Are secrets really lies?

10 Nov

No matter how many people fill our lives, the reality is that we are our own constant companion. In our minds, conversations can last seconds, minutes and even hours in a single day. Over time, we become an expert at snatching those free moments to switch into our private thoughts. We bounce ideas with ‘the voice of reason’ and make conscious choices based on these talks. At times, the cerebral debate picks up momentum and becomes even more intrusive. Even when we play prosecutor and defense lawyer, we still manage to win the debate. We are unique, and yet so similar in our ability to justify our decisions and behavior.

There is no doubt that we all need what we want. We make choices to benefit and fulfill our needs. Certainly, there may be times when we sacrifice our primary needs for someone else, but generally we are still looking to gain something. Keeping the fine balance between autonomy and the fear of losing ourselves, by giving too much, may challenge any relationship.

We start becoming aware of ourselves from an early age, and our primary relationships help shape our sense of self. Feeling safe, secure and protected builds an early sense of trust. Growing up, in this type of environment, allow people to feel comfortable enough to open up and express themselves. This is where we first start practicing trust and honesty.

Of course, few childhoods remain unscathed from disappointing adults, and nothing remains ‘perfect’. Hopefully, our own personal experience has left us being able to look at people objectively and not so distrustfully. Unfortunately, there are those who have experienced such deep emotional pain that has resulted in a retreating within. The deeper the wound the more profound the self-preservation. Protecting self is learnt at an early age and usually stays throughout life.

Sayings like, ‘I didn’t want to hurt them’ or ‘they don’t need to know all the details’ is a way of deflecting from the instinct to protect one self. Whether it is interpreted as a lie or a secret, almost become irrelevant because ultimately there was a desire to mislead the person. No matter what the motivation is behind being disingenuous, the end result is always diminished trust.

The power of a secret for many people has enormous appeal. It goes back to early self-protection and an area of their life that they can control, and is ‘their own’. Some persons become so skillful that it translates into their professional life; which when revealed, has far more devastating consequences.

It is not uncommon for people to seek secret affairs in order to receive the energy and excitement lacking within their relationship or marriage. Secrets create a solution, a momentary way out from a trapped or lack luster relationship. The boost in energy propels someone to become his or her suppressed self. The movement between the two lives is then seen as the feasible solution without ‘rocking the boat’. Again, every action can be justified.

It is not uncommon for people who have grown up telling lies to get themselves out of any situation, to then have a problem with real intimacy. These are the very persons who have difficulties committing to one person. Getting close to one person requires exposure and vulnerability, not only to pain but tenderness. The shield, and pulling away protect oneself from people who could ultimately hurt us.

Being totally open and honest does not come naturally for many people. The idea that we all have the right to privacy makes drawing boundaries very confusing, but necessary for each couple. The solution for many is to come to an agreement over what is relevant and of importance to the relationship, and therefore not to be concealed. Once again, we see all paths lead back to honesty and effective communication.

Do we create our own happiness?

27 Oct

For some of us a birthday, anniversary or life altering event propels us into a state of introspection. We chronicle our life, the major players, the paths presented and the choices that we made. We often refer to particular times or stages as high and low points in our life. Whether the wheels of our life were running smoothly, or had slowed to a stand still, may have helped to shape our recollection. Peeling away at all the external layers of our life we find ourselves naked in our personal pursuit of happiness.

If love, health and happiness head our list of life’s priorities, then we start to understand how one impacts the other. How we feel about our love life and intimate relationships is central to our core happiness or unhappiness. Our mental and physical agility plays games with desire and dictates heavily to our sense of peace.

For most of us, our journey through life consists of building a pyramid of ‘stuff’ in an effort to reach that pinnacle of contentment. We only have to look around to realize that we have joined the general population in acquiring all the social trappings expected of us. Unarguably, ‘things’ can make certain aspects of our life easier, but it is not unusual for the novelty to quickly fade. Once again, we are face to face with ourselves.

If we are not careful, we can spend a lifetime adding and subtracting people and things in the hope that it brings us peace and fulfillment. We are quick to point the finger of blame on things missing in our lives, or the negative energy surrounding us. Hopefully, over time or even a lifetime, we realize that it is how we deal with life’s obstacles that will produce satisfaction.

When all is said and done, we return to the same point that, happiness is a state of mind. We only have to look at persons who have had horrific pasts, or those who look to the future with expected misery, and yet they tackle life with joy. Happiness is all about pushing forward and dealing with day-to-day struggles. It is an energy that produces fortitude and courage.

Scientifically, we know that some of us need a kick-start with pharmaceuticals in order to rearrange the brain chemistry. It may take changing diet and lifestyles just to put us in the starting line. Having faith, that no matter what it takes to get to that point, we will then start to feel a change.

If we choose to keep on running and not deal with our problems we find our fears only compounded. Nothing goes away because we cannot hide from ourselves. For many, it takes decades of avoidance and discontent before something makes them come to a grinding halt.

‘How to go about this?’ is a frequently asked question. There is no doubt that it is a process and a mindset. Just to take that first step to understand and want to change from within is hard, even for the strong. To create a philosophy of fearlessness that you will be able to face and tackle anything is not an easy determination. Viewing your life as a journey of self-discovery will open your eyes to a life of wonder. With that in mind, we start to understand that everything thrown in our direction is for a reason, although it may not be immediately apparent.

Knowing all of this, we should not be surprised to find that it is often the elderly who declare themselves the happiest. Many have come to terms with life’s struggles and appreciate the joy of waking up each day. We can start by emulating them by making a point of finding some small happiness each day, and ultimately the gift of life.

Can long distance relationships work?

24 Oct

The ache of the parting starts that morning. Each tender touch and embrace reminds us of the inevitable event. We try to say all the things that need to be said, but occasionally our feelings overwhelm us and we fall silent. In the past, departures have even brought out frustration, and arguments have been contrived in an attempt to end the pain of separation. All efforts remain futile as the realization that this is a real relationship, although it is from a distance.

Long distance relationships have been an age-old reality, and were sustained by the enchantment of love letters. Men going off to war, contract workers, and sailors out to sea. Letters passed by hand, messages in a bottle and the beautiful shell art of sailors valentines. Even when words seemed insufficient, love songs and artist brush strokes captured the need to express their love. To witness this is not only to be able to share their creative expression, but also to share in the intimacy of their love.

As we live in our world today we are continuously reminded of the ‘warring’ between social–network groups. The competitive brainstorming for the missing link, that we did not even realize was absent in our lives. Researching how we make our choices, and trying to out smart their competitors with gimmicks to entice us. Multiple ways to connect and all at speeds that defy logical explanation. A distance of thousands of miles suddenly becomes mere inches.

At times changing a relationship into a long distance one may seem unavoidable. However, due to the ‘big wide web’ the world appears smaller, and everything seems more possible. For example, online dating provides access and opportunity to meet a greater number of people. By participating in the great gamble of dating, we increase our odds to find a compatible mate. However, it is probably wise to keep in mind the practical logistics of traveling thousands of miles compared to hundreds.

As in any relationship, our attitude towards the present situation can play in your favor, or it can allow our mind to ‘run-a–muck’. Insecurities and paranoia can creep in between even the most solid couple. Anticipating that this may happen, and agreeing to connect frequently throughout the day, will help to alleviate many fears. When inevitable breaks in communication occur, then rapid ‘damage control’ will be needed to quell the anxiety. The decision to keep each other close works for committed couples, but the same practice can be created for those who want to see how far their interest can go.

Planning trips ahead of time help to create the magic of anticipation. Time alone seems more precious and every minute is accounted for. Understanding the importance of creating new memories carries us through the following weeks, and quenches the appetite for more. Feelings of love can be cultivated quickly under these conditions, and for many these become ideal relationships. Seeing someone at their best can become much more appealing than day-to-day mundane life.

Bringing up the topic of exclusivity, for any couple, inevitably brings out strong feelings. Once a mutual decision has been agreed upon, then any deviation from the agreement will strain the relationship. Suspicions grow and the sincerity is questioned. The true test of honesty can be seen in long distance relationships. Getting caught out with the naive approach of ‘what they don’t see won’t hurt them’ has a way of coming back and biting when least expected.

One of the most important key ingredients to any successful relationship is consistency and a positive attitude. Remembering that no one is perfect allows us to be more gentle and generous towards each other. Channeling our thoughts helps to keep us focused on our mutual happiness.

A Different Kind of Loving

22 Sep

‘The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.’ The wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr.words remain appropriate and timeless in their meaning. We can apply the sentiment to all aspects of our lives, and in turn become richer individuals .To be true to the title of this column, we need to be respectful and acknowledge all types of loving relationships. Just opening our eyes and minds to all human souls, and in particular to our fellow Bahamians, will enlarge our hearts and minds.

When we have been brought up reading historical books describing particular unjust acts of discrimination and prejudice, we often fail to visualize a world full of many injustices. Minorities in many societies struggle up stream in order to survive. Whether it is race, religion, gender, ethnic or economic groups, a lack of acceptance is felt. Falling in line with the main stream may work for some, but suppressing our true identity has detrimental effects. Being recognized for our genuineness removes the veil of invisibility to a place of honor. To deny anyone would remove the mark of respect for being a living, breathing human being.

Learning about the tools required for effective communication within any relationship, includes ‘putting yourself in another persons shoes’. This gives us a different vantage point to view our world and that, in it self, is often revealing. As long as the technique is taken seriously, the viewer usually gains a new perspective on the situation. It does not necessarily mean agreement, but there can still be a mutual respect to ‘agree to disagree’. We are not all born naturally empathetic individuals, but that does not mean that we cannot learn how to become one.

Life has a way of teaching through the ‘tough knocks’ and the blows on the side of our head’ .It is Mother Nature’s way of getting our attention, and makes us sensitive to a particular situation by making it personal. Acknowledging an attraction to our own gender can bring on an identity crisis. Pressures prevail from all aspects of life and can often push stress levels out of control.

Questioning gender preference or orientation can tip many into depression and even suicide. Feeling isolated and trapped produces an anxious tortured state that no one would willingly choose. Not only worrying about being ostracized, but also witnessing it, encourages secrecy and deception. Marrying and creating families under these circumstances takes its toll with complicated relationship problems. Repercussions of a deep unhappiness have a ripple affect all the way down to the children. Few could deny that ‘acting out’ in society is often directly related to our intimate relationships, and our personal happiness.

In relationship therapy, we are reminded of the almost universal ‘power play’ that goes on within any couple. Whether it is to do with roles, finance, decision-making, or sex it is usually present to some degree. For couples whose lives run smoothly these dynamics may not seem so prevalent, but throw in a deep secret and everything becomes accentuated. When we consider each gender’s common mannerisms, it should not surprise us that ‘power play’ problems become a recurring theme in gay relationships. Partnerships break down, as with any other, if roles are not worked out. The more we learn, the more we come to understand that all relationships require time, work, and energy. As with any change of behavior ‘willingness to change’ is the key.

Honesty is the key to healthy relationships. Living your life ‘being true’ is not only to be admired but shows immense courage. Living a life on the ‘Down Low’ shows a deep sense of shame and cowardliness. How many of us can say that we live a pure and authentic life? Many of us will reach the end of our life with some sadness, or feeling unfulfilled. Fear of the unknown, or ‘what if’s’ holds us back from finding the true happiness that is meant for each one of us.

‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.’ Martin Luther King Jr’s words resonate so clearly, even years past his death. Love is all about acceptance, compassion and sensitivity. Speaking it, donating to charities, expressing shock and horror to atrocities in the news are all acceptable reactions. But actually treating the person standing next to you with respect needs to be practiced on a daily basis.

Parental Love

8 Sep

Do you remember a time when just thinking about your future child produced a sensation that literally made your heart swell? You probably pictured yourself cradling them in your arms, and dreamt of teaching them life’s important lessons. Perhaps, you even had visions of being their role model and protector, until they got their wings and learnt to fly. What may have started as a transient thought soon became a recurring theme, and almost unknowingly your mind was impregnated with the seeds of love.

Whether pregnancies are planned or unexpected, the length of time for mental preparation is the same. Alterations in sleep, eating and mood prepare us for the inevitable shift in priorities. As the months march on, we are constantly reminded of the forthcoming arrival of our love child. A kick here, a punch there, and a summersault remind us of their need to be the centre of our world. Nesting instincts are set in motion, and provisions for taking care of them are put in place. Baby showers and general excitement builds with in the baby’s extended world .The seeds of love have grown, and even before setting eyes on them, we yearn to know and love them.

This particular training course is not exclusive to mothers, and soon to be fathers often feel as if they have completed the ‘combat course’. For some, having to ‘step up to the plate’ and learn how to become a provider and protector catapults them into manhood. Not being included, or choosing not to embrace the new role, removes some of the desire to allow this new love to embed and take root. Being present to experience being hit by the lightening bolt of ‘love a first sight’ often solidifies the life long love between parent and child.

Learning how to be a loving parent comes naturally and easily for many. When we feel that our own parents ‘did a good job’ we find ourselves emulating their values and practices. Successes may be sprinkled with some errors, but through it all a general theme of love is felt. Anticipating a ‘change in gears’, necessary for adolescence, often unhinges those who thought they were well prepared. The importance of having a mutually respectful open relationship is particularly important at this phase in parenting. Even when it is interpreted as ‘tough love’, the interest and caring is still present.

For many adults, being asked to pull up childhood memories feels similar to touching a raw nerve. Being aware of things that were missing, or injustices done, make them acutely aware of holes that need to be filled. Maintaining a fine balance between being sensitive to their child’s needs, but not overcompensating, can become a constant challenge.

As life enfolds the pattern of relationships inevitably change and roles reverse. Elderly parents require the same care and attention that they showed their young ones. The baton of ‘Protector and Provider’ has now been passed on in the relay race of life. The feeling that we are connected not only by blood, but also by love becomes a sobering lesson.

Some people on reading this may feel excluded, and be unable to relate because of huge areas missing in their lives. Knowing, but feeling ill equipped to replicate ‘the dream life’ can become debilitating. Attitude, and a desire to achieve growth in our life is the essential ingredient to propel us forward towards our goal.

Where we set the bar, and what we expect, will determine what we achieve in life. Parent – child relationships are often taken for granted and even neglected. To be constant and dependable, in the lives of the people we love, must surely be our daily reminder

Abusive Love

1 Sep

As we meander down the road towards our final destination, we continue in our quest to understand the many twists and turns of love. We start life with pure and unblemished images of our future love and life. A life filled with joy, happiness and the eternal promise of hope. We feel secure in our memories of being suckled on our mother’s breast, and the milky smell of her skin. With closed eyes, we sense that feeling of being protected and cherished. Then, once in a while we experience picture perfect recall of being the centre of attention and everyone’s favorite playmate. Our hearts feel full and life feels good. Is it possible for life to continue on in such rosy optimism? Or is it inevitable that our hopefulness will be dashed at different stages of life?

For some people, no matter how hard they try; they cannot draw on any warm memories. For those who can actually recall, and have not blocked out the painful past, childhood only conjures up feelings of emptiness. Feelings of a deep hollowness that insist on sucking you back into that place of loneliness. A childhood where you feel you had little to no supervision. In fact, you learnt by trial and error, and survived by either taking the tough knocks or dodging the curve balls. Cohabiting with family who showed a coldness and lack of caring were all you knew, and thought it was normal. It was only when you stood beside a parent and child who interacted with each other in such a shockingly contrasting manner, that you were shaken into a new reality.

Normalcy for some is completely foreign to another. Early exposure to sex can make a young mind mature beyond their years. Basic instincts of ‘this feels good’ and ‘this must be love’ take deep root and are hard to cut free. Advanced sexual techniques place them in the head of the class of experience and competency. Sexually self-confidant mannerisms take hold, or at least can be drawn on at short notice, and messages are relayed at lightening speed. They then become highly sought after by older predators and a cycle of repeat behavior begins.

Once we take the time to listen and learn to where people have come from, then we can live in their shoes for a while. We begin to understand why they seem to be instinctively drawn to certain types of people. Love maps are almost tattooed into our subconscious. Even as we become aware of our own weaknesses, it may seem impossible to ‘teach an old dog new tricks’. But with a conscious decision, or professional help, it is possible to hold back and be more cautious before investing heavily in a new relationship.

That may work well for those who plan and try to make conscious choices in life. For others, life just seems to ‘happen’ and they often find themselves heavily attached to someone who may not be good for them. Before they know it, marriage and children come along and suddenly they realize there is no ‘quick way out’. For many the relationship revolves around ‘put downs’, ‘quick come backs ’, jealousy, irritable and explosive behavior. Describing their partners as classic ‘Dr. Jackal and Mr. Hyde’ personalities seem to illustrate them perfectly. Public persona versus private becomes the norm.

Why people stay in such unhealthy relationships is always a mystery for those who would never tolerate such behavior. ‘Tolerate’ is the key word because what we are used to is what we believe is normal. Unfortunately, tolerance levels usually start to escalate and behavior moves from verbal to physical. Let us not forget sexual abuse thrown in the mix. How many times does a wife have to succumb to sexual intercourse, just to prevent an anger outburst?

As dysfunctional as this may seem, abusive love still feels like love to those involved. Love is such an abstract concept and is directly influenced by our early values. All the more reason that as parents we pay attention to our actions, and reactions of our children. How we act today, directly affects theirs tomorrow.

Devoted Love

29 Aug

Getting a group of people to come together in agreement on any one subject is hard enough, but asking them to define ‘devoted love’ somehow seems to unify them. Romantic love and devotion appear to walk hand-in-hand. It is the ultimate love, the pure love and the one that many of us struggle with on a daily basis. If we all enter this world, in the same way, then what makes one person more generous than another? Could we really take it back to genetics? Surely, it is all to do with the hand we are dealt and how we emerge from life’s tough knocks.

Our early ‘love role models’ are of course our parents and extended family. How they demonstrate love to everyone around them will lay deep roots within our heart and mind. We interpret body language, the spoken word and mirror our own behavior. What better compliment is there for a parent or a child to be told they resemble each other? Interestingly, forgotten mannerisms may pop up in other generations and remind us of loved ones we have lost. Qualities that then refute the argument that it is all learnt behavior.

Few would argue that long committed marriages demonstrate devoted love. Remaining together through thick and thin, and honoring ‘Until death do you part’ is without a doubt extremely commendable. Coming to terms with early unrealistic expectations and human imperfection can throw many marriages off course. But is devotion really just commitment?

How many people could unequivocally say that they show devoted love to their partners? Selflessly giving in thought, feeling and deed. Forsaking your own wants and needs to bring them peace and contentment. Not in fear of repercussion or a sense of duty, but freely and willingly. Is this only possible if the other person is worthy of such love? Would it be able to flourish if it is not well received and appreciated?

Perhaps, it is because of feelings for your partner that devotion has developed. You adore them completely and channel your every thought and action towards them. You feel it when they trip and fall; yet we are able to quickly rebound and celebrate their successes. You cherish their very being, and live life solely to make them happy. When love is planted so carefully it flourishes and grows. The old adage ‘the more we give, the more we receive’ works for many. In a healthy working partnership we are conscientious students and quickly surpass original expectations.

Life has a way of coming full circle and grown children discover, perhaps for the first time, the rewarding satisfaction of taking care of their aging parents. Viewing it as a reward then turns our thinking towards a delight instead of a chore. Showing our children our optimistic attitude can only help when it comes to our time for additional help. How we face illness, in others, tells not only of our love for them but how important we place their love for us.

Possibly, one of the most humbling acts of devotion of all is the gift of life. To be able to look beyond our tunnel vision and see everything and everyone in a new light of possibilities. Even if we have very little to give monetarily or have limited free time, blood donation removes all excuses. The Good Samaritan is within all of us, and the ability to pass on a charitable act does not go by unnoticed.

Only when we have lived with the death of a loved one, or the impending end of life do we understand the need to cling on and savor every minute. What we have taken for granted now becomes precious. Educating ourselves, and making our families aware of our personal feelings towards organ donation should be added to life’s priorities. The beautiful act of giving life when one has ended can only accentuate the continuum of life.

We can start a life of devoted love at any time, in our lives. It may require some introspection or some relationship changes, but either way the power is inside all of us .To be able to give and receive love fully is an attitude and it begins within each of us.

Infatuated Love

29 Aug

Standing, in a bank or food store check out line, provides ample opportunity to let your mind drift to thoughts of your lover. Guiltless, uninterrupted time to look distant and detached. Of course, there are priorities, in your life, which you should be focusing on, and yet you just cannot remember what they are. Why complicate this luxurious time by mundane thoughts when you can enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling of your beloved?

No matter what you do, thoughts of your love creep in to almost every minute, of your day. Sometimes, selectively chosen to come in, but on many occasions; they jump ahead of the queue and stand at attention. You feel recharged, alive and blush at the thought that others may possibly be able to read your thoughts.

As a logical thinker, you try to decipher your emotions and yet it seems to work in tandem with your heart, and you accomplish nothing. You even consider if you could sustain life on love alone. Is it possible to hold on to this forever? Does it have to die and fade just as other relationships have done in the past? Is it the ‘real thing’ when you do not seem to be able to control your own thoughts?

You have so many ‘what if’ questions, and yet so much certainty. You are confidant in the moment and have faith that the love will remain forever. Yours that is, but what about theirs?

Being swept off your feet or basking in the warm embrace of a new relationship can produce the invigorating effects of love. Similarities in personality and life styles inevitably produce a sense of ‘knowing this person’. There is an easy flow of conversation and a feeling that your own jigsaw is now complete. Put that together with strong sexual chemistry and an explosion takes place in your mind.

Just reading this may pull up dormant memories. Recall photos from early childhood, and those who we admired from afar. Having a ‘crush’, or becoming totally infatuated with someone can happen at any age, and is not exclusive to a specific gender. Only when we can recognize, and admit that it will not be reciprocated, will it allow us to move from fantasy into reality.

Generally, people understand and anticipate youth’s infatuations. Parents become guardians of their children’s hearts because they remember the besotted preoccupation that it generates. Controlling the surge of new hormones by slowing down the need to experiment becomes paramount for a lot of parents. Rules and boundaries are placed, or at least until childhood is completed.

As we pass through our lives, we live with disappointments, sadness and sometimes the harsh reality about relationships. For some, acknowledging that love may not be enough to live on is disillusioning in itself. Practical day-to-day living can dampen any romantic thinking, particular for those with less imagination and creativity.

The need for love and passion can remain throughout our lives. Many people thrive by feeding their blissful fantasy, and sustain it by self-suggestion. They are conscious of the static nature of their love, but relish in the knowledge that the door has not been shut and locked.

Surely, hope is what stimulates infatuations .The hope that love itself is real and available for all; regardless of age, gender or social status. Realist may consider this immature and even dangerous thinking. The mere possibility of elevating this person to a place of adulation becomes alarming for many. There is a fine balance between living with a fantasy and acting out, such as in the case of a ‘stalker’.

Love is a powerful thing; terrifying at times and yet we still long for it. Life does not seem so sunny or worth living if we are totally devoid of it. Some say that true love is only ‘real’ when the infatuation ebbs away and contented love is revealed. That may well be true, but do we have to forget the passion?

Romantic Love

4 Aug

Just thinking of a series of articles about love produces a slideshow of picture memories, moving through our mind. Even better, we can control it ourselves; replay, fast forward, rewind and even pause at the highlights. First loves, summer loves, crazy puppy loves, one-sided loves, and the list goes on. Decades later, we bask in the warm glow of happy flashbacks and amaze ourselves by how we survived the lows.

As we journey around the world, we realize that the nature, process, and biology of love are universal; no society is exempt. Outwardly we may look different, speak different languages, have been brought up with different values and beliefs, but when it comes to love, we are the same.

In our early years of innocence, we dreamt of being someone’s Cinderella or gallant Prince Charming. We had visions of being swept away on a wave of eternal love and leaving the ugly world behind. For many, romantic love conjures up images of tenderness, candlelight, pastel colors and a sense of peace and contentment. This is the perfect love we all desire to obtain –at least once in our lives.

Visible for all to see is a new inner glow that speaks of our inner happiness. The mere thought, touch or sight of our love stimulates our brain’s dopamine receptors, and we are on a ‘high’. Our newfound motivation is accompanied with a steely determination. We find ourselves automatically reshuffling our priorities and full attention directed to that special person. Our newfound energy and focus allows us to believe that anything is possible. It is not unheard of to feel you would go to the ends of the earth, or even to sacrifice your life for them.

Intense thoughts of our lover are fueled, day and night, by this newly channeled energy. It motivates us, but at the same time leaves us feeling naked in our vulnerability. It is exhilarating, floating on ‘Cloud Nine’, but we quickly discover that any small disappointment can send us on a free-fall. The result is a craving for more, and the strong attachment becomes all consuming.

Only when you have experienced this particular euphoria can you truly appreciate the saying, ‘Love is a drug’. The dependence and obsessive nature of romantic love could essentially class persons as addicts. Rejection, unreciprocated love, and break- ups trigger similar withdrawal symptoms, as in other recognized addictions.

This analogy may seem incongruous to some, but is backed by scientific research. What makes it all the more interesting is that candidates also included those who were experiencing unrequited love, rejection or the end of the relationship. In all cases, the right ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the right caudate nucleus in the brain were stimulated. These are the dopamine rich areas associated with reward, motivation, and also affected by cocaine use.

Romantic love speaks of true motivational drive, and possibly acts as a constant reminder of human reproduction. It is quite different from sexual drive because of its specific ability to conserve energy and focus on one individual. In fact romantic love is possible with out sex, and is often described as emotional or spiritual love.

Knowing this allows us to understand those who mutually decide to abstain from pre- marital sex. Their constant state of elation allows for a deepening of emotions, and in turn satisfies their deep cravings. We then go on to comprehend those who are able to maintain long distance relationships, communicate only by written word, or who are physically challenged. To close your eyes and dwell in the pure joy that it produces, can be equated to great sex for others.

If you are going through life feeling fulfilled but not being able to relate to this description of romantic love, then perhaps you need to review your relationship or dating life. Remember we only have one life to live and love fully, and no time to waste.

Follow the Scent

4 Aug

The harsh reality, and lack of desirable dating opportunities can dumbfound even the most optimistic single. Self-analysis over relationship patterns, choices, types, and ‘it must be me’ slows even the most determined. Decisions not to be so choosy, going with the flow even if the ‘wow’ is not there, ‘soul mate’ they might not be but ‘two out of three ain’t bad’, or memories of past loves who had it all but the timing was off. You even daydream of making a special friend the ‘ideal lover’, because they fit the bill in every other way. Would it be too outrageous to consider ‘a friend with benefits’ a life long partner? Have marriage possibilities really passed you by?

We seem to spend our lives bumping into people, connecting briefly, and then moving on. People, who we can admire, become enamored with, but who ultimately leave almost no distinguishable imprint in our mind. Then, once in a while you are hit by someone’s entrance, almost before truly seeing or knowing him or her. Forces within the atmosphere seem to pull you in their direction and you find yourself acting in a way so unlike the person you know yourself to be. If we could just be pre-warned or at least play a role in the decision-making, then it could help relieve the surprise element.

You are intrigued by the look of this earthly force, and an accidental but planned brush passed them feels like electricity. Now, you are fascinated, scared but almost powerless not to investigate it further. Is this what ‘love at first sight’ is all about? Is this what they mean when they say ‘You will just know ’?

Sniffing around, checking the territory, just like law enforcement dogs; following the trail. As humans we know we do not have such advanced skills as animals that have developed them for navigational purposes. Our own pheromones are unique chemical substances that can cause a specific reaction in another, and generally this is done by smell. The fact that it is not the same as consciously smelling food or perfume makes it all the more mysterious. Is it all hyped modern day propaganda to make us appear and act more romantic? Or can we trace it to ancient folklore, samples of bodily fluids, garments of clothing, or cuttings of hair and nails to entice romantic unions? We discover the latter is true and admire their creativity.

These subliminal scents have direct access to our brains and nervous systems via our nasal passages. Evidence tells us that these aromas are carried by way of the vomero nasal organ (VNO), which is a small cavity within each nostril. Recognizing the close proximity of the part of the brain that registers smell, and the area that deals with strong emotions, provides us with questions not only of attraction but sexual performance.

What happens when we suffer from chronic nasal congestion? Or how do nasal sprays affect our other medications affecting brain chemistry, such as antidepressants? Due to the parallel effect of increased blood flow to the penis and the nose, there results a complex link between the nose and orgasm. Interestingly, there are contradictory reports of decongestants being linked to impotence and others resulting in rapid orgasm. Also, chronic nasal drip suffers and asthmatics becoming temporarily symptom free during sexual activity.

The future looks promising in the development of male and female pharmaceuticals for the treatment of sexual problems. We know we can manipulate certain aspects of sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm, but we cannot overlook the importance of the relationship. If we can manufacture all this sexual activity it makes you wonder if the desired effect will be ‘fabricated love’. Will the ease of availability and rapid response make the ‘old way’ seem too much hard work? Long live true and lasting loves, never to be replaced.

Body Language: Making the First Connection

4 Aug

Even if no one compliments you before you leave home, you know you look good. The hair is behaving, no unexpected skin break outs, the work-outs at the gym are paying off, and the dress looks like you have been poured into it. Everything is perfect, and you just have that feeling that tonight is going to be a memorable night.

On the other side of town, the testosterone is climbing with the anticipation of ‘getting lucky’. You now have the fresh haircut and shave, new outfit, and the cologne that gets the most reaction. You are going to meet ‘ya crew’ at the club because you seem to have more success that way.

As you get out the car, you and your girlfriend giggle about everything and the night air has put an extra ‘pep in your step’. High heels have that effect and you concentrate hard on the sway of your hips. There is a new security, at the door, and instinctively you pout your lips, flick your hair and throw your head. The message is out; you are ready.

All the talk has got you pumped up and you scan the crowd with ease and a single turn of your head. You laugh some more and position yourself at a vantage point at the bar. Already you have caught the eye of three potential women and the night looks promising. No need to move anywhere else; the night is young.

The evening excitement is quickly deflating as the prospects of a potential partner look remote. Then, the man at the bar catches your curious glance and the night starts to look interesting again. You dance with your girlfriend and deliberately turn your back to show your most talked about asset. It usually works and as you return to your table you shoot a backwards peek to ensure you have sealed the deal.

Messages received loud and clear. You do not like rejection and like to think of yourself as a quick learner. You pick up the call, make your move and the connection is made.

The courtship or mating game is an ancient and thought to be an inborn skill. We may be born knowing how to flirt, and yet for some people it seems to present a great deal of difficulty. Singles who want a first date, or who can but repeatedly fail to move things forward. People who kick themselves for not picking up on opportunities, and who are always asking tips and advice on how to ‘hook up’, or at least get someone’s attention.

If we observe the mating dance of others in the animal world, we are reminded again of the sequence of gestures and expressions, which mirror our own. Posture, standing tall, pushing out the chest, and sucking in abdomen. The importance of eye contact, and the aphrodisiac effect of full, wet and open lips. Make–up that accentuates child like features such as; dewy eyes and full youthful lips, all help to unconsciously pull at the protective paternal side in men. We only have to look at demand for certain cosmetic procedures to know that this is true.

The dance continues and the preening commences. Touching hair, touching self to adjust clothes, the tilt of the pelvis, and the placement of legs and feet relay interest. These gestures highlight the differentiation between the genders, and accentuate the sex appeal. The first words spoken not only show interest, tone of voice and if agreeable will permit the first slight touch. A repeated touch helps to reinforce the interest and a desire for intimacy.

You can be any age to flirt, or find ourselves flirting. We find ourselves in a position to find a new partner and may surprise ourselves with the art of flirting. No matter if we are attracted to the same or opposite sex; the dance has to take place. The speed at which it progresses is affected by sexual chemistry, and the aggressive and receptive nature of the individuals. Just like all things to do with relationships, some people need a little assistance. They may have got stuck on the down side of the learning curve, and their lack of self confidence is preventing them from moving forward and up. Friends and family tire of giving advice and the lack of follow through, and professional relationship help is the next step towards success.

Body Image

4 Aug

Do you think life would be easier if we could all have a magical mirror that could answer and bolster any doubts we have about the way we look? We grow up listening to fairy stories about beautiful princes and princesses falling in love, and cannot imagine anything preventing a glorious outcome. But life’s reality is that most of us look in the mirror and see the imperfections. Things that need to be corrected, the ‘if only’ body parts that prevent us from being perfect.

Like so many things that we acquire in life, we need to remember that we were not born like this. If we did not inherit this trait, then we must have learnt it from somewhere. When we are very young our family influences our opinions, and their little comments about our overall image make us focus on how people view us. The seed of self-doubt has now been planted and, for many, it grows as the child stretches into an adult.

Before long, we start comparing ourselves to those around us and almost unwittingly those small imperfections grow into hideous defects. Depending on what part of the world and society we live in influences our concept of the ‘perfect body’. Whether it is visual depictions, religious traditions, or ancient customs it seems almost impossible to avoid the constant reminders.

Teen-age years and early adulthood are not only the years for self-discovery, but also the time when peer pressure plays a major role. Fitting in socially is vitally important, and it is not uncommon for eating disorders to take hold of the distorted body image. Let us not forget that hand in hand with body image is self-esteem and confidence. Anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders pull at a person’s psyche and can often rob them of what should be a joyful time of their lives.

If we are parents who are aware of our own body issues, or have had a tumultuous past with self–esteem, then we are often better equipped to help our children. But let us not forget the children who are born with defects, or that result from injury. Their body issues are ‘out there’ and can be seen by everyone. They are not the child’s imagination but a daily reminder that they are ‘different’.

Gaining professional advice from the beginning not only provides information, guidance, planning for the future, but also is the link to others in similar situations. As parents, we are naturally protective and instinctively want to shield our child from unwanted looks or comments. But at the same time we need to teach them how to be independent and explore the world. The answer may be to respond to curious looks with direct eye contact and a smile, or a tactless question with a practiced reply.

Childhood is now behind us, and we have survived only to enter another complex arena titled ‘relationships’. How we view our bodies, sense of worth, and sexual drive are heavily influenced by our body image. Don’t we all believe that people who have healthy body images have to have the most satisfying sex lives? Actually, research tells us that it affects our desire but not our satisfaction. Therefore, if we can get passed our own perception of our bodies then we are on the same path as everyone else.

‘Easier said than done’ you say, but in many instances it is relatively easy. First, we have to ask ourselves if we have all our faculties and if they are in working order. Second, we have to decide how easily something that bothers us can be corrected. Are they things you can work on yourself or will it require professional help? It may require personal research, paying for consultations and working towards a goal. As with anything in life it depends to what degree something bothers you to determine if it is going to motivate you in to action.
Perhaps, you have done all of that and out of the blue you are hit with a major illness. Something that could essentially disfigure you, if not in the long term, certainly changes you in the present. Cancer, in particular, has a way of throwing us off balance, and from everything we have known. Hair loss, weight gain or loss, skin changes, impotence, menopausal symptoms; to name a few all contributes to an altered body image. Some people handle the changes with ferocious inner strength, and manage to keep their eyes on the final goal. Others, struggle with the changes and are surprised and delighted by their newfound courage. Through all life’s challenges we need to remember, ‘Where there is a will there is a way’, and believe it.

Men and Sex: The Testosterone Man

4 Aug

“Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”-don’t we hear it all the time? You may have even used it as your personal mantra. At those split-second moments, when you look at that person and think, ‘where did they come from?’ or ‘is it possible we are even in the same time zone?’ the whole concept seems plausible. Knowing this, it may astonish you even more to learn that we all start life as female embryos. Either we continue to develop into a female fetus or we are bombarded by testosterone and the identifying characteristics of a male are formed. So, if we all start from the same place, then how do we end up on separate planets?

Our gender specific make-up palette is a blend of several sex hormones, but perhaps the most well-known and significant one is testosterone. Since the ‘in utero period’, testosterone has been lying low for many years, but now the child’s growth has reached puberty, and it is time to wake up. Here you may be surprised again to learn that both genders have testosterone. Small amounts are produced in the adrenal glands, ovaries in girls, but the main production plant is in each testicle. Present, are the little Leydig cells that are responsible for the manufacturing of testosterone. Due to efficient mechanics, men are able to make 20-40% greater amounts of testosterone than females, and also a steady supply of sperm.

The transformation, before our very eyes, from boy to young man, are not just the physical changes but also psychological. This powerful hormone is ultimately responsible for our sexual drive or libido, throughout our lives. This is why pubescent girls, even with their small amount of testosterone, become sexually interested. During menopause, she may find her testosterone levels have declined along with estrogen, which would explain the common complaint of low sexual desire.

Sexual drive really means appetite, attention, motivation and action. What is really interesting is that it is primarily drawn to ‘self’, meaning the natural force behind masturbation. Men can actually voluntarily increase their own testosterone by sexual thoughts, actions, aggressive/ competitive behavior, exercise and a meat diet. Consequently, we then understand why testosterone can fluctuate sometimes every 15-20 minutes, daily and even seasonally. Today, we understand testosterone’s role in promoting desire, but it is still the circuitry elements in the male pelvis that are principally responsible for an erection.

We can often identify the high-testosterone male because his personality is often selfish, self-centered and not unlike a psychotic. On the other hand, there are also men who are born with an extra Y gene, and subsequently have a double dose of testosterone. This has been confirmed in many cases by DNA sampling of criminals of violent crimes. Medicine has found that by manipulating testosterone and serotonin levels, which alters mood, can in some cases change behavior.

Now that we know the level of testosterone accounts for the ‘aggressive’ sex drive of men, we also need to appreciate the ‘receptive’ sex drive of women. The more we come to understand the role that our sex hormones play in our relationships the better we come to understand the opposite sex. Our individual drive is first determined by our hormones, and then by our interaction with our partners. If conflicting sexual drives becomes an issue, then measuring blood levels and taking supplements may help. However, we should not overlook the path that each gender takes to reach the point of arousal; it is predetermined by many contributing factors.

Men and Sex: The Single Man

21 Jun

As a woman, it is fascinating to listen in on a male group discussion. By sitting back and not contributing, we may find the subject turning to ‘typical female views on men’. Gender stereotypes may accurately illustrate and please some. But is it fair to generalize all men as overly aggeressive, unexpressive, insensitive, and thinking only with their genitals? What about those men who do not fit the description? Do they just keep quiet, or just say what is expected of them because they do not want to be labeled? Does the idea of being the ‘odd man out’ and protecting the image help to maintain surface friendships? If that is the case then where do men go if they have real problems?

For many men, finding and succumbing to instant gratification of their sexual needs is all they are looking for. Perhaps it is at a certain stage in their lives or due to unhappiness within their relationship. Many can not conceive the idea of being completely monogamous, and therefore live an open lifestyle. But if we look passed momentary pleasure, and ask men ‘Do you know what you want?’, we may be surprised by their answer. Many describe themselves as ‘basically monogamous’, but this is only once they have committed themselves to another. These are the men who are interested in improving their quality of life, because they know that good sex is dependant on a satisfying relationship.

Our culture is surrounded with teachings of ‘Female Empowerment’, and women have certainly stepped up and faced their challenges. Is it possible that men are trailing behind in their personal development, and are not taking the time to look ahead to their future? Is it this discrepancy in expectation that is contributing to the growing dissatisfaction with relationships?

Knowing this, we should then not be surprised when men reveal anxiety about sexual performance. Not only do they feel the usual sexual pressures, but find themselves thrown off balance with new ones. They may encounter a female who is confident in what she wants and may be the one to initiate and direct the sexual encounter. Just when they think they understand the ‘new woman’, they meet one who wants him to instigate everything. He discovers there are advantages with both and wonders if it is possible to have it all.

For those of us who have already guessed the answer, the solution seems quite obvious. Yes, we certainly need to keep in mind the gender differences; but ultimately we need to throw away the text books and really study the uniqueness of the individual in front of us. By really taking the time to understand, share and open up to your partner; you will find out what makes them tick. Instead of worrying about performance and ‘scoring’ you, will discover a higher degree of pleasure and fulfillment.

Many men are wakening up to the realization that getting to know a new love interest can actually produce a more rewarding sex life. Honesty, laying all the cards on the table from the very beginning is the first step to satisfaction. By doing this, you can actually be with someone who makes you feel like a better person; this is one element of compatibility.

Just like everything in our life, sometimes things do not always run smoothly and sexual problems are to be expected at times. For a few, this actually puts them off dating and may lead to avoiding sex altogether. Many men have discovered that sex therapy is not only extremely valuable, but also a place to open up about their problems.

Sex hormones are fundamental in making us who we are, but they can also mislead us in choosing the mate more suitable for us. Combine that with a new generation of sexually aggressive women, and the whole thing becomes even more complicated. Knowing which direction we want our life to take, and the type of person we want to share it with, will lead us to the happiness we all deserve.

Men and Sex: What really attracts men?

21 Jun

It really does not take a degree in Human Sexuality to determine that men are visual people. Not only is the topic widely discussed, but as women we have grown up witnessing it. We only have to observe men’s eyes following an attractive woman, walking down the road. Some are discreet and let their eyes do the talking, whilst others allow their whole body to communicate their interest. To acknowledge their appreciation they may even include a ‘cat whistle’ or ‘seek’. As long as there are no crude or derogatory comments attached, then an added spring can usually be seen in her step. But, does every woman have such an affect, or is it just a certain type of woman?

Taste preferences play a prominent role in the first impression look. Love types are imbedded in our subconscious from an early age and we continually pull on memories to see if someone fits. This is usually not a conscious decision, but an ‘I like that’ thought. At times, we may veer off the path but over time we find ourselves returning to our original map. What may be considered attractive to one man may not to another, and the old adage ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is certainly true.

Putting aside our individual leaning towards a certain look, men are unquestionably drawn to feminine curves. Their desire and imagination is tweaked by the silhouette, and the eyes will return for more if the ‘Love Map’ has been triggered. The intrigue continues when eyes meet and an instant connection is made. Physical and sexual energy can ignite at this point and an immediate attraction has started.

The opening conversations are important to a man to assess real interest. Light flirting is useful to ‘test the waters’ without investing too much time and energy. It is also effective in establishing personality, intellect, temprement and approachability. For things then to move forward, men need encouraging feedback and mutual curiosity.

The power of a relaxed smile can not be underestimated. A positive self assured aura portrays sexual confidence, which is alluring to all those in close proximity. Add a sense of humor and the overall sex appeal becomes magnetic and hard to resist.

Men look for the same level of interest and enthusiasm when a woman becomes their sexual partner. Equal participation and a steady flow of energy add to the ease of communication. In order to reach maximum arousal, and to stimulate all our senses, women should not forget the visual and touch appeal of lingerie.

Male societal pressure is often hard for women to fully appreciate. Women are used to being pursued and seduced. They have the power to choose to surrender and it is this that many men envy. Men are excited by the idea of being seduced by an attentive and confident woman. To be desired, taken, and overcome by their lover’s passion fuel the image of exquisite vulnerability.

If we took the time to question a cross section of men we would probably hear similar qualities that are expressed by women. Both genders are looking for the ‘full package’: Sex appeal, intelligence, thoughtfulness, dependability, and devoted love. Understanding this lets us know that ‘beauty is only skin deep’ .If we work on ourselves and develop good self confidence and respect, then this will be reflected in our passion for life.