The Science of Heartbreak

science of heartbreakLike most healthcare practitioners, I often hear clients discuss their fear of loving or trusting another person after they have been terribly disappointed or hurt in a romantic relationship.

Being deeply hurt or emotionally wounded through deception, rejection or infidelity cuts to the quick of the human heart. Many of us would like to be able to just “put it behind us” and move on with our lives, but the research of a remarkable scientist now explains why it is so painful and difficult to bounce back quickly from a broken heart. The research also throws light on how difficult and sometimes desperate we can feel during that experience.

Helen Fisher, Ph.D., biological anthropologist, is a research professor and member of the Center for Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University and chief scientific adviser to the Internet dating site Chemistry.com (a division of Match.com). She has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human love, sexuality, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality type shapes who you are and who you love.

Brain Issues

Fisher’s research on heartbreak identifies areas of the brain, the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area, whose involvement in romantic love proves this deep-seated drive to be far more powerful and urgent than we may have previously believed. Fisher says that romantic love is “really a drive that is deeply primordial and primitive.” She explains that romantic love experiences “are way below the emotional center and in fact are not emotions at all, but rather a powerful drive and need that is shared by all human beings.”

Through thousands of imaging studies both in the U.S. and in China, Fisher and her research team has established just how important it is for human beings to be in relationships where they experience reward for their feelings and efforts toward the significant other. There are additional studies that show that the same portion of the brain, the anterior insula, is both the location of physical pain, as well as heartache. In a previous article I discussed a study that showed how Tylenol influences this part of the brain and can reduce the discomfort of heartache as well as a headache.

If you want to understand more about this fascinating subject and how to help yourself overcome the heartache of lost love, visit www.helenfisher.com, where a book list on her research is available. You can also download a free excerpt from the Amazon #1 bestselling, multi-award winning book Changing Behavior, by going tohttp://www.changingbehavior.org/

The Science of How What We Believe Becomes Our Reality – Part I

thoughts become things"Mind is the Master Power that molds and makes, and we are mind. And ever more we take the tool of thought, and shaping what we will, bring forth a thousand joys, or a thousand ills. We think in secret, and it comes to pass, environment, is but our looking glass."    James Allen

At some point we have all heard the adage "Thoughts are things," which serves as the central tenet of such popular New Age philosophies like the Law of Attraction, featured in best-selling books like The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. And while many skeptics have been quick to dismiss the idea of "As a man thinketh, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7) as nothing more than a pop psychology platitude, the ongoing findings of medical science are telling a different story.

In an article from the January – February 2013 edition of Harvard Magazine Cara Feinberg profiles the pioneering work of Dr. Ted Kaptchuk, Director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. In the article, Feinberg chronicles the exciting findings made by Dr. Kaptchuck and his team in conducting a "clinical drug trial" charting the effects of prescription medication vs. acupuncture in relieving the pain of the trial participants:

"Two weeks into Ted Kaptchuk's first randomized clinical drug trial, nearly a third of his 270 subjects complained of awful side effects. All the patients had joined the study hoping to alleviate severe arm pain: carpal tunnel, tendinitis, chronic pain in the elbow, shoulder, wrist.

In one part of the study, half the subjects received pain-reducing pills; the others were offered acupuncture treatments. And in both cases, people began to call in, saying they couldn't get out of bed. The pills were making them sluggish, the needles caused swelling and redness; some patients' pain ballooned to nightmarish levels.

"The side effects were simply amazing," Kaptchuk explains; curiously, they were exactly what patients had been warned their treatment might produce (emphasis added)." Even more startling, "…most of the other patients reported real relief, and those who received acupuncture felt even better than those on the anti-pain pill. These were exceptional findings: no one had ever proven that acupuncture worked better than painkillers.

But Kaptchuk's study didn't prove it, either – the pills his team had given patients were actually made of cornstarch; the "acupuncture" needles were retractable shams that never pierced the skin. The study wasn't aimed at comparing two treatments. It was designed to compare two fakes (emphasis added)."

Although Dr. Kaptchuk doesn't contend that patients can simply "think themselves better" his study – along with many others conducted on the placebo effect – does prove a very important, and critically under looked, fact in health care: "patients' perceptions matter, and the ways physicians frame perceptions can have significant effects on their patients' health."

Beliefs are powerful things and what we tell ourselves and others tell us can make us better or worse. We all have "our narrative" and we tell it over and over again both to ourselves and to others. We believe it, we expect it and we project it. When we change our beliefs and our story, we change the outcomes.

One of the better known studies which demonstrates how changing our narratives can change our outcomes (and our lives) is the 1980s breast cancer support group study that was written up in the journal Advances. All of the women had breast cancer that had metastasize before the study began.

Their prognosis was poor but they became a group who listened to each other's stories, supported each other, cared about one another and helped each other manage their symptoms and disease. They also helped each other change their story. It is not surprising that the women in this support group lived on average 18 months longer than breast cancer patients with the same degree of metastasis.

This article has previously appeared on Huffington Post

What Really Nourishes

nourish

Nutrition is today's new religion. How we chose to eat provides a sense of control and predictability in a world that is often out of control and not predictable. People find comfort, stability and reassurance in the regimen of adhering to a certain diet and what they believe it will do for their well-being and longevity.
The future of health promotion needs to address that while nutrition is one of the five major necessities of life our relationships (after survival needs are met) are the #1 most critical component to health – and for health promotion. Currently, the way we treat each other at work, in the media, politics, and in our homes, speaks of an underlying pathology; a lack of respectful communication, widespread cultural discontent and alienation. http://boston.cbslocal.com/2015/03/31/research-golden-rule-lost-among-coworkers/

In 1980, TIME magazine published a survey asking if people were happy or content and felt purposeful in their lives; 80% responded positively. Just over 10 years later, TIME magazine published another survey. This time there was only a 20% positive response.

The timeline of the epidemic of obesity in the U.S. runs parallel with the epidemic of discontent that was ushered in with the "Life Styles of the Rich and Famous" in the mid-to-late 1980's; followed by an exploding economy fueled by mega-rich real estate, dotcom and investment billions. No one wanted to be left behind in keeping up with the new, very rich "Jones".

Drive and ambition ripped across all sectors of our society; lifestyles were transformed with 2 paycheck households, over 50% of meals eaten outside the home, leisure time slashed. We felt the pressure to keep up, to belong to this explosion of plenty and in that process lost our collective sense of contentment and purposefulness.

Health promotion in the future will be about addressing the needs and drives of the whole person, not just the fuel that runs their engine. Promoting awareness that we all want and need to be valued and to make a meaningful contribution to others is an important starting point. So much of the disease, obesity, depression, unhappiness and untapped potential can be reversed by being valued and respected; when our cultural focus is less on conflict and competition – and more on respectful behavior and cooperation, health promotion will be the organic outcome of our mindful behavior towards ourselves and others.
trition is today's new religion. How we chose to eat provides a sense of control and predictability in a world that is often out of control and not predictable. People find comfort, stability and reassurance in the regimen of adhering to a certain diet and what they believe it will do for their well-being and longevity.
The future of health promotion needs to address that while nutrition is one of the five major necessities of life our relationships (after survival needs are met) are the #1 most critical component to health – and for health promotion. Currently, the way we treat each other at work, in the media, politics, and in our homes, speaks of an underlying pathology; a lack of respectful communication, widespread cultural discontent and alienation. http://boston.cbslocal.com/2015/03/31/research-golden-rule-lost-among-coworkers/

In 1980, TIME magazine published a survey asking if people were happy or content and felt purposeful in their lives; 80% responded positively. Just over 10 years later, TIME magazine published another survey. This time there was only a 20% positive response.

The timeline of the epidemic of obesity in the U.S. runs parallel with the epidemic of discontent that was ushered in with the "Life Styles of the Rich and Famous" in the mid-to-late 1980's; followed by an exploding economy fueled by mega-rich real estate, dotcom and investment billions. No one wanted to be left behind in keeping up with the new, very rich "Jones".

Drive and ambition ripped across all sectors of our society; lifestyles were transformed with 2 paycheck households, over 50% of meals eaten outside the home, leisure time slashed. We felt the pressure to keep up, to belong to this explosion of plenty and in that process lost our collective sense of contentment and purposefulness.

Health promotion in the future will be about addressing the needs and drives of the whole person, not just the fuel that runs their engine. Promoting awareness that we all want and need to be valued and to make a meaningful contribution to others is an important starting point. So much of the disease, obesity, depression, unhappiness and untapped potential can be reversed by being valued and respected; when our cultural focus is less on conflict and competition – and more on respectful behavior and cooperation, health promotion will be the organic outcome of our mindful behavior towards ourselves and others.
lovewinsheart

Hungry Hearts – The Challenge of Being Human

“People are itchy and lost and bored and quick to jump to any fix. Why is there such a vast self-help industry in this country? Why do all these selves need help? They have been deprived of something by our psychological culture. They have been deprived of the sense that there is something else in life, some purpose that has come with them into the world.”
—James Hillman, PhD
Little Acorns: A Radical New Psychology

We all want to be valued. And in the deepest part of ourselves, we know that. Yet it is forgotten when we encounter each other. What we then do is revert to the pecking order impulse and size up another person to establish either their comparative worth to us or our superiority to them, forgetting that each of us wears an invisible sign that reads, “Notice me; make me feel important.”

We also forget this in our intimate relationships when our need to be valued can overshadow everything else. Many of us are unfulfilled in our lives, and many of us have hungry hearts. There is a way to change this and create healthy, fulfilling relationships, but most of us do not know how. Instead we continue to behave as we always have and continue to experience the same outcomes.

What we want in our relationships is for another person to listen, with genuine interest, to our story, our suffering, our hopes, and our dreams. We want them to care about our life—and not because of some self-serving agenda on their part. Being present to another person in a fully engaged and authentic way connects us with our true self as well as connects us with the other person. Being purely present to another person, or they with us, is a deeply fulfilling experience.

Our relationships give us emotional nourishment and can be the spark that motivates and inspires us to live more authentically, to re-direct and re-shape ourselves in a new and joyful way. To repeat Dan Buettner’s earlier comment, “Relationships are really the key to lifelong happiness.”1 We want them, we need them, and we continually seek them.

Having the right skills to create healthy, thriving relationships is important. How to create these types of relationships is not something we are taught to do. We learn about relationships with our eyes and ears from observing our family members, our peers, and surrounding environment. Unfortunately for many of us, the skills we have learned do not result in successful and healthy relationships.

It is now well established that our relationships are intimately connected to our state of health. Experiencing the pain of repeated failed relationships can deeply undermine our well-being and self-confidence and lead to loneliness, depression, and chronic illness. Knowing this, it makes good sense to learn relational skills that can help us create more positive and successful outcomes.

By having a better understanding of why we behave as we do, and by learning new skills and knowledge that can facilitate the transformation of our behaviors and thus our relationships, we will improve our relational outcomes as well as the overall state of our health and well-being.

Changing behavior is not easy. The way we behave and why we behave as we do is as unique to each of us as our fingerprints or DNA. Although changing our behavior is challenging, the rewards can be enormous. By changing our relational behaviors we can re-direct all aspects of our life—enhancing our happiness, our work, and our personal fulfillment, and even increasing our longevity.

Excerpted from "Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy to Learn, Proven Communication Skills."

 

 

Doctor-Patient Communication is the #1 Problem in Medicine

At the 2015 National Health Policy Conference held in Washington, D.C., members of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Policy agreed that the need for research focusing on the doctor-patient relationship was urgent in order to address the current crisis of patient dissatisfaction, medical-error, malpractice claims and physician burnout.

Patients are not happy, doctors and medical teams are not happy, and the health care system is struggling to adapt measures to turn the tide of this growing problem. The 2012 Institute for HealthCare Communication (IHC) report regarding research on the impact of poor communication revealed the following:

  • Research conducted during the 10 year period of 1995-2005 has demonstrated that ineffective team communication is the root cause for nearly 66 percent of all medical errorsduring that period.
  • This means that when healthcare team members do not communicate effectively, patient care often suffers.
  • Further, medical error vulnerability is increased when healthcare team members are under stress, are in high-task situations, and when they are not communicating clearly or effectively.

The research from the IHC reports cites that 50% of all malpractice is the result of poor communication between doctor and patient.

The IHC report states: "Research evidence indicates that there are strong positive relationships between a healthcare team member’s communication skills and a patient’s capacity to follow through with medical recommendations, self-manage a chronic medical condition, and adopt preventive health behaviors. Studies conducted during the past three decades show that the clinician’s ability to explain, listen and empathize can have a profound effect on biological and functional health outcomes as well as patient satisfaction and experience of care."

IHC goes on to make an alarming statement that “Extensive research has shown that no matter how knowledgeable a clinician might be, if he or she is not able to open good communication with the patient, he or she may be of no help.”

And, while the addition of nurse health coaches to the medical team has been viewed by some as a solution to the communication problem, the relationship between the physician or primary care provider and the patient cannot be corrected by these additional team members. In fact, not addressing the underlying cause of doctor-patient discomfort may even increase the distrust and discomfort the patient experiences with their doctor or primary care provider.

As physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners are the diagnostic experts in our medical care system, ensuring the communication between these providers and their patients is critical, as research data demonstrates.

A recent pilot study, conducted through Central Michigan University (CMU), on the effects of a communication model, Behavior Engagement with Pure Presence, on patient and physician satisfaction has just concluded, and will be published shortly. The study was funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of Michigan.

The Primary Investigator (P.I.) of this study, Dr. Christine Clipper, wanted to thoroughly test the Behavioral Engagement model by including renowned endocrinologist, Dr. Opada Alzohaili, who was trained in the model's communication skills and had previously earned high patient satisfaction survey ratings. Dr. Alzohaili's post-pilot patient satisfaction scores were significant, revealing 100% improvement on all measures of patient perception of relational empathy during their encounter with the doctor, in contrast to his pre-pilot patient satisfaction scores.

Dr. Clipper's research data demonstrated that Behavioral Engagement with Pure Presence has "…a psychological effect on the patient's perception of the patient-provider relationship. The patient perception of relational empathy with their doctor increased through improved provider communication skills through applying the Behavioral Engagement model."

Further research on the application of the model includes a pilot study on the Behavioral Engagement model in Electronic Medical Record Communication, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/ MI Dept. of Community Health;
and a randomized controlled clinical trial study with funding from major national health care organizations.
—————————-
Dr. Georgianna Donadio is the Director of the National Institute of Whole Health and author of the multi-award winning, Amazon bestselling book, Changing Behavior.

 

Dealing with Difficult Relationships During the Holidays

anger-clipart
The December Holidays are just around the corner. Some say “it’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Or is it? For many of us, the holiday visits back home to family members is something to be dreaded. While we look forward to the pleasure of celebrating these festive times, there is also the memory of past conflicts and the very real possibility of new confrontations that we find ourselves anxious to avoid. We can tell ourselves that this is the year we will not get stressed out or upset with visits to or from our families. This is what we strive for yet, most often, not how things turn out.

In is common, according to Dr. Jeffrey Fine, Ph.D., Director of the American Foundation for Conscious Parenting that our families can be “a breeding ground for repressed resentments and hostilities left over from childhood.” (Link 1) We might anticipate that once we have grown up and moved away to create our own lives and families that these feeling would diminish but, as many of us experience, unfortunately they do not.      

One potential solution to transforming the holidays from stressful to joyful is the application of identified communication skills that have been researched and shown to facilitate changing difficult relationships. Behavioral Engagement is a 12-step set of communication skills that has been the subject of hospital pilot studies over a 32 year period. (Link 2)

The outcomes of these pilots showed the participants experienced a significant improvement in their relational outlook and attitude after interacting with the communication skills model. (Link 2)  Originally developed to enhance relationships between doctors, nurses and patients, the model was also applied and studied with business and family relationships.

 James Prochaska, PhD, renowned researcher on behavior change and author of “Change for Good – the Six Stages of Transtheoretical Change” says of Behavioral Engagement that “The process of Behavioral Engagement has the potential to transform relationships that are suffering or struggling to ones that are thriving!”

Generally, one of the most recommended approaches to staving off holiday conflicts is to “try and accept family members or friends as they are”. (Link 3) Unfortunately, this good intention can be easily side-lined without specific communications skills that can help keep us on track. 

The 12-Step Model of Behavioral Engagement that Dr. Prochaska endorses offers specific, easy to learn, communication skills that have been proven effective in changing conflicted relationships into compatible relationships based on the understanding that we all want to be valued, respected and listened to.

The steps are based on physical, psychological, hormonal and neurological aspects of human relationships and communication. They start with the understanding that while we cannot change others behavior we can change our own behavior in how we relate to others, which can result in a transformative outcome for all participants. 

We can do so by using specific, simple communication skills and following the steps that have been shown to be effective in creating greater receptivity and generating more positive emotions in relationships that have previously been conflicted or stressful.

If you have experienced or are anticipating challenging relationships during the holidays, you may wish to apply these easy steps and see if they can assist you in having happier and even healthier holidays.

Step One – Be physically comfortable when communicating. This removes discomfort that can distract providing your full attention to the person you are speaking with. Distractions reduce your focus on the person you are speaking with which decreases receptivity which sends the message that you may not be listening to them, which can flame the fire of resentment.

Step Two –Understanding what you want. Our intentions are powerful behavior motivators. By understanding what we want from an exchange with another can assist us in communicating more clearly our thoughts and feeling, inviting greater understanding and intimacy. Example – “I really want to understand what you are unset about.”

Step Three – Centered Body Posture. Uncross arms and legs, present open, receptive body language. To send the message that you are respecting the conversation and giving the other person your fully attention, do not play with your watch, glasses, hair or continually look away from the person you are speaking with. Committing to being focused is an important element in communication and sends the message that you value your time with the other person. We can all feel when someone values being with or speaking to us.

Step Four – Sustained, Soft Eye Contact has been scientifically proven to stimulate oxytocin which opens emotional centers of the brain and enhances trust (Link 4) and feelings of love and intimacy.

Step Five – Respectful Inquiry. Asking rather than telling or directing, and using “I” statements rather than “you” statements, creates a safe, non-judgmental environment for the other person to communicate openly.

Step Six – Responsiveness. By using appropriate responses, such as facial expressions, smiling, head nodding and so forth, indicates you are responding to and understanding what the other is saying without interrupting or interjecting. This acknowledges the value you have for their communication.  

Step Seven – Pauses between responses, allowing for silence between statements. Instead of immediately speaking as soon as the other person is finished, allowing for appropriate silence when someone has shared a thought or feeling with you is an important part of the experience of being respectfully listened to. It is also a component of being truly present to them. 

Step Eight – Non-Judgment. By not allowing your unspoken mental and emotional judgments to invade your attention, you eliminate the unconscious communication that is sent through subtle and gross body language. Unconscious, non-verbal body language is something most of us pick up immediately. They can make or break your communication and relationships.

Step Nine – Leave the ego at the door. Eliminate the push-pull or power struggle of previous relationship interactions by letting go of taking control of the communication and allow for equity between you and the other individual.

Step Ten – Re-Centering when you start to lose focus. Mentally repeating simple words you identify as prompts to get you back to the focus of the conversation is a quick and effective way to get yourself re-centered in the exchange. Example: “back to focus” or “get-centered”.

Step Eleven – Collaborative mindset. Working towards having a win-win outcome eliminates conflict and improves the quality of the relationship in both the short term and for the long term.

Step Twelve – Sacredness of Relationship – Sacredness means “worthy of respect”. When we are aware of appropriate verbal and behavioral boundaries within our communications, we hold the other person in high esteem and create fulfilling, lasting relationships.

When dealing with family holiday conflicts it can be helpful for us to try these simple, proven communications skills, but also to reflect on the wisdom of the question – “would you rather be loved than be right?” Often times when we elect love over being in control or being right then our relationships shift for the better. You can download a free excerpt of the book on Behavioral Engagement by visiting www.changingbehavior.org

Link 1 http://www.leecountytimes.com/why-families-fight-during-the-holidays/

Link 2 http://www.wholehealtheducation.com/news/pdfs/PubMed_ImproveDelivery_2005Mar.pdfep 1   Link 2 http://www.wholehealtheducation.com/lemuel-shattuck-hospital

Link 3 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress/MH00030

Link 4: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17888410    
              http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20047458  
              http://www.news-medical.net/news/2008/02/11/35124.aspx

Better Health and Optimism from a Cookie?

When was the last time you cracked open a fortune cookie?  Those little slips of paper, filled with uplifting, motivational messages, always seem to brighten our days.  Snippets of inspiration such as “you will be sharing great news with all those you love”, “be patient – success is near” or “happiness awaits you” get posted on our bulletin boards as a reminder of possibilities yet to come.  These little harbingers of imagined visions or destiny spur us on and make us think, “what if it really could happen?”

By taking that one minute out of your day to pause and reflect on the fortune cookie’s positive message, you might suddenly stop and realize – this may be the first affirmative message you’ve received all day!  Amidst the hustle and bustle of looming deadlines, grid-locked traffic and disgruntled coworkers, somewhere from the vastness of space and time, this little paper has provided a ray of light and a reminder of those filed-away visions and dreams.

But this seemingly random and well-meaning message invites an even deeper question:  What are we getting from these little fortune cookies that we are not getting in our day to day encounters that may be essential to our spirit, our sense of well-being and even our health?  When was the last time you got this kind of a message from your friend, or from your partner?  Positive reinforcement can relay a possibility of hopeful outcomes or imagined dreams being fulfilled.

Optimism has been shown to be an important part of good health and wellness. Without such sparks of inspiration or encouragement we can tend to forget that life can be more than just the daily grind of work and responsibility. We can lose our optimism, our wide-eyed wonder at things which inspire us, lift our spirit or open our hearts.

There is something significant to this power of suggestion and optimism. Reasonable optimism has been scientifically proven to impact nearly every aspect of our lives – from living longer to doing well on a test, to enjoying success in our work.  Likewise, pessimism has been shown to contribute to feelings of depression, illness and withdrawal from the world.1

We can all become someone’s fortune cookie message by bringing hopeful messages to those around us. We can offer words of encouragement to a coworker struggling with a tough project.  We can give our spouse-partner a shoulder rub and tell them how much we appreciate having them in your life.  We can share moments with each of our children and let them know how great their latest efforts in school are or how much you enjoyed the dinner they prepared, or how well they did at soccer practice.

We can choose to be a person who communicates just how special and valued others are in our life, and reinforce their deeply-held hopes that good things will come soon.  By sharing meaningful communication and hopeful affirmation with those we love, our words become a soothing balm that makes the bitter stings of the bad news and turmoil in our everyday lives not so disappointing.

  1. http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/03/05/us-optimist-health-idUSTRE5247NO20090305     Optimists live Longer Happier Lives

Handling Conflict in Relationships

Conflict in relationships is inevitable, but the way we handle and respond to it is not. Some of us try to avoid dealing with conflict, while others want to immediately resolve things head on. Instead of trying to avoid the conflict, it can be constructive to objectively write down our thoughts and feelings and share them with the other person in a way that expresses how we feel, and in a style that makes us comfortable, such as possibly in a letter, a greeting card or by e-mail.

For those of us who tackle conflict “head on”, it can be helpful to take a step back and discern if this issue is something that must be resolved immediately, or can we give ourselves time to process what has occurred and see the conflict from the other person perspective.

Respecting your partner’s or friend’s experience of a particular conflict doesn’t mean you “go along to get along” or that you should not express your own experience or feelings about it. It does mean that you respect and consider the other individual’s unique experience of what has occurred and that they want to be seen, heard and valued just as much as you do.

By being open to accepting what the other person is feeling and what they have experienced, you send the message that you sincerely care about their feelings. And, while you may not agree with their feelings, you bring integrity to the relationship that allows them to be who they are and express how they feel in a safe and non-hostile environment.

Would You Rather Be Right or Be Loved?  An important question to ask ourselves when we are dealing with conflict in a significant relationship is would we rather be right or be loved. This is a simple litmus test that can help us to find a balance and a win-win situation for both the parties in a conflict, and also allows us to reflect on what is important in both our life and in our relationships.

Communication is a key to successful relationships and to solving relational conflicts. For a free chapter download to better understand why others behave as they do (and why we behave as we do) as well as for well-researched information about how to improve your relationship communications, visit www.changingbehavior.org.

 

Genes and Physical Attraction

During the summer my apple trees, with their sweet droppings all about the orchard, produce an enormous population of fruit flies. Apart from being occasionally annoying and making a bit of noise, they would not be a topic to capture one's attention. At least I never thought so, until I read a fascinating study about fruit flies that indicated our gender may be largely connected to our genes.

Geneticist Barry Dickson and graduate student Ebru Demir, of the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, Austria made a small change to a genetically altered gene that they engineered into female fruit flies. This very specific gene alteration that was integrated into the female flies would always produce male fruit fly protein.

The genetically altered female fruit flies behaved like amorous male flies – perusing other female fruit flies and wooing them with the species elaborate courtship display. This gene altering and its subsequent behavioral results were reported in the scientific professional journal Cell.

The engineered females rejected males that tried to mate with them and began to imitate the multi-step male courting dance which is truly fascinating but a bit too racy to describe in this article – I am not kidding! The two scientists hypothesize that the altered genes set into motion a cascade of genetic changes to re-program the female fruit flies sexual behavior.

One of the most spell binding books I have ever read about behavior and genetics is Melvin Konner's brilliant and stunning book, The Tangled Wing. His book is about humans and not fruit flies. So, if you are fascinated by how our amazing hormones and genetics create and effect our thoughts, behaviors and even sexual preferences, this book is a must read.

It is also an amazing book to read to better understand the wide range of “masculinity” and “feminine” behavior that exits in men and women. When we explore the science of how our brains function through our biochemistry and how this biochemistry is in control of the actions and behaviors it helps us to be more understanding and compassionate about ourselves and others.

The renowned behaviorist, B.F. Skinner, stated many decades ago that our hormones were the most powerful movers of how we lived our lives. More recently, Candyce Pert, PhD, author of Molecules of Emotions, has done the research that demonstrates exactly how the brain’s neuropeptides achieve our behavior outcomes.

For those interested in the subject of behavior and brain function, Melvin Konner’s and Candyce Pert’s work is highly recommended. For a free download of the bestselling, award winning behavior change book, Changing Behavior, visit www.changingbehavior.org.

 

What Happens to Relationships When We Don’t Feel Understood


When couples are asked what it is in their relationship that makes them feel fulfilled, the answer is inevitably that they feel “understood and cared about”. Contrary to what many of us believe, having misunderstandings is not the problem in our relationships. It is not having a misunderstanding that is what creates bad feelings and unhappiness in relationships, but rather not feeling that the person we are most intimate with and care most deeply about doesn’t understand who we are and what we are feeling.

In order to feel loved we must first experience that others understand us and regard us as good and valuable human beings. If our significant others do not understand or get who we are and how we feel, that leaves us with a feeling of being misunderstood. It can also lead to our feeling alone because only someone who truly knows us, rather than just thinking they know us, can truly love us for who we actually are.

When we are in a relationship we do not want to continually explain ourselves to another person, or justify our values, beliefs or the choices we make in our lives. If after a time, that person cannot be really present to us, listening to what we have to share and sharing their own thoughts and feelings, the relationship quickly deteriorates. This is why one of the important focal points in good couples counseling is learning what is called “active listening.”

The main purpose of active listening is to let your partner know that you are truly listening to them and that you are really “present” to them as well – that means they have our full attention.  And by giving them our full attention, we can more authentically understand how they feel and what their point of view and opinions are about the important discussions that make up all relationships.

A key component of active listening is when we reflect back to the other person what we understand they were communicating to us so that we can be sure that we understand and not mis-interpret their communication. When we do this, we ask questions to clarify, such as “Are you saying that you were upset that I did not go to your aunt’s house for dinner on Sunday, even though you had said it didn’t matter if I went or not?

By working together so that the listening partner and the speaking partner both understand that clarifying their understanding of what is being communicated and also participating in active communication as well as active listening, the relationship can take on a greater depth, intimacy and fulfillment. Effective communication is always the key to any good relationship. For a free chapter download from the award winning, Changing Behavior, visit changingbehavior.org.