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/

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.

Research on Love, Sex and Romance

With help from Reader’s Digest, Huffington Post, AOL, and AARP, along with Pepper Schwartz, PhD, from Yale and James Witte, PhD, from Harvard, screenwriter and author Chrisanna Northrup, not to be confused with women’s health specialist Christiane Northrup, MD, has done interesting and revealing research on the “secrets of happy couples”.

Ms. Northrup and the doctors from Yale and Harvard put together a survey that was then taken worldwide by over 80,000 participants. The survey revealed fascinating surprises about love and romance surprises.

The research findings were the basis of her book, The Normal Bar, which reveals fascinating aspects of romance that many of us may have had an inkling about, but how now been shown to be grounded in the day to day reality of relationships. Some of her revealing “romantic secrets” have shown that:

1. Two-thirds of couples don’t agree with each other’s politics
2. 56 percent of people say they never or rarely passionately kiss.
3. 70 percent of couples in England say they laugh often or all of the time
4. Two-thirds of men say their female partner criticizes them a lot
5. 75% of men and women in France and Italy keep secrets from their partner
6. 25 % of men and women do not talk to their partners about how much they earn
7. Over half of men and women pretend they’re happier with their partners than they really are
8. 33% more men than women around the world say it bothers them "a lot" that their significant other isn't more romantic.

9. Men are much more likely than women—48% vs. 28%—to fall in love at first sight.
10. The richest couples surveyed were less likely to be happy than those with less money. In fact, couples who earn $20,000 or less argue less frequently than couples who earn $250,000 to $500,000.
11. 57% of those in unhappy relationships still find their partner extremely attractive.
12. More than 33% of men and women say they have watched a TV show or movie that affected them so much they considered breaking up.
13. Those who put their partners in the category of a “good teammate” were most likely to describe their relationships as slightly unhappy.
14. Nearly 60% of both men and women who were unhappy with their relationships say they would still be happy to spend eternity with their partners.

For a free download from the award-winning book on transforming your relationships, Changing Behavior, visitwww.changingbehavior.com