Falling in love is easy; our biological imperative to mate kicks in naturally opening our hearts and flooding our nervous system with the euphoric experience of idealized connection. In these early moments of love’s embrace, we receive love viscerally. Every exchange is charged with the energy of passionate recognition and the deep cellular relief of being embraced just as we are. And yet, often this early abundant receiving of love doesn’t stick. As the hormonal magic wears off and we are required to mature into the endurance sport of love over time, we lose the ability to feel the love that has accumulated inside of us. We allow small differences to evolve into heartbreak.
Archive for the 'Making Love Sustainable' Category
People who are emotionally intelligent are seriously sexy. Fluency with one’s emotional life defines our ability to master most other life experiences. Being constantly caught between fight or flight is not flattering, and sadly our sex appeal bears its weight. Although many of us are not well trained in emotional cognition, our own or someone else’s, there are two basic skill sets that are both easily accessible and developmental, which means you can get better at them. The first skill is developing the capacity and the curiosity to feel a wide range of emotions, the second is increasing our emotional language to identify and express what we feel.
“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” -M Scott Peck
We resist change. We prefer our known discomfort to the fear of what we don’t know. We stay in jobs we don’t like, we stay in relationships that are toxic, we stay in mindsets that keep us trapped in familiar ways of perceiving the world even and often in spite of the regular messages our body is giving us about how uncomfortable we are. Often, without our own witness, we fabricate stories that spin our discomfort into choices that we wouldn’t actually be making if we had the courage and insight to squarely look at our fear of the unknown. I keep thinking about the classic tale of the frog that is placed in a pot of cool water and is slowly boiled to death. We all have some of that amphibian brain that chooses the slow boil over the leap into the unknown.
I live among teenagers, which brings me into intimate contact with the often crippling kind of self consciousness that awakens in the human mind during adolescence. The experience of being seen in these years swings between a primal desire and a punishing shame. Constantly conscious of what others think of what they look like, what they are doing or saying, we parents watch in dismay as our child’s once natural ability to be fully one’s self in the present moment erodes into habitual judgment of self and others. Gone is the playful innocence of being one’s goofy and changing self; it is replaced by a lingering defensiveness that colors almost every interaction. Relationships large and small become matters of dissection and the opening to new and different people begins to shut down. It becomes increasingly challenging to separate the internal filter of how we think we are being seen with the simple reality of being.
Here is one of the great truths of life that many of us are missing in the constant search for something new- is that experience alone too often leaves us empty. Instead, it is our attention, curiosity and opening that we bring to our life experiences that make them the powerful source of transformation that they are. This truth also explains why so many of us live such ridiculously distracted lives that often only detract from our immediate experience, keeping us at arm’s length from the insight and depth that our experience can offer us. We are born with the tools to cultivate and wake up our capacity for experience, which shifts our perspective on ourselves, our relationships and brings meaning to our life. Like most things in life, it is all about the questions we ask- here are the three simple questions to grow your capacity.
A near tragedy was averted by love this week in a Georgia elementary school when the school’s bookkeeper was able to connect with love to a troubled, angry, lonely young man who could no longer bear the weight of being unloved. He arrived with a loaded gun and enough additional ammunition to kill everyone in his path. He was accustomed to being rejected, even by his family and no doubt was surprised that someone would react with something other than fear upon seeing him. Antoinette Tuff’s calm presence engaged him with personal stories of her own loss and disarmed him by including him. The shooter, a young man of 20, was ready to die and wanted to take as many people as possible with him. When he admitted “no one loved him “she replied earnestly that “she loved him and was proud of him…” Afterwards, when she was asked how she was able to respond with love, she said, “That wasn’t me; that was God.” Certainly meeting fear with love and acceptance is at the foundation of all spiritual teaching.
My favorite thing to do is teach and last weekend I was lucky to have the chance to give a presentation to 50 physicians about working with their patients’ sexual dysfunction issues. I thought it would be easy- like falling off a log as I spend so much of my days thinking, researching and talking about ways to become more sexually healthy, but in fact I was surprised how much I still had to learn as I was obliged to organize my rambling knowledge into a cohesive 90 minute talk. It is daunting to cover the vast swaths of dysfunction that make up the landscape of so many people’s experience with their sexuality. Pain with sex is almost more common than not in a lifetime and the silence that overwhelms the symptoms makes healing through education all the more difficult.
Yesterday, a judge gave Ariel Castro, the Ohio man guilty of abducting, raping and abusing 3 young women for more than ten years, life in prison plus a thousand years. Given that he only has one life to pay for his heinous crimes I was thinking maybe that the justice system might want to spread the other 1000 years around for the other hundreds of thousands of offenders who make a business out of abducting, raping, selling and torturing millions of young girls around the world. As horrible as Castro’s crimes were, they are far from unique. Sex trafficking includes all of the crimes that he committed against these girls and worse. It is big business in the organized crime world. There are literally millions of Ariel Castros out there abducting, abusing and raping young girls all over the world.
I am not proud of the moments when something cracks in me and I become someone I hardly recognize. The times when a powerful storm lets loose inside me without warning, remain stubbornly unpredictable. The triggers are complex; rarely can I trace them to some direct input. Rather they are reflections of the internal conflicts, which more often than not go unnamed and unattended. They are the invisible cracks in our own heart that control us in ways that are potentially damaging precisely because they are invisible. These emotional prisons define our relationships in our intimate lives as well as our careers, and they are strengthened by our ignorance. Not knowing what we want, how we feel, or where our boundaries lay makes it impossible to align our ideas of life with reality itself. Getting stuck in these deep places in ourselves turns internal conflict into a smoldering ash that can be ignited by seemingly innocent events.
I was in the liquor store yesterday, choosing between flavors of my favorite Clear Creek brandies when I went on to share my excitement about my purchase with the two 20 something guys behind the counter. I said “this stuff can really bring fire to a kiss and heat up your intimate life…” To which he responded “ I don’t have an intimate life.” His co-worker joined in the conversation adding “yeah being in love is so ten minutes ago.” “But this is the time of your life for falling in love, I argued this is what the 20s are for.” Apparently not for this generation.