What is love? #2

After discussing and exploring the greek loves, we complicate things more with different expectations of love.  Love to you may not be the same as love for me. Likewise, what you expect and how you experience love may be different. In "what is love? #3 (yes we are still in #2), we will explore the different expressions of love. But for now, let's take a look at the different expectations and experiences of love.

Sterberg's Triangular Theory of Love. BABAM! Here it is in a picture.

Sterberg postulated that there are three pivotal corners of love. Intimacy (liking), infatuation (passion) and Empty love (commitment/loyalty/obligation).  

1) Liking/Intimacy is the attraction to personality or emotional closeness. I like to equate intimacy to connection. Intimate conversations are about connection around a topic so it is easy to grasp that intimacy requires people to feel connected.  The best escorts are the ones that provide intimacy without sex. You feel connected and often times that is more than enough to walk away satisfied. This is often associated with storge or philia

2) Infatuation or passion is the desire for the aesthetic feeling, physical form, or some kind of attribute. Anytime you hear desire, think of a passionate want or longing. Feeling sexy is the feeling of being desired and often leads to infatuation.  Remember passion is a strong feeling. This is often associated with eros, ludus, and mania.

3) Empty love is the the decision to be committed, the feeling of being obligated, or the choice to be loyal. It is a covenant- a promise or agreement so as long as it is beneficial (loosely defined). It is often tied to storge, pragma, or philia.

Now these three corners meet at intersections and expand on our experiences of love.  

When intimacy and infatuation/passion meet without commitment- it is romantic love. This is the experience of feeling close to someone and being attracted to them physically and desiring them. One-night stands f*** buddies/booty-calls fall into this experience. 

When passion and commitment meet but lacks intimacy, that is called fatuous love. Fatuous love is the love at first sight kind of love. Or a i am turned on by you and we are friends, but I really feel connected or close to you.  This is the love that you would experience and then go tell another friend about instead of telling the person you love.  I like you as a friend, I want you and feel strong emotions, but i am not really closely connected with you so I'll go tell my best friend about us.

When Commitment and Intimacy meet without passion- you have companionate love.  This is your friend that you are not attracted to kind of love. End of story. We can talk, we will stick together, but I don't like you in that way. Can be associated with philia, storge, or pragma.

Now when all three (intimacy, passion, and commitment) are found in love, we call that consummate love. You can rely on them, you are loyal and commitment (not necessarily mono-amorous), you passionate desire each other, and emotionally close and connected you are in consummate. This is often associated with agape and pragma. 

Now this triangular experience is dynamic. meaning that you may go in and out of these expectations or experiences. One day you may feel a desire the next day it is fleeting. One day you may feel close, and the next day detached.  

It is important to understand this as your experience of any relationship may not quite reflect the experience of the other person. Know where you stand will help you determine what steps to take in order to get where you want to go. ;)

Simmer on that!!!

What is Love? #1

Love is a complicated idea/feeling/concept (case and point).  As a professional working with relationships,and more often than not, I come across client's and consumers that struggle with this idea of love or lack of love. The ultimate struggle is the same, trying to find/connect with something that isn't fully understood, recognizable, or defined.  If a person cannot describe love, how can a person find that love or recognize it when they feel it?

The what is love series is here to help you navigate and explore what your definition of love is and what love looks like to you.

To begin, we start are the most basic concepts and probably one of the more complex ways of exploring love: The 7 (8) Greek Loves. (see already complicating things- is it 7 or 8?)

1) Eros- named after the Greek god of love and fertility. The root word for erotic or erogenous. It is the love focused on beauty, procreation, loss of control to procreate, impulsive, and passionate. Because its focus is impulsive desire for beauty and procreation, it is often associated with uncontrollable passion and infatuation. The love for beauty.

2) Philia - The affectionate love- aka friendship love. It is the love between mutual equals. It may not be an attraction as it is more like a love that endures hard times as part of you- it is without physical attraction.

3) Storge- The familiar love. It is the love of caregiver to child or child to caregiver; the love of childhood friends growing into adulthood; the love of obligation. It is an attachment to what is familiar.

4) Ludus- Is the playful attraction and affection of love, Aka the honeymoon feelings of love. Where you hands barely touch each other in strong desire but  shy away in fear of rejection. It is the playful embarrassed glances that make you feel light on your feet.  

5) Mania- the powerful, uncontrollable obsessive love that is needed to validate oneself. Mania is the love necessary to find one's own value and where one fits in the world- except it is obsessive and almost always not mutually reciprocated.

6) Pragma (root of pragmatic) - Love that endures.Pragma is the love that is maintained, endured, and perseverant. Aka, the grow-old-with-you love. This is the love that is the result of growing with someone vs growing towards someone. It is a difficult one to find because we spend more time seeing passionate love and less time on enduring the struggles of love and pain.  This is the 12th round of a boxing match kind of love- we have lasted 12 rounds and now let the judges tell us our score love.

7) Agape- Selfless love. This is the unrequited selfless unconditional love. This is not to be confused with the obsessive mania where a "selfless" love is really an attempt to find value and meaning in someone else's life. This love is the love that is without condition and needs no attraction. This is the ultimate best friend-I-got-your-back and I-feel-you type love. This love is rare. 

8) Philuatia - the love of self. The is the healthy self acceptance. This love is least talked about because it is the hardest to accept. Acceptance and appreciation of self without over glorifying. It is finding one's peace.  

We shall lay these out now as they will build a foundation to future discussions of love. 


Building Upon Strengths Not Deficits

Let's do a quick exercise. Start a timer for 2 mins and then I want you to think about the last 7 days and list out as many things that you have failed, fell short of, not completed, or just are no good at (within the timeframe of the previous 7 days)

Now start a timer for 2 minutes and think about the last 7 days and list all the things you have achieved, accomplished, are good at, or did well (in the last 7 days).

Unless you have done a lot of soul searching, have a healthy sense of self acceptance, or are a narcissist, chances are your list of negative things was much easier to make than the list of positive things. 

 As a professional in the human service (not that kind of service) field I have come across a problem more often than not; the problem is that people can easily identify their shortcomings and deficits much quicker than their strengths and accomplishments. I must admit, I fall into this trap as well.

Society has trained us to live in our deficits and to always strive for more. It is a great goal to strive for more or to surpass your previous potential, but only if you can understand and accept your own strengths rather than trying to fill your deficits. If you are caught filling your deficits, you will ever be full as you will begin to realize that there is no possible way to be great at everything or to have absolutely everything. So instead, find your strength and build upon that.  

Probably the best analogy is building a stable framework and home upon a solid foundation rather than a perpetually growing hole. 

So let's do two things:

1) Make a list of the things you do well, have accomplished, or love to do. Thick about how is it that you accomplished it, how it is done well, or why you love to do it. Write it down. The goal is to understand what strengths you have that contribute to these positive outcomes. 

2) Go out and ask others that know you what your accomplishments are, what they are proud of you for, what characteristics they love about you, what draws them to you, or why they even like you.  Sometimes it is hard for us to see the good in ourselves, so it may be helpful to ask those that can look at us a little more objectively.  Unless of course you have no friends. In that case contact me and I will spend some tie getting to know you and will tell you myself. 

Or Take the strengths finder 2.0 and read the book- thats a great way to see your strongest affinities and characteristics.  The book also tells you what jobs you'd most likely feel comfortable in and excel in. In the link you can download the kindle version; there is also a loink in there for a free kindle app for you smart phone, tablet etc.  

Beneath the Oyster Shell

Beneath the Oyster Shell During my work counseling at-promise youth in struggling urban communities, I worked with team of therapists and youth to develop a 12 session group for young men and women who have experienced trauma. The group was called "Trauma Awareness Group" aka "TAG".

The group was simple- its purpose was to raise awareness of each members' response to their personal experiences of stress and trauma. During the group facilitation of the young men’s trauma awareness group, we (the co-facilitators) were able to witness an experience that still haunts us with hope to this day. We saw first hand what it looked like to see beyond the rough edges of a hurt human and witness the humane soul.

From the first to the last day of group, we were constantly amazed of how the young men in group have developed and grown from just 12 sessions. On the first day of setting guidelines, the group members already knew this group was different. The group set the tone through a genuine interest and openness to hear each other stories while sharing their own in a limited but freeing experience. The members, who were often considered the loud, obnoxious, and uncontrollable citizens of the school, were for once, quiet in their seats as each member anonymously wrote the different types of trauma they have experienced on a piece of paper. The group members were not forced to share their stories but were merely invited to share whether or not they have experienced trauma with a simple pen and piece of paper. The members were then joined in solidarity as other members simply raised their hands in silent solidarity to confirm whether or not they have experienced similar traumas.

On the second day, the group began to divulge in details stories that would trigger themselves and others in the group without being prompted to do so; they were often quickly interjected and all slowly became aware of how the process affected them and others. One member, a normally hyper-aroused individual, looked down at the floor in front of him, slowly raised his head and asked, “Do you know what burning flesh smells like?” And as if the whole group knew what to do, they all leaned into towards the center of the group, dropped their heads, and took deep slow breathes and shook their heads, not in disapproval, but in disbelief that anyone should have to remember what that experience must have been like.

For once, the member felt non-judged, accepted, and normal. A young man who grew too fast, for the first time felt the same age as his peers- all older than others their age- but finally equal to each other.

The sessions ran on for a total of twelve sessions- twice a week for six weeks. Throughout the process, trust was built through consistency and transparency, safety was established through predictability and integrity, ownership was realized through collaboration and empowerment, and normalization was mutually accepted. By the second to last group, the group was doing diaphragmatic breathing together without snickering, giggling, or joking. Young men, hardened by the everyday factors of impending doom, unending violence, and uncertain futures, were able to slow down time, relax, breathe, appreciate breathing, and ground themselves in an hour and a half of safety and sanity.

During last session of the 12-session group, the group members who have employed hyper-vigilance and distrust every day in order to survive, were asked to close their eyes… Yes I asked them to close their eyes.

With a look of dumbfounded disbelief, one youth asked, “You want us to do what Mr. A?”

Slowly I responded, “Have we ever done anything to lose your trust, hurt you, or lie to you? You already know when we ask you to do something, we only ask you for your benefit and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.”

The members looked at each other, shrugged, and they each look down and closed their eyes. Moments later, Mr. J guided them through diaphragmatic breathing and began playing a guided imagery application on his phone. For 10 minutes the young men, with their eyes closed to the world and their trust and safety in our hands, breathed deeply, soundly, and peacefully.

Slowly they each opened their eyes- some sighing loudly while others taking in deep loud breathes as if breathing for the first time. One youth excitedly asked while stretching his arms, “Where do I get that bitch (referring to the female voice of the application)? Man, when me and my girl get at it, I just wanna whip that app out and be like, ‘babe, come on and just chill with me a bit.’”

This experience for the group is a true example of personal and interpersonal growth beyond comfort. Although the members live in a community where death, stress, struggles for basic needs, and danger are ever present, their experience in group gave them a break from their "world" to discover a different way of being where awareness, trust, and safety manifested before their eyes into reality. They knew what it felt like to feel safe and revered as human.

The youth, like pearl oysters, use their own resources to harden a shell outside of their selves to protect the vulnerable interior from the harsh world. When a parasite enters the oyster, the oyster uses a substance called nacre (equivalent to its own blood) to coat the parasite to protect itself from a danger within its own shell. Like the pearl oyster, these youth have built a hardened, jagged, and sharp shell protecting itself from the outside world, often times displaying a repulsive and harsh exterior to protect the soft interior.

When a parasite such as distrust, stigma, shame, guilt, sense of danger, or fear is found eating away at the youth from within, the youth use their own resources, similar to nacre, to coat the pain and protect their selves from their own internal danger. What many experience is the hardened exterior, but within that layered of resilience, there lies the pearl of a human.

Often times we too harden ourselves from our everyday struggles and we forget the value we bring. We count our mistakes and shortcomings without hesitation and struggle to remember our contributions to the lives of others. What experiences have brought us here? What life happenings have caused us to build such sharp and repulsive responses to the world around us? What resources have we utilized to survive the struggles of life?

Answering these questions, are we better able to appraise of self worth and value? Will we be able to open our eyes to the value we have for each other?`

The TAG curriculum is public domain: You can download it and check it out here: TAG Curriculum 1.0 

Check out our short soundbite video on TAG  below:

May the Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Lately I have been getting requests for support and advice on how to get out of depression. It is not that simple. 

You ever feel sad? So sad you may forget to eat or you lose your appetite? Depression lies on a continuum of sadness. Sadness is normal, but when it starts to manifest itself as body ailments or starts to impact your functioning in your professional and social life, it becomes a disorder. A disorder simply just means out of order- things are not the way it should be. 

No need to fear, let's just explore the symptoms linked with depression that may contribute to dysfunction: 

Clinical depression is characterized by having 5 or more of these depressive symptoms (depressive feelings or lack of interest must be present during at least a two week period):

  • Depressed mood (sadness) most of the day, nearly every day, (at least 5 out of 7 days and over half the day- use a calendar and mark sad days by the hour to see if you qualify) as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feeling sad, blue, “ehh,” or empty) or affective (immediate mood) observation made by others (e.g., looks tearful or looks really sad). (In children and adolescents, this may present as easily annoyed, irritable or cranky, instead of sad mood.)
  • Significantly diminished interest or pleasure (anhedonia) in all, or almost all, activities every day, such as no interest in hobbies, sports, or other things the person used to enjoy doing.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5 percent of body weight in a month), or significant change in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia (inability to get to sleep or difficulty staying asleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much) nearly every day
  • Psychomotor agitation (e.g., restlessness, inability to sit still, pacing, pulling at clothes or clothes) or retardation (e.g., slowed speech, movements, quiet talking) nearly every day
  • Fatigue, lethargy, tiredness, or loss of energy nearly every day (e.g., even the smallest tasks, like dressing or washing, seem difficult to do and take longer than usual).
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day (e.g., ruminating over minor past failings).
  • Reduced ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (e.g. appears easily distracted, complains of memory difficulties).
  • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideas without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide

Many of us may experience any number of these symptoms or signs individually or some at the same time.  It is important to note that the timeline and duration of symptoms being present at the same time is what determines the clinical diagnosis.  Also remember, it is a diagnosis, not a destiny. 

Here is a link to a little checklist you can check to keep a tab of you symptoms (this checklist does not diagnose you, it just helps you stay aware to what you may be experiencing); if you feel you may be depressed, please contact a local professional or call you physician for resources.

*Adapted from (https://psychcentral.com/disorders/depression/depression-symptoms-major-depressive-disorder/)

Now here is an interesting twist. Read this article on how depression can be viewed as an evolutionary response to the disorder of life. 

Also, if you are into self help- one of the big fathers of a more cognitive (mind/thought) and emotional approach to addressing depression is David Burns. He wrote a book that may be interesting to read called "Feeling Good";and if you want to do some work on your own the "Feeling Good" Handbook (workbook).

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
By David D. Burns
The Feeling Good Handbook
By David D. Burns