The Art and Science of Love
Despite relationship being so natural, it tends to be an area of human experience that is equally challenging, puzzling, and painful as it is rewarding, transformative, and blissful. Why?
Answers can be found in contemporary neuroscience, close observation, and deep introspection.
We are biologically wired for relationship.
All too often, couples get stuck in cycles of fighting, withdrawal, and shutdown (“fight, flight & freeze”), without understanding the primitive biological and personally historic underpinnings that color the experience. When couples are caught in these dysregulating cycles, the loving connection once enjoyed in the relationship begins to wither. When this repeats in an ongoing way, our lover begins to seem more like an enemy than someone with whom we have been deeply in love. Add to this the stresses of careers, child rearing, and an over-scheduled life, and we inadvertently end up battling, in power struggles, or fleeing towards safety rather than utilizing the relationship’s full potential for intimacy, nourishment and connection.
As very sophisticated mammals, we are wired neurologically with an ability to recognize patterns, and to generalize from past experiences to anticipate future events. This system of automatic appraisal, preparation, and response has been invaluable for helping humans to avoid the ancient threats of predation. Although most of us no longer live in a world where we need to worry about being eaten by other animals, this system of threat detection and response continues to be part of our brain architecture. A drawback to this hard-wired system of protection, is when our automatic appraisals of impending threats are inaccurate, or when our behavioral response is ineffective for the current situation. This automatic sequence often becomes reinforced through the consequences that follow an ineffective response, thereby confirming the original bias that evaluated the situation as threatening.
These fast states are also lacking in maturity, as what we fear in relationship is often based on personally relevant, yet archaic experiences from decades ago with other people. If partners aren’t skilled at showing each other reality in a manner that helps update old assumptions about love and relationship, then misperceptions and misunderstandings will be the norm. For couples to move forward out of these unsatisfying patterns, they must co-create new kinds of experiences together.
My work with couples involves an experiential study of the habitual patterns that lead you away from connection and trigger the primitive strategies of self protection. I will help you to understand why you trigger each other in the ways that you do, and how you can help each other to relax these reactive states into true intimacy. In this way, you help each other to grow beyond vestigial ways of perceiving, feeling and relating, so that each of you can be more of yourself with the other. When this happens, you will thrive as a couple, and as an individual.
I also specialize in a method of couple therapy called PACT, and was one of nine therapists in the United States to be selected by Stan Tatkin to be Core Faculty for the PACT Institute. Learn more: Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy.
Read my blog entry about PACT.