to this question is – from each other!  It can start with using the adult viewpoint that tells us to take responsibility for learning and identifying what we ourselves want, then clearly ask for it.  Know that you ‘own’ your desires because they are in you and, therefore, it is your responsibility to do your part about satisfying them which is also the adult way, is it not?  If you want a soft, tender kiss or a big, passionate bear hug, make it simple and ask for it directly.  That is the most likely, successful thing you can do in most relationships.  And then, of course, enjoy it fully.

What If Asking Still Spoils It for Me?

In simple terms the answer is, work at getting over it and giving it up.  Work on learning to enjoy the marvels of getting more exactly what you want, more often and sooner because that is what usually starts to happen in the good, functional, couple’s life where people identify and ask for what they want.  If it does not happen that way, then it is time for a bunch more communicating.  Remember, to also ask with love.  That means with loving words, loving tones of voice, maybe a loving touch, and any other way you can make your request an act of love itself.  Be sure you are not ‘anti-love’ asking, like “You never hug me anymore, never take me anywhere, don’t fix my favorite meal”, etc.  Those are gripes, not requests.  It is surprising how many people don’t seem to know the difference, and the different effects they may bring.

Clearly ask for what you want and you just may get it.  Don’t let this old, love-destroying, romantic myth kill your relationship.

As always – Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Have you ever examined what you take for granted (? subconscious programs maybe?) regarding the way love, sex, romance and marriage are supposed to go?

Is a False Love Divorce A Good Thing?

Synopsis: We start with a case of happiness guilt; go on to the many differing ways marriage, breakups and divorce are seen; religious issues; and end with the quest for real love and its great importance.

A Case of Happiness Guilt

Lorenz and Selah both felt a bit guilty and wondered if they should feel a lot worse than they did.  Both felt relief and a wonderful sense of relaxed freedom they had not felt for the three years of their unsuccessful marriage.

In couples counseling they jointly had come to the conclusion that their relationship could not work, that they were in no way right for each other, and that they should give up trying to make something that was harming both them and their two-year-old daughter.  After searching deeply and broadly, they came to the conclusion that the underlying problem was they did not have a real love for one another.

What they did have was two forms of false love.  Examining major forms of false love, Selah saw that she had been fooled and trapped in the False Love Syndrome known as an IFD Pattern. Before she discovered this, the false love marriage nearly had ruined her life.

Lorenz knew as soon as he read a paragraph describing the False Love Syndrome called Spouse Acquirement Syndrome that this indeed was exactly what he had done and he had fooled him into believing that he really was in love with Selah.  He saw he wanted to believe it was real love but in truth subconsciously he knew he had to acquire a spouse because that is what men in high success careers are supposed to do.  He admitted to himself that success was all that mattered to him at that time and so he found an acceptable woman and did what it took to ‘catch’ her, then he married her.

This couple decided that ending a falsehood actually felt good and in doing so they were giving themselves a chance to find new, real love.  They were quite relieved because this decision ended their incompatibility fights, their mutual growing sense of hopelessness, and all their fake and phony efforts to pretend they had real spouse-type love for each other.  In the process they became much better, cooperating parents.  They then were relieved to see that their daughter was growing happier now that they were happier.

They both came to suspect that maybe their marriage had done what it was meant to do –  produce a marvelous child and maybe help them grow up and better understand love itself.  They came to think that they never really had a real marriage because they had never been in real love with anything like a loving psychological and spiritual unity.  Divorcing, they put their energies and time to better use not only for their daughter but for themselves and other family and friends also.

For Lorenz and Selah getting a divorce basically was correcting a serious, life path mistake giving them the opportunity to find a more real and healthful path.  As this understanding soaked in, their guilt faded and both felt the relief of stress and strife from not having to live a lie anymore.

How Others Saw It

The friends and families of this couple had a great many, contradictory things to tell them about their divorce decision.  Together they made a summary of what they heard.

“Marriages are made in heaven and, therefore, it’s wrong to divorce!”

“Marriages are made in legal proceedings, and end in legal proceedings, and the rest of marriage is whatever you think it is.”

“Real marriage is made by two people who have real love for each other and are psychologically and spiritually bonded together by their real love.”

“The legal part is just a formality and paperwork, and the religious part is just a social ceremony dressed up in religion.”

“Marriage is a cultural contrivance we all have been brainwashed to go along with so society can be organized, stabilized and controlled.”

“Divorce always hurts the children.”

“Marriage is a gift of God and a contract between two people with God.  It starts on earth but goes on for eternity.  Therefore, all divorce is  breaking a covenant with the divine and you will be punished for that.”

“Love and marriage are just fairy tales we try to make real, and they were invented to keep people together while they start a kid and that’s all they really are.”

“I suspect both marriage and divorce today are just commercial devices designed to help sell more stuff because with both marriage and divorce a lot of money changes hands.”

“Divorce is a good thing because it helps mix the gene pool, and besides that nature didn’t intend us to be with just one partner for all our life.”

As you can see from their summary, they were barraged with many views, at odds with each other, about these subjects.  So, what is your view?  Also is your view based in what you have been trained to think or is it something you have come to on your own?

Religious Issues

In my marriage and family counseling work as a relational psychotherapist, I have on a number of occasions been asked to do Catholic Marriage Tribunal evaluations for people seeking an annulment.  This was so they could have a new church-sanctioned and blessed marriage in a Catholic Church with a new love of their life.  A basic question to be answered is “Was the former marriage a real marriage?”  One of the several concepts used to assess that question is to ask “Was the marriage based in a real love, a false love or something else?”

A corollary question has to do with whether or not there was a psychological condition, problem or illness involved which impeded the marriage from becoming a real marriage?  The identified False Love Syndromes help to answer this question.  Each major pattern of probable, or possible, false love indeed can be seen as evidencing a psychological problem, condition, or be related to a psychological illness which is especially obvious in a case of Fatal Attraction Syndrome.

It especially has been pleasing to me to see various prelates of the church take the question of real and false love into consideration in their deliberations.  It also is gratifying to have various ministers of several faiths use real love and false love concepts as they grapple with various issues of marriage and divorce.

There is growing evidence that changes are occurring in various religious bodies regarding love, marriage and divorce.  Those changes show greater flexibility and more loving forgiveness, as well as greater understanding occurring in these often problematic arenas.

Many of the world’s religions, or at least branches within those religions, are quite accepting of divorce and divorcees, but many are not.  The evidence I am aware of suggests that in many parts of the world, religious institutions of many kinds are taking a less condemning, less judgmental and less rejecting approach to these issues, than they have in the past, and toward the people struggling with them.  From this mental health professional’s viewpoint, that is a very good thing.  However, no small number of others disagree with me on that.

The Quest for Real Love

More and more people around our planet want to live in an ongoing, spouse-type, partnership relationship based in real and lasting love.  Sure, there are lots of other reasons people become couples or get married.  It can be for sex, safety, status, propriety, money, custom, to feel okay about themselves, and a host of other things.  But even in those unions there usually is some hope that the relationship will grow a real and lasting love.

The unseen problem for so many is that a false love might ensnare large numbers and lead them astray into what often turns out to be a life-harming disaster.  When a breakup or a divorce happens because people were in a false love and an ongoing catastrophe, is a divorce primarily a bad thing or a good thing?  Is it the correction of a mistake or just another additional mistake?

So many have been taught that all divorce is bad, wrong, sinful, etc. but the world seems to be changing in regard to that.  Some think the importance of real love is in ascendancy over the importance of marriage.  No small number of pundits bemoan the high divorce rate in many lands, and also consider couples who breakup after living together to be equally bad.  But if the healthiest way to live is in a real love relationship, as much research points to, isn’t ending a false love in order to set people free to find real love, more positive than negative?

There are those that think there is no such thing as real love, but more and more studies in the brain sciences and in a host of other research fields indicate otherwise.  Of course, in many cases there are all sorts of other, intervening variables which affect the outcome of both a marriage and a divorce.  But all-in-all the quest for a real love relationship is being shown to have greater and greater importance.  Sometimes the quest seems to necessitate going through a breakup or divorce, and getting to the other side where real love can happen.  What do you think?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Do you know enough about what constitutes healthy, real love and what the signs and symptoms are for false love?

Murder and False Love

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson begins with “an event all too common”; it then presents ‘is it really love or false love’; ‘is passionate love a murder motivator’; ‘love against harm’; how you can help; and ends with the question “Can passionate, false lovers be helped?”

An Event All Too Common

You Can Help!
I’m angry and I’m sad.  Once again, I have been referred the children of a parent who has been murdered by the children’s other parent; in this case a teenage step-daughter and her two younger, half siblings whose father murdered their mother.

He has been arrested, and the police say he has confessed, and the case is airtight.  The parents were separated and the father said he did it because she would not reconcile with him, and if he couldn’t have her no one else could, because he loved her so much.

The agony of the children is heartbreaking to see.  The hate and desire for vengeance on the part of the adolescent may ruin that child’s chance at all future love relationships.  If the courts for some reason let the murderer off, the victim’s brother vows to capture and torture him to death, even if it ruins his own life.  The victim’s mother has been psychiatrically hospitalized and the murderer’s father has had a heart attack.  These kinds of secondary outcomes also are all too common in this type of all too common murder.

This kind of referral has happened too many times in my practice, and in the practices of many of my colleagues.  Time and again we hear statements like, “I did it because I love” him or her.  In this case the husband robbed from his own children, his and her parents, siblings and friends, someone they dearly and truly loved – but this abhorrent act was not motivated by love by the perpetrator.  I maintain that healthy, real love never motivates the violent harming of someone truly loved.  Only false love and a great lack of real love does that.

Such murders are all too common in many parts of both the developed and lesser developed parts of the world.  Justification that the murder had something to do with love is also all too common.  Sometimes it is children who are murdered, sometimes the father/husband or some other friend or family member.  Almost always in these kind of situations the murderer voices that it was love that drove them to kill.  “I loved her so much I could not stand to lose her”, “I could not bear to see him with someone else because I loved him so much”, “ I loved him too much to let him live after what he did to me”.  These also are the all too common kind of statements made by love relationship murderers justifying what they did.

Is It Really Love or Is It False Love?

I maintain that healthy, real love causes people to always protect the ones they love, to consistently be constructive not destructive, and to want for and work for the health and well-being of the loved.  It primarily is false love that motivates the murderer to kill those they supposedly love. (A ‘possible’ exception is mercy killing)  Murdering someone you think you love is an act of profound, loveless, perverse self-serving.  It is in truth an anti-love action.  It actually gives proof that no real love existed, and only a huge, needy, sick, demanding desire to be loved was in the place of love.

It also gives evidence that the murderer was sorely lacking in healthy self-love, and probably subconsciously had regressed to an infantile, demanding, controlling, possessive, immense sense of insecurity and inadequacy coupled with hurt and rage.  Such people in that state usually are considered incapable of having or giving healthy, real love.

I further suggest that it actually is those who are intensely love-starved who commit murder when they hurt badly because their major love relationship does not go as they would wish.  They long to find some person willing to give them some love, or positive attention, and feed their secretly infantile, insecure, needy, love-starved selves.  They don’t really love.  They only have their hungry neediness disguised as love.  When they do get what they think will be their saving source of love, things in the relationship improve for a while and then deteriorate.

In their lack of self-love, deep insecurity and lack of belief that anyone could truly love them, they become possessive, controlling, authoritarian, demanding, often more needy, frustrated, angry and they destroy the very relationship they so depend on.  Sometimes they do this in very sneaky, manipulative ways and sometimes blatantly.  If alcohol or other addictive substances are involved, their neediness escalates and exacerbates the danger potential.  A number of several syndromes of false love frequently involve these dynamics (See “Fatal Attraction Syndrome”).

Is Passionate Love a Murder Motivator?

What about the many people who say passionate love, gone awry, is a major motivator for murder?  Homicide detectives, criminologists and detective story writers seem to commonly hold this view.  By doing so, they promote this idea and give a large number of people a false excuse and, in a sense, permission for doing violence to those they supposedly love.

It is true, many murders are committed in the name of love but think about it, could that be real love?  I’m of the opinion that it definitely is not.  I suggest those who murder their lovers, spouses and others are the outcome of three things. The first is the presence of one form or another of a false love syndrome. (see False Forms of Love Series).  The second is a severe absence of healthy, real love in the murderer’s development.  The third is the cultural teaching that presents passionate love as jealous, possessive, obsessive, desperately needy, controlling, and an insane phenomenon.

That cultural teaching promotes the idea that one is justified in harming and even killing those they love if the person they love severely emotionally hurts and betrays them, or wants to leave them for any reason.  This cultural teaching basically helps people think that ‘if I love you, you are mine’ and, therefore, I own you.  It is not much of a cognitive jump from there to thinking ‘if I own you’ I can do what I want with you, even destroy you’.

I once consulted on a sentencing hearing of a mother who attempted murdering one of her children.  She argued the child belonged to her and, therefore, she had every right to kill the child after it became too disobedient and rebellious.  The fact is that that viewpoint was once upon a time a standard belief, and in some places was well supported by law.  It was similar to the law that said if a husband found his wife having sex with another, it was grounds for justifiable homicide and case dismissal.  Remnants of those very anti-love positions still exist in the minds of many, and still are in effect in some parts of the world.

I maintain that none of that has anything to do with healthy, real love.  No, it’s the kind of thinking that once grew out of various forms of false love and the under-valuing and lack of understanding of how healthy, real love works.

Love Against Harm

I counseled a daughter who shot and killed her father.  The father had on four separate occasions beaten the daughter’s mother to the point she had to be hospitalized with broken bones and other serious injuries.  Though they had moved to escape him, the father had found them and was once again breaking through the front door vowing to beat the mother and the daughter unless they came back to him because ‘they belonged’ to him.  That was when the daughter emptied a revolver into his chest.

This and mercy killing are the only types of protective, real love that I know of which can lead to violent killing.  It is the kind of love that can go to extremes to protect a loved one from harm.  Healthy, real love can cause people to go to great lengths to protect a truly loved one from harm.  And hopefully an effective intervention can be applied before it comes to these extremes.  One also has to be careful here because over-protection can be a detriment to the well-being of the loved.  Basically, healthy, real love is the enemy of harm.

How You Can Help

Do you agree that healthy, real love is a constructive and not a destructive force in the world, and that it is not real love, passionate love or other mis-guided substitutes that ever motivate the violent harming or murdering of the truly loved?  Do you also agree that a society which accepts the idea that love can sometimes cause people to do violence, even to the extent of killing those they love, is in effect unknowingly excusing, supporting and promoting love relationship violence and murder?  Do you further agree that society will be healthier and safer if we rid ourselves of the teaching that promotes the idea that love sometimes causes people to justifiably harm and destroy those they purport to love?

If you agree or tend to agree with these propositions here is what you can do.  You can search for and find opportunities to bring up these concepts.  Wherever you can, you can work to promote the constructive view of love with anyone and everyone you have contact with.  By doing this you will be promoting healthy, real love in our world, as you also act to work against love ignorance, sick false love and all the harm it does.  So, I urge you, do your bit and help change the ethos that presents love as a motivator for harm and death.

You also can help if you know a family member or friend who continues to accept escalating physical violence, by lovingly sharing some of these concepts and relating to them the very real danger they may be in, and starkly telling them many people are killed in those situations.  You might help them explore options to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.  And if you find some of the examples ‘a little too familiar’ please don’t think “It can’t happen to me” – that is what many of those murdered by a supposed loved one said to themselves.  Get help!  Get safe!

Can Passionate False Lovers Be Helped?

Those who suffer (and they do suffer greatly) from the fixations of false love, can indeed be helped.  They can go on to healthy, real love although it usually takes a fair amount of therapeutic work.  Those trapped in false love syndromes can learn healthy self-love and then healthy, other love.  They usually have to unlearn a great deal in the process, reprogram their anti-love and non-love approaches to love relationships, and practice what they learn for quite a while before they become fully love successful.  Often in their fear of seeing their own immense love starvation, and feeling it’s pain more acutely, they dodge the very help that would save them and those they addictively endanger.  But if they do seek help from a love knowledgeable therapist things can go wonderfully well.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Have you believed that real love could turn to hate, and what do you think of that idea now?