• Can, “Truly, madly, deeply,” ever last?
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    Psychology Today

    Being Madly in Love Can Last! The results of the study indicate that the feeling of intense passion can last in long-term relationships. “We found many very clear similarities between those who were in love long-term and those who had just fallen madly in love,” says Dr. Aron. “In this latest study, the VTA showed greater response to images of a long-term partner when compared with images of a close friend or any of the other facial images.”

    This means that the VTA is particularly active for romantic love. “Interestingly, the same VTA region showed greater activation for those in the long-term couple group who scored especially high on romantic love scales and a closeness scale based on questionnaires,” Dr. Acevedo explains.

    Previous studies have shown that activity in dopamine-rich areas, such as the VTA, are engaged in response to rewards such as food, money, cocaine, and alcohol. Additionally, studies have demonstrated the role of the VTA in motivation, reinforcement learning, and decision making. This research suggests that the VTA is important for maintaining long-term relationships and that intense romantic love commonly found in early-stage love can last through long-term relationships by engaging the rewards and motivation systems of the brain.

    The results revealed many other fascinating findings, uncovering some keys to maintaining lasting love.

    From this study, we have learned that the neural activity of individuals in intense romantic long-term love share remarkable similarities to the neural activity of individuals newly in love. (Interesting.) We have learned that romantic love can be sustained in long-term relationships. (Phew, that’s a relief !) And that intense, passionate long-term love is a dopamine-rich activity maintained by sustained rewards. (Come again?)

    Okay. The key to understanding how to sustain long-term romantic love is to understand it a bit scientifically. Our brains view long-term passionate love as a goal-directed behavior to attain rewards. Rewards can include the reduction of anxiety and stress, feelings of security, a state of calmness, and a union with another. In long-term relationships, when we reference the self, we slowly incorporate our partner into our notion of our self. As we move from early-stage love to long-term love, our bond attachment grows. And when we perform actions that make our partner happy, we enhance and maintain the relationship by working towards our goal of sustaining the rewards aforementioned.

    While we might be a way off before having an Idiot’s Guide For Staying Madly In Love, at least we are one step closer. And, hey, just knowing that it’s scientifically possible to stay intensely, madly, passionately in love year after year…after year…is pretty damn promising!

    The whole article is worth the read — but focus on the part about sexuality. Apparently, science is finally noticing that marriage does not equal the end of sex, and that couples can stay passionate about each other on every level for the duration of their lives together.


    By not shaming, guilting or threatening their partner and simply keeping on doing all the positive stuff they did when they were first in love…

    Rocket science — really… 😉

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  • What keeps you doing such crazy things?
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    Much of what Siegel wants us to consider can be condensed into a simple phrase: “what fires together, wires together.” The idea is that when a set of neurons are stimulated, they link up with all those other neurons that are simultaneously firing. Whether the groups of neurons that are linking make sense to us as observers on the outside is beside the point. Odd pairings can occur, strange juxtapositions of feelings and sensations that, outside of the experience of a particular individual, seem almost impossible to the rest of us. I’m reminded of a narrative in the old DSM-IV casebook that describes an individual who had come to associate sexual arousal with being covered in insects. As a child, that individual had been locked into closets for unimaginable amounts of time, and during those times, bugs would frequently fill the space and crawl on him. The child, trying to seek some sort of escape from the reality of his experience, found comfort only in sexual release, even though he was too young to even know what sex was or meant. His body knew only that it felt good, and it provided the only possible escape available to him. It soothed in the midst of trauma. Those associations—comfort through sex and the sheer, incomprehensible horror, fear, and rage at being locked away in a closet full of insects—became in that mind, quite literally, wired together, so that sex, horror, pleasure, rage, and insects, became bundled as a mass of neurons that shared the same communication pathway. Siegel wants us to become aware of those types of associations and, just as importantly, types that are more mundane and quotidian. They are as much physical as they are “mental,” and they can be anything from unsurprising to astonishing. Sexual gratification and bugs, it turns out, can go together, despite what most of us imagine.

    A huge amount of text and then:

    The animal brain of the child is quite sensitive to touch of all sorts. It recognizes the safety of a hug as well as the danger of a slap without the slightest bit of explanation, and it learns rather quickly that certain behaviors can lead to danger and a red ass. The problem, for folks like Siegel and Bryson, is that children enter a world of emotional chaos when their attachment figure, from whom they are wired to seek safety and security, becomes the figure who also inflicts physical harm. The animal brain, the one that seeks fight or flight, is at that moment conflicted, confused, and, probably downright pissed off. As the brain stem and limbic system instinctually tells the child that danger is coming and that he needs to seek safety and security in the embrace of the attachment figure, the limbic system also confronts the reality that the attachment figure is, in fact, the source of danger. Safety and danger conflated. Brain chemistry roundly fucked up. You might picture Curly running around in circles looking for a place to find safety from Moe, who pops him repeatedly on the forehead. Like poor Curly, lizard brain has very few ways to decipher what is happening and so just circles round and round, occasionally slapping anything or anyone (presumably Larry) nearby.

    This internal conflict can lead to what neuropsychologists call “dysregulation.” The neurons start forging relationships that don’t make sense to the more advanced parts of our brain, and as the mind tries to integrate the information, it seeks out solutions, associations, and meaning. When that meaning is hard to discern, as in the case of spanking or even the threat of spanking, the child brain becomes increasingly frustrated, and it essentially dis-integrates. Melt-down ensues. More importantly, it is difficult to construct a coherent meaningful lesson and skills have not been built to make the child more adaptive next time. It has gained no new ways to interpret information, nor has it gained any new ways of making sense of the world with the cortex part of the brain. Instead, the brain-stem and the limbic area stay in charge, and the child, unable to process the conflict, learns a temporary, if also momentarily effective, lesson: if I do X, dad whips my tail. This is not insight or learning or skill-building, this is lizard logic.

    The above linked is an enormous article — it’s brilliant, but it’s huge. It’s mainly focused on child discipline, spanking, time outs and saner alternatives to such. And, well worth the read.

    But, the above is striking. And, it begs a simple question:

    Exactly how much of the behavior of panic and anxiety attacks is really just an adult version of the exact same childhood dysregulation?

    Food for thought…

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  • Can you trust your, “Gut?”
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    Recent research has proven that going after hunches is actually an important aspect of decision-making. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio found that emotion is just as important as reason when it comes to decision-making. Damasio examined how people with damage to their prefrontal cortex—specifically the orbitofrontal cortex, a small region just behind the eyes that’s linked to emotions and our understanding of reward and punishment—are affected in their ability to make decisions.

    He found that people with damaged orbitofrontal cortexes struggled significantly when making the simplest decisions. That’s because they weren’t able to use their gut feeling for guidance.

    That emotional pull or gut feeling that helps us make so many decisions in our lives is what Damasio calls a “somatic marker.” Decisions can be made more efficiently using somatic markers rather than having to take the time to reason out every choice we make. In other words, hunches are a shortcut to good decision-making.

    Kosslyn uses these modes to unpack how we can better approach decision-making. Noticing which of these modes you fall into can help you take the right steps to balance out your own cognitive tendencies.

    A Stimulator, or someone who tends to make plans without thinking through the aftermath, for example, might benefit from writing a checklist of consequences when creating a plan or collaborating with someone who tends to be more of a Perceiver. And a Perceiver who might brood on the consequences and resist making decisions, could benefit from creating a schedule of deadlines that forces action to be taken.

    Just as a good leader needs a support system in place to run a company smoothly, our cognitive abilities need support to help steer us toward better decision-making, “Think about what is required to do what you need to do in a task,” says Kosslyn. “It’s about cognitive abilities and what you need to do certain kinds of things.”

    Here’s a simple definition of an effective leader:

    An effective leaders are people who trust their guts enough to make quick and mostly accurate decisions while having the humility to know the weaknesses inherent in their personal style of thought and surround themselves with different enough to thinkers to buffer those weaknesses.

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  • Do you still feel like a scared child in an adult world?
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    Pick The Brain

    I sat at the end of the sofa. This is the spot I’d been in all night watching people move around the room, and listening to whomever chose to sit next to me talk. This is how I used to inhibit a party. Motionless and quiet, waiting for just the right moment to hurry home.

    This was not just my way of dealing with parties. It reflected the way I dealt with much of my life. Too afraid to show the world who I really was, I’d try my best to stay quiet and still. Don’t say too much. Don’t laugh too loudly. Don’t let them know you are anxious. Don’t let them notice that you are different.

    Do you ever think you might be the only one whose heart races at the thought of going to a large social gathering? Do you ever wonder if anyone else’s voice shakes when too many people are listening to her talk? Do you ever feel like you’re the only one who would rather not attend a party?

    For much of my life I thought I was the only one. Then one day I noticed the slight unsureness in the voice of an acquaintance as he addressed the room at a social event, and I thought maybe he feels it too. I noticed it again as I sat in a fast food restaurant alone eating and I saw a woman I worked with pull into the drive through window to order her lunch and pull into a parking space to sit alone in her car eating. I wondered if she felt it too?

    I was an anxious, scared child who grew up to be an anxious, scared adult. The source of much of my anxiety was dealing with social situations.

    When you have social anxiety you can feel like you’re alone? Other people put on such brave faces you might wonder how they do it. You might assume that they have never experienced this before, but more people are anxious in social situations than you realize.

    My natural tendency is to become a kind of recluse. I could stay in the house for days and see no one and be fine with that. That life is easy, and safe, and tempting to me, but it is too easy. With such ease comes unhappiness.

    As human beings we need to be challenged. The pursuit of true happiness requires that we stretch and grow to push ourselves just a bit further than we ever have before. That need to grow and push myself is why I started trying to work my way past my social anxieties.

    The above linked is simple and short — but really well done. Well worth the read!

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  • Looking forward to the awkward conversations of Christmas?
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    Inspiration Feed

    You put that person in the position to be an expert, and you value you them enough to ask for their opinion. Plus, you are actually listening to them versus talking. Most people talk significantly more than they listen because they are trying to “sell” themselves and get validation or approval from someone else. Validate and approve yourself and you move past a major obstacle so many people get caught up in.

    Also, it is powerful when you give people positive feedback, praise, or a compliment, but only when it is genuine. If you find out someone got a new job, congratulate them. If you hang out with someone often and they make you laugh, tell them. If you run into someone and they are wearing something striking, mention it. If someone makes a good suggestion or idea, tell them. The key here is to be genuine and specific about the comment you are about to make.

    Social awkwardness and even social anxiety can often be cut in half through a simple step called, “Scripting.”

    Scripting is a simple set of flexible and interchangeable lines that serve to get you through the rough patches when, normally, you would be unable to think of anything to say.

    The above linked is a simple but effective set of party focused scripts that can get you through what so many dread the most:

    The obligatory company Christmas party.

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  • Is it really just, “Hooking up?”
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    Scientific American

    In “Hook-up behavior: A biopsychosocial perspective,” a study published in 2008, García and a colleague asked 507 undergraduates what motivated young adults to seek hookups. Eighty-nine percent of men and women said it was physical gratification, but 54 percent also cited emotional reasons and 51 percent said it was for the purpose of starting a romantic relationship.

    “The normalization of casual sex among young adults is one of the most notorious recent changes in sexual behavior in western society,” García says. “But in reality, during those sporadic encounters something more than simply sex is desired.”

    According to García, three out of four planned sexual encounters labeled as strictly casual lead to a longer-term relationship. An explanation that’s often given for these “fortuitous” love feelings is that when the sex is good, large quantities of oxytocin are released after orgasm. This substance is called “the love hormone” because when secreted it creates a sensation of well being and fosters attachment to the person you have at your side.

    There’s no doubt that chemistry has a lot to do with it. But, according to García’s data, it seems evident that behind the pretension of sex with no strings attached there already exists a predisposition—consciously or unconsciously—to create stronger ties. So why do they call it sex when they mean love?

    So much is made (and so much hand wringing is done) of the so-called, “Hook-up culture,” supposedly exploding all over the college campuses of North America. But, when you wade through the drama to the actual reality of what is happening, what you find is that the development of the birth control pill did cause a swift jump in sexual behaviors of this nature — and it’s pretty much held stable ever since. (The only real difference is we no longer bother to hide it like we used to.)

    But, what is shifting are our attitudes about finding love and our beliefs about how sex factors into such. It used to be that the children of the 60’s – 80’s engaged in casual sex until they decided to settle down and date responsibly (delaying sex) so as to find, “The one.”

    Today, the casual sex is at least 75% about an invitation to love.

    The twisted irony of it?

    While the children of the 60’s – 80’s engage in hand wringing over the supposed devaluation of sex on college campuses, today’s students apparently value sex far more highly then then their parents did.

    Perhaps we’ve come full circle?

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  • The neglected middle of thought.
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    Educators Technology


    While there is no agreed upon definition for these two types of thinking, a comprehensive body of literature confirms the fact that creative and critical thinking are not identical. They involve, more or less, different cognitive processes and have different strategies (see this page for references). Here is how Beyer (1987) compares the two processes:

    “Creative thinking is divergent, critical thinking is convergent; whereas creative thinking tries to create something new, critical thinking seeks to assess worth or validity in something that exists; whereas creative thinking is carried on by violating accepted principles, critical thinking is carried on by applying accepted principles. Although creative and critical thinking may very well be different sides of the same coin they are not identical p.35).”

    The above chart (click it for the teacher’s image) and the above linked pretty much stands without comment in their understanding of these two types of thinking.

    They also stand as a definition of so much of what is wrong with our society:

    We have lots of both the left (creative) and the right (critical) and an abject poverty of what is in the middle…

    The ones in the middle mostly are the ones we are afraid of. They are neither starting with the approved, “Yes and,” or, “Yes but,” choose to instead lead with, “Can you really not see it?,” and, “Are you completely out of your minds?” and also have the critical skills needed to then create revolution.

    That we really appear to be disinterested in teaching towards…


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  • Do you know how to say, “I love you to a man?”
    1 Comment on Do you know how to say, “I love you to a man?”


    You’ve heard it before: Men are visual; women are verbal. Men are impulsive; women like to analyze things. Men are from Mars; women are from Venus. So since husbands and wives are opposite in many ways, it makes sense that male and female hearts swell for different reasons. While you probably smile when your mate says, “I love you,” those same three words from you may not do much for him. Here, 11 gestures that show you care and why they’re more meaningful to the guy in your life.

    So many times, I’ve had struggling couples in my office where the wife, for some reason, felt the need to protest her partner’s attitudes rather negative towards the marriage with the words, “But, I love you…”

    More often then not, the response of the husband is some rendition of, “Prove it.”

    Sadly, few of those wives have any idea what her husband is talking about — and usually just regard that comment as a slam.

    Read nearly any marriage book from the last 20yrs and it’s instantly apparent why. The overwhelming majority of them basically send the message that guys need to get it together and do/be what their (obviously enlightened) spouse wants/needs.

    And, they unquestionably do.

    But, it’s barely considered politically correct to suggest that above two lines cut both ways as an undifferentiated abstraction.

    Much less suggest these three more concrete items…

    Dolling up sends the message that you still want to look good for him, no matter how long you’ve been together. “Men’s brains are wired to respond to visual cues more than women’s brains,” says Dr. Dow. “Seeing you in that sexy dress shows him you desire him.” And a scarlet number may work best. A study by researchers at the University of Rochester in New York found that ladies in red are an aphrodisiac to men. …

    Shedding stress, eating right, exercising, quitting smoking and even pampering yourself may sound like treats for you, but they’re also ways to show you love him. “This communicates, ‘I want to have a long, wonderful life with you, and I’ll do whatever it takes to prevent you from experiencing the grief of losing someone,’” says Dr. Dow. What better motivation is there to get healthy?…

    Making love for an hour is nice, but once in a while, have sex for just a few minutes, suggests Dr. Dow. Although women get that loving feeling with a rise in oxytocin (what you release during that post-coital cuddling session), men feel it with an increase in dopamine, the chemical they release during sex which stimulates the mental pleasure-and-reward center, explains Dr. Dow. “I hope that most of the time, your lovemaking is full of foreplay and romance. But other times, just have sex.”

    But, as much smoke and fury as the above items (and the rest of the above linked list) may generate, they’re still desperately true.

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  • Is denial coming back into fashion?
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    The Week


    Good news! The conventional wisdom about divorce is a myth. Half of all marriages are not actually ending in divorce. Not by a long shot and not for a long time, according to a smart but frustrating report by Claire Cain Miller for The New York Times’s data-driven division, The Upshot.

    The piece breathes a sigh of relief. Finally, the bad trends are abating, maybe even reversing for good after a difficult period of adjustment to the sexual revolution, which taught us once and for all that marriage is for love. This happy state of affairs stems almost entirely from the great rectitude and pragmatism of liberal cultural values to boot. We’re richer, more liberal, and, well, just better. We love each other more than our grandparents did. Data says so.


    It turns out that this bit of good news from the Times’ hard-nosed ledger sniffers turns out to be a Styles section trend piece in disguise. Let’s start with the big sell of the article, the assertion that “marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time.” But that’s actually a rather limited observation. Yes, the marriages that do happen do not break up as quickly or as often as marriages from 30 years ago. But the truth is that family instability continues to worsen in the United States. As David Frum pointed out, a declining divorce rate is perfectly consistent with an ever-falling rate of marriage and a rising rate of out-of-wedlock childbirth

    It’s been an interesting few months of near Pollyanna level optimism about marriage. At first I just ignored it — which wasn’t hard considering the ideological leanings of an economist turned, “Expert,” on psychology by the name of Shaunti Feldhahn (above link) or the strange conspiracy theories held by some of the sources — or dismissed it as the latest expert seeking to prove his/her steel by discrediting the already long discredited idea that 50% of all first marriages end in divorce.

    But, the number of people now buying into what is nothing more then another salvo in a culture war is beginning to be frightening.

    The political right has always promoted marriage as the cure-all to what ails our society. If we can just strengthen the nuclear family, all will be well. If we can claim that we are successfully fixing marriages, then the healing of our nations is sure to follow and, in the interim, we can continue our fantasy driven policies. (While we sell the entire country to big business, leave millions more beneath the poverty line, destroy public health/education, gamble away the savings of an entire generation and cripple civil rights in the name of terrorism…)

    Yep, more marriages will fix that…

    The simple fact of the matter is that marriages and families thrive in a greater social context of safety and goodness. When such is missing, at best, marriages sometimes help some to survive — but not thrive.

    It’s stunningly mercenary to look at a society where rising inequality prevents many from getting married, where increasingly marriage is reserved for the wealthy, where the incredibly unstable institution of cohabitation has become a short term substitute for marriage, where out of wedlock births have climbed by 15% and more children then ever before are growing up without both parents present and call that, “Good news,” because it fits your right of center agenda.

    What’s even more disturbing is that the level of ignorance about how to have a decent relationship/marriage has never been higher. The VERY last thing we need is for believers in this propaganda play to place even less emphasis on preparing the precious few who are still committed to forming real and permanent marriage.

    Really, this final quote says it all:

    The Upshot also gives fulsome credit to progressive advancements of cohabitation and later-marriage for the slight drop in divorce among the (shrinking) married population. But these are more common on lower economic rungs where divorce hasn’t declined as much, or where marriage doesn’t even occur. Cohabitation is said to be helping marriages at the top by allowing bad relationships to disintegrate before divorce is necessary. But looked at from a wide-angle perspective, cohabitation looks like a substitute for marriage for many others.

    And what The Upshot doesn’t consider is whether inequality itself is helping the marriages of the upwardly mobile. The data shows that people who already succeed in many aspects of their life are making successes of their marriages. Far from a progressive dream, we may be returning to the two worlds of aristocracy. A married upper class and an unmarried peasantry is exactly what you see when you look at the British Isles in the early 20th century. Those living in converted Abbeys could keep their marriages together, but 65 percent of Ireland’s population was unmarried at the same time, the highest portion in the Western world of that era. There’s just more incentive to hold together the “estate of marriage” when the married couple have property that might qualify as an estate.

    It’s a downer, I know. But far from a trendline of unqualified marital bliss, the prospects for marriage look bleak. And the improved prospects for a certain class of married person may not be caused by liberal values at all, but may be a side effect of concentrated inequality.

    The real trend is that marriage is for richer, not poorer. And our only proximate hope is that the rest of America will try to imitate the slightly better marriage patterns of the rich and famous.

    Enough already…

    Denial is never a good start for fixing anything and the state of relationships in North America most definitely needs to be fixed because, regardless of their marital status, the escalating disintegration of family units is still NOT, “Good news.”

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  • Perhaps you can make do on a little less sleep?
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    According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, the short-term productivity gains from skipping sleep to work are quickly washed away by the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on your mood, ability to focus, and access to higher-level brain functions for days to come. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep.

    We’ve always known that sleep is good for your brain, but new research from the University of Rochester provides the first direct evidence for why your brain cells need you to sleep (and sleep the right way—more on that later). The study found that when you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. Unfortunately, your brain can remove them adequately only while you’re asleep. So when you don’t get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc by impairing your ability to think—something no amount of caffeine can fix.

    Jon Bon Jovi may have gotten it a little wrong with the fourth song on his 1992 his hit album Keep the Faith…

    We are beginning to see a wave of companies world wide taking steps to curb after hours work — though, sadly, few of them have much to do with North America where we are busy destroying the unions that managed to get us to even the minimally improved state things currently are at…

    Really, the only thing that can be described as positive in this whole mess is that research on sleep deprivation and employment is finally happening — and the government is finally noticing the real-time body count associated with such.

    But, it’s still mostly up the the individual if anything is to be done about it…

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