Go ahead, release some of the happy chemicals by watching our nation celebrate love.
It IS a fictional Pixar character…but they are showing us a picture of a healthy psyche. The characters in the movie are the family and the emotions inside their minds. Riley (11 y/o) is the heroine and the one who must balance and mediate her emotions. Notice she is not fighting fear or vanquishing anger.
In the clip there is mostly just the emotion feeling then pushing a button for the human character to act. But even seeing the visual panel of emotions implies that we have the ability to mediate our emotions before acting. Some of us suppress our emotions with reason by habit. I think this is very engrained in our collective cultural minds; this old disney movie from 1940 really shows this.
According to the June 2015 Atlantic article by Denis Smith, the director was aware of updating this emotional model. Do you see parts of yourself, your anger for example in either of these clips? What about desire? How about your partner?
1) Learn to communicate – talk, talk, talk!
2) Get to know your partner well before marrying
3) Treat marriage as an unbreakable lifelong commitment – stay when it’s bad because you can come out with a fulfilling intact marriage
4) Learn to work as a team – treat problems as community property
5) Choose a partner that is similar to you – especially core values like parenting, money and religion
This comes from Cornell gerontologist Karl Pillemer and is the largest in depth study done about long term unions. This random national survey of spanned almost 400 Americans age 65 or older with relationships lasting 30-76 years, ok people, that’s 40,000 hours of experience.
I will never forget the delight on my husband’s face when our couples therapist said: “There is a beginning, middle and end in couples therapy.” And secretly, yes even as a therapist, I also felt relieved. It’s nice to know that a process has tangible timing. Although Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is considered a short term therapy, the timing for each couple is different. I can usually make a ballpark prediction (supposing couples have been completely candid with me) after a few sessions. The standard amount of sessions is twenty; but if there are complicating factors counseling can take longer. The follow factors either in the past or present generally indicate that therapy will take longer:
- inter-partner violence
Nevertheless, there is still a beginning middle and end. Yes – really!
Try mindfulness. Dr Ahmed Mohammed describes it as a free, non-invasive yet proven way to decrease anxiety and depression. Ok, so obviously he’s a fan of his research! A video following him around the research lab:
Mindfulness…the act of paying attention to our present moment without judging thoughts. Mindfulness…a technique that rests the mind through the act of attending. It doesn’t matter what we attend to (breath, body sensation, thoughts, emotion, prayer) but that we attend. Attending (Tara Bracht) as if you are listening to music – not trying to get to the end – but hearing from one moment to the next. Or attending as if you life depended on it (John Kabat-Zinn).
Couples can practice mindfulness through regular bodywork or taking a meditation or yoga class together. Here is something you can do when you see your partner next time, imagine you are seeing him/her for the first time. Lean in and listen with all you senses, attend to breathing, facial expressions, smell, tone of voice, touch, the emotions or thoughts beneath the surface, the words they say. If thoughts about what you want or want to avoid or control come up – let them pass – go back to attending.
One great resource we have in San Francisco is the UCSF Osher center. http://www.osher.ucsf.edu/classes-and-lectures/meditation-and-mindfulness/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction/
This emotional clip – ah…thank you reality TV – shows a young woman and her parents struggling with anxiety and depression. The judge asks her how she overcame her condition to audition, to which she replies, therapy and her parents. The attachment between them is beautifully shown in back and forth clips. Clinically, that connection between them may indeed have been a big factor in her triumph on stage. Notice the emotion of the mother as talks about and listens to her daughter perform – her empathy – the tangible connection. The research about close relationships decreasing anxiety and depression is in evidence here.
The attachment between parent and child is also key between you and your partner. Don’t you feel better when someone is there for you like that? Take a few moments with your partner and acknowledge times when your connection has been strong. Do you talk about this regularly? It strengthens the relationship to do so.
Together is almost always better than not, no matter the age or circumstance. Our bonds make us stronger. Here is a couples meditation I do with clients. Try this with your partner when you are starting to get disconnected or when you want to remember closeness. Sometimes this can be the first step in de-escalating an argument.
Many therapists are women. So men coming into couples therapy can often wonder if they will be ganged up on. A strong foundation of my work is that in a couple the fault and the solution are equally shared. This graphic is from the Couples Zone website at www.coupleszone.org. I just loved that it summed this up without words.
I do not know who originally wrote this, but I like that it paints the ups and downs of relationship – and that it’s NORMAL – maybe even fabulous. Imagine if we learned this version versus the Harlequin romance one!
“Dear Human: You’ve got it all wrong. You didn’t come here to master unconditional love. That is where you came from and where you’ll return. You came here to learn personal love. Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of… messing up. Often. You didn’t come here to be perfect. You already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And then to rise again into remembering.”
This tune may get stuck in your head, so keep that in mind before you watch this one!
It might seem crazy, but a common way some people try and pull their partner close is by expressing anger. It usually works in the opposite way (unfortunately), but often underneath the anger is a strong plea for connection and love. The anger is a mask of protest about not getting that love.