Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Romantic Love CAN Endure

“True love almost always fades, but money stays green forever.” That’s a quote from the 1957 Cary Grant movie, Kiss Them For Me. Yes, it’s a cynical sentiment, but it’s also a belief quite prevalent in our world. So many clients say to me that they don’t know if they will ever find lasting love because they don’t know if such a thing even exists.

For those who want to believe in the “happily ever after” story in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s some good news. A series of studies have found that romantic love does not necessarily wither like sun-parched crabgrass and convert to boredom over time. In fact, science actually has found a way to measure the love response in the brain to prove this point. A new study out of Stony Brook University in New York hooked up subjects who had been in a relationship for varying lengths of time to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners while the subjects looked at photos of friends, strangers, and the one they loved. The results showed that when they saw the photo of their partner, the newly infatuated couples and those still in love after 20-plus years had similar brain responses.

“We found many very clear similarities between those who were in love long-term and those who had just fallen madly in love,” said study director Dr. Arthur Aron. Whether the subject was newly in love or still in love after many years, the reward and motivation centers of the brain were stimulated as well as the area of the brain associated with addiction to substances like cocaine upon seeing the photo.

Other studies provide solid evidence that long-term love really does exist. According to research led by Bianca Acevedo and published in the Review of General Psychology last year, at least 13 percent of couples still experienced strong feelings of romantic love after being with their partner for more than 10 years. This research reviewed 25 previous studies on relationships lasting anywhere from a few months to many years, and found the main difference between new relationships and happy long-term relationships was that the obsessive component tended to diminish over time, but the intensity, engagement and sexual chemistry remained strong.

All research indicates that it isn’t mere luck that creates the magic of lasting love—it’s hard work. Those who stay in love, says Bianca Acevedo, “… are often very relationship focused. Their relationship is something that is very central to their lives, something they spend time on, work on, really care about.”

But the real key to romantic endurance was perhaps best expressed by William Shakespeare, without the help of scientific studies endorsed by universities: “Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds… Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come: Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom."

Blessings and Happy Valentine's Day in Advance,
Hiyaguha, The Life-Change Coach

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How to Stop Judging Others

Last night at dinner, several of my friends started discussing the book, The Education of Little Tree. If you haven’t read it, the story tells about an innocent young Cherokee boy growing up with loving grandparents in a world unsympathetic to Native Americans. It’s a magnificent, lyrical, wise and sensitive story, perhaps one of the most beautiful books ever written, but ironically, the author, a man named Forrest Carter, was a white supremist who founded a paramilitary chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and wrote speeches for the racist governor of Alabama, George Wallace. He authored the famous, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” ditty. He also shot two people in a dispute over money, ran for governor on a white supremist ticket, and lied about his identity, even when being interviewed on the Barbara Walters show.

Certainly it’s happened before in history that scoundrels have produced transcendent art, that nasty people have contributed great things to the world. In the case of Forrest Carter, the contradictions between his exquisite art and his malevolent life seem almost unfathomable. But is it really that unusual for we humans to house such extremes within ourselves—to be so amazingly sensitive and wise on the one hand, and so profoundly wicked on the other?

That’s the question that another friend at the table raised. He’s a psychiatrist who is one of the nicest people on the planet, but he said that when stuck in traffic, he feels a genuine urge to murder someone—anyone, in fact. He suggested that we all embrace the same dichotomy—the divine angel within, and the evil devil, too. His profound honesty jolted me into self-inventory, and I had to admit that I have met the monster within myself.

Okay, so we all know we have a dark side, and that the secret to being good is to choose the light within instead of the gremlin. There’s plenty of spiritual guidance out there telling us how to handle all that insecurity, anger, fear, sadness, and so on and flush it down the cosmic toilet. The idea is that by living right and cultivating light, we can, in fact, completely transcend our ugly side.

But there’s a danger inherent in the quest to embrace our higher nature, and sometimes the self-actualization tomes forget to mention this. It is so easy to judge human darkness in others, and so easy to forget about it in ourselves. This is so obvious that it’s almost embarrassing—but it’s essential to remember. There is a treacherous place we all can step into in trying to “be spiritual”—a place where we not only judge others for manifesting what we have simply stopped paying attention to in ourselves, but where we delude ourselves into thinking we are entirely different from them. And while we might have overcome certain tendencies in ourselves, while we might embrace more light than the typical criminal, for instance—the second we think, “Oh, how could anybody do what he did?” we step into the land of denial. By mentally separating ourselves from those who act badly, we create more delusion, more ignorance, less compassion, less honesty within, less integrity and humility, and ultimately, more darkness.

The next time you find yourself amazed at somebody’s ignorance or violence, immediately turn your attention to self-reflection. Ask yourself when you had your last ignorant or violent thought. Offer gratitude that you have found a way to move past such thoughts instead of acting upon them. Offer love to yourself for being such an amazing complex of various energies, for the beauty of the light and the dark all mixed together within you—for being a human. And then recognize that the “bad” person is a fellow traveler, not that different from you, and mentally offer compassion that the burden he or she currently carries is so dark and heavy.

Blessings,Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Waiting for News? Eight Ways to Cope

Lately, I’ve found myself in the position of waiting for news on many fronts. Waiting for medical news, waiting for financial news, waiting for job news. I don’t even like to wait in line at the supermarket—I get terribly restless--so waiting for important and potentially disturbing news isn’t something that I do easily. But of course, that’s life. Eventually you’ll take a medical test and need to wait for the results, or you’ll take an important certification test or a final exam that won’t be graded for a week, or apply for a job or a mortgage or a loan or you’ll ask someone to marry you and they’ll want time to think it over—all waiting scenarios.

To wait calmly and gracefully challenges everything that's human within us. How can you cope with that in-between time, when you don’t know what you’re dying to know—yet? Here are some tips to reduce stress:

Stay off the internet. Put that machine away. Doing research on the possible deadly illnesses you might have while waiting for the medical tests to come back won’t sway the results, and may work you up into such a frenzy that you’ll make yourself sick, even if your test results come back just fine. Researching foreclosures while waiting for the bank to review your refinance application won’t help, either, nor will going on Match.com while waiting to hear back from the person you just proposed to.

Do NOT try to ignore the feelings you’re experiencing. Do NOT belittle yourself for feeling anxious. Your feelings are natural and universal and human and even instinctive. They are your system’s way of signaling you that it might be wise to prepare for a change.

Create a safe space. Dedicate a particular spot in your home as your personal haven. Put objects that you love and that make you feel safe there, and then allow yourself the luxury of spending as much time as you need there.
Stay off of caffeine. You probably have more than enough stress pumping through your system without speeding it up even more.

Don’t try to numb yourself with narcotics. Drinking alcohol or doing drugs or overeating will make you feel lousy in the end.If you need a substance to help you relax, try valerian or melatonin, neither of which will undermine your health or linger in your system. Exercise can also help enormously with stress.

Care for yourself like you’re a baby. You really need nurturing to help with the anxiety. Eat healthy comfort foods, get extra rest, take long baths.

Allow yourself the indulgence of having comfort objects around you. Now may be the time to wear that special outfit, to sit on the couch with that fluffy blanket pulled up around your body, to watch your favorite movie again.

TALK to people. Don’t isolate. Let others know what you’re going through. Ask for support.

Practice whatever stress-reduction techniques or strategies for reducing anxiety that work for you, whether meditation, prayer, EFT, TAT, hypnosis, listening to music, calling your coach, and so on.
What suggestions do you have for ways to reduce stress and anxiety and make it through the waiting time?

Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen offers life coaching by Skype or phone and in-person Hawaii counseling.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Introverts are Biologically Different

John Paul Sartre once said, “Hell is other people at breakfast.” Thank goodness I’ve never felt anything that misanthropic, but I will admit that sometimes when I’m at a party, after an hour of enjoyment, I find myself thinking that I’ve had enough, and that I want to just go read or watch a video. This becomes particularly problematic when the event is at my own house and I’m ready for everybody to go home. I’ve scolded myself internally about these inhospitable thoughts, but the other day I came across some research that changed my perspective.

I’m an introvert, according to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. This doesn’t mean that I always want to be alone, but rather, that I need periods of solitude in order to recharge my batteries. Extroverts, in contrast, recharge by being with others.(If you don't know if you're an introvert or an extrovert, try taking this assessment (the results should be similar to the Myers Briggs).

Most people (70 percent of the population) are extroverts. We live in a society that values and rewards extroversion. Extroverts tend to have better health, more friends, they sleep better and have higher self-esteem than introverts. Because of these things, we commonly assume that introverts are less psychologically healthy and that they “got that way” because of some flaw in their upbringing.

But studies show that introverts, in fact, have very different brain chemistry than extroverts. First, introverts have far more electrical activity in the brain than do extroverts, even when resting. Scientists think that extroverts might seek out the company of others just to get their “brain juices” flowing, while introverts need to limit input to avoid getting overwhelmed. “The levels of stimulation extroverts find rewarding can be overwhelming or annoying for introverts," according to psychologist Colin DeYoung, of the University of Minnesota.

Extroverts have larger brain structures in the area responsible for releasing dopamine, which is the “feel-good” hormone. Experts think that extroverts may try to draw attention to themselves because they want the dopamine reward that comes when they receive praise and contact. For introverts, the reward isn’t quite as dramatic or compelling, and so they make different choices. The brain activity in introverts actually is centered in a different part of the brain—the frontal lobes and front thalamus—than brain activity in extroverts, which tends to center around the temporal lobes and rear thalamus.

Introverts do have some advantages. First, they tend to do better in school. They have fewer divorces and fewer job changes. In fact, as intelligence goes up across the population, so does the percentage of introverts. More than 75 percent of those with IQs above 160 are introverted.

The bottom line is that given the differences in brain structure and orientation, introverts and extroverts have different needs. Because our culture is so favorable to extroverts, introverts need to take their own need for quiet time and solitude seriously and buck the pressure to always be “on” and “available.” If you’re an introvert, you really do need that alone time, you really do need to cut yourself off from stimulation periodically, you do need time to think. This applies not only at home, but at work as well, during your work day You aren’t wired the same way that all your extrovert friends and colleagues are. Also, if you’re an extrovert reading this, you need to understand that your introverted loved ones aren’t shunning you when they shut down—they’re simply refueling.

Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen offers life-coaching by Skype, phone, and in person in Hawaii. Contact her at Hiyaguha@thelifechangecoach.com.