Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Baby, I need you

“Hold Me Tight”
Psychology Today - January/February 2009
Sara Farrell

Summary -
What is love? Sue Johnson poses this intriguing question in her Psychology Today article “Hold Me Tight.” Love, the article states, is “the continual search for a basic, secure connection with someone else.” Through six sections, the article guides us in learning about the need for emotional connection, how we lose touch of the connection, warning signs of disconnect, the power of touch, the dimensions of sex, and keeping a healthy relationship,. “Love demands the reassurance of a touch. Most fights are really protests over emotional disconnection. Underneath the distress, partners are desperate to know: Are you there for me?”
In relationships, we slowly go from very connected to unconnected. There are inevitable times in our partnerships when we feel apart, disconnected, and alone. We forget that we need tell each other what we want or need in our relationship. According to the article, when we experience disconnect, “It sets off an alarm in the brains amygdala, our fear center. Once the amygdala sends out an alarm, we don’t think – we act.” It is for this reason we engage in brutal verbal arguments. It is the natural response to our feelings of being rejected, forgotten and abandoned. In essence we are shouting out that we need to be loved, cared for and comforted. Women are able to zero in on the first signs of detachment. They quickly react, trying desperately to hold on to the closeness of their relationship. Sadly, in doing this, they drive away the very thing they try so hard to hold on to. By putting their partners at fault for the lack of love in the relationship, they engage in a battle that will chase their emotional connection even farther away. Men on the other hand tend to pull away from their hurts. Men are taught to ignore their pains and emotional needs. In their own ways both men and women are hiding the real issue, “an underlying vulnerability and need for connection.” We try to hide that we have a fundamental need to feel loved.
The article argues that for years therapists have viewed verbal arguments as “power struggles.” By focusing on the effect, brutal verbal arguments, they ignore the cause, the emotional disconnect. We forget that, “we need someone to pay real attention to us, to hold us tight.” When we engage in a fight we attack the issue at hand. Whether it is money, sex or disciplining the kids, we blindly follow the ebb and flow of the argument. We don’t pay attention to weather we really want to be in the fight or if it really matters to us. From our own hurt we lash out painful comments. Instead, people must be able to identify that the argument is a desperate call for love. Being able to see this is crucial to breaking out of the merry-go-round of hurtful stings. We must ask ourselves, “Will you react defensively, out of fear, or in the spirit of understanding?” By reacting in a way that is loving and kind, we are able to start the journey to end emotional distance. We need to recognize that our fear and hurt come from our essential need to be loved. Only through this understanding can we feel unashamed, and ready to bridge the gap to closeness.
“Touch is the most basic way of connecting with another human being.” Sue Johnson states in her article that we have forgot the importance of touch. People in love are constantly touching one another. Men know how to soothe. They are very comforting with their children. They wipe their faces, brush their hair, and are there to take care of them. When men see their children, they see a need to be taken care of. They see the child’s weakness. However, they see their wives as someone who judges and ridicules them. Yet they are just as vulnerable as the child, and in need of a kind touch. The article goes on to encourage the reader to use touch to show comfort to ones partner. People, “literally reach for each other; it’s a tangible sign of their desire for connection.”
A secure emotional connect is key to great sex. Many people believe that passion has an expiration date, that at a certain point it will wither away and fade. However the article states, there is no “scientific or human reason why people can’t have happy long-term love relationships.” Without emotional connection, people can not engage in what Sue Johnson calls “secure sex.” Sex, like anything else will always be, “boring if it’s one dimensional, cut off from emotional connect. On the other hand, if you’re emotionally involved, sex has a hundred dimensions to it, and is as much play as passion.” Sexually, rekindling the old flame is not the recipe for greatness, but rather the openness and trust that comes from emotional connection.
Reconnecting with our partners is a continual endeavor. It is crucial to identify issues that jeopardize our emotional connect. Recognizing your partner’s hurtful actions and responding to them in a way that shows your need for love and connection is needed to keep the closeness. It is vital to celebrate your lives together. Johnson points out that we should, “Recognize special days, anniversaries, and birthdays in very personal ways. These rituals keep your relationship safe in a distracting and chaotic world.”
In her article “Hold Me Tight” by Sue Johnson gave us a definition of love, proved reasons we pull away, and showed us how and why we should reconnect. “It’s up to us to use that knowledge to nurture it(love) with our partners and families. And then, with the empathy and courage it teaches us, we can search for ways to take it out into the world and make a difference.”
Analyses -
I believe Sue is correct in saying we have a basic, innate need to be deeply loved. When we look at infants we can dramatically see this need. From the moment we are born, we exhibit our need for connection. Preterm babies who are touched, talked to and comforted are more likely to gain weight and be released from the hospital early. Biologically we are ingrained with the desire to be loved. So much so, that as infants we can die without it. Research by Harlow and Zimmerman on baby rhesus monkeys in 1959 showed us that the monkeys became more attached to a non feeding surrogate mother with a soft comforting cloth around it as apposed to the feeding surrogate mother made of hard wire. (What is Psychology? by Ellen Pastorino and Susann Doyle-Portillo) The study illustrated that we bond and connect better with loving warm touch.
I think it’s interesting that our desire to be deeply loved doesn’t develop for reproductive reasons, but rather it’s a born trait, part of being human. It’s easy to see how one might believe hormones and neurotransmitters are the cause of love. Rushes of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin encourage us and tell our bodies to behave in a loving way to promote the chances of reproduction. Classical conditioning supports this theory by stating love is when we associate the unconditioned stimulus (a dopamine rush) with a neutral stimulus (person of interest) in getting the unconditioned response of that feeling we call love. We train ourselves that our partner is what makes us feel love, when really it’s a rush of hormones and neurotransmitters. I, however, disagree with this belief. It seems to me that emotional connection comes from more of a cognitive need. One quote from the article Hold Me Tight really stood out to me. “The most basic tenet of attachment theory is that isolation, not just physical isolation but emotional isolation, is traumatizing for human beings. The brain actually codes it as danger.” I would argue that humans are born with and continue to have a basic need to be taken care of and loved. We discussed how babies need connection. A baby needs to be held. A young child runs to its mother when he scrapes his knee. A teen seeks advice and comfort from her parents. In the same way, a lover is dependent on his or her partner. An article by R Chris Fraley and Phillip R Shaver on adult romantic attachment made comparisons between infant-parent relationships and romantic relationships. They said, “When an individual is feeling distressed, sick, or threatened, the partner is used as a source of safety, comfort, and protection. Hazan and Shaver summarized other noteworthy parallels between infant-mother relationships and adult romantic relationships. For example, both kinds of relationships involve periods of ventral-ventral contact, "baby talk," cooing, and sharing of interesting "discoveries" and experiences. Thus, the emotions and behaviors that characterize romantic relationships and infant-parent relationships share similar activating and terminating conditions and appear to exhibit the same latent dynamics (Shaver et al., 1988).” When I was younger I was puzzled by couples in love. On television they acted like needy children. They were anxious when their partner left, desperate for attention, and would even cry! I didn’t understand that at any age we need to be nurtured, taken care of, and protected. Now, in my own relationship, I see how important one touch or word can be. Just knowing that our partners are there for us gives us the strength to carry on in life.
In the 1980, divorce rates reached the all time high of 50%. (The Daily Thankfully that statistic is lower now. However, each year thousands of people get divorced. This June, my parents finalized their divorce. The whole process was hard, confusing and scary. It left me wondering what happened and how to protect myself from the same sad fate. As a seventeen year old, trying to figure out the reasons and causes, I had a lot of stress and anxiety through the divorce. Luckily, I have a strong emotional connection with my sister and my boyfriend. When worried, hurt or confused I had someone to turn to for council and comfort. This support is what got me though my parents divorce. One look, one touch or one word could make all the difference. This experience showed me the power of connection. I think unlike me, many people lack emotional connection. We are taught to be independent. We are taught that being dependent and needing someone else is weakness. This is wrong. We need emotional connection. People enter into relationships and when the going gets tough, they wonder what changed, what happened to their love? The answer is nothing! Love is right there as it always has been, ready and waiting to be let loose. The key to unlocking love is effort. It’s the little things that matter. Taking the time to talk, to repair the broken bonds, and to get close with our partners is what will and does keep the love alive.
A desire to be deeply loved is an inborn trait that sticks with us. From birth, till death we have a need to be loved. It is necessary. To become the best we can be, to achieve our goals, and accomplish our aspirations, we need love.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sister Love

An older sister is a friend and defender - a listener, conspirator, a counsellor and a sharer of delights. - Pam Brown

Sisters. Life keeps trying to pull us apart. School, work, boyfriends, family, and everything else eats up sister time. Lately Ive been thinking about how little time I get to spend with my sister. I was in SF trying to explain how Risa was doing in School, what her plans were, her goals. And you know what? I didnt really know anymore. It made me very sad. I love my sister so so so so much. I would do anything for her. So, I have decided that I need to set aside sister time. Time away from school. Away from work. Away from family. Away from everything. Just us sisters hanging out.

My soul needs sister time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Why me?

Proximity, Similarity and Physical Attractiveness. Or at least that's why my intro into psychology book tells me.

Proximity - "The more proximity, geographical closeness, we have to someone in our daily lives, there more exposure we have to them, and the more we tend to like them."

Similarity - "When choosing a partner, we tend to gravitate to people who are of similar age, socioeconomic status, education, intelligence, race, religion, attitudes, power, and physical attractiveness.We tend to like those who are similar to us, and liking leads to attraction."

Physical Attractiveness - "When choosing a potential partner, physical attractiveness seems to be important to both men and women, but men seem to place particular emphasis on how attractive their potential partners are. Women on the other hand, place more importance on the psychological traits of their potential partners. So it seems that although physical attractiveness is important to women, it is not the most important aspect of a partner. Female or male, we tend to be romantically involved with people whose level of physical attractiveness is comparable to our own. This is a tendency called the matching hypothesis."

The last one is incredible to me. We like people who are just about as attractive as we are. Now stop. Think about your friends... That is about how good looking you are. (take this with a grain of salt, these aren't hard facts)Interesting no? Made me think about my own relationship.

I must be pretty darn cute if this matching hypothesis is true.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

So Weird

Robert Fulghum - "When we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness -- and call it love -- true love."

May we be weird forever then. For it brings me great joy.