Tag Archives: love & attachment

Blog 45: Pleasure Part 3-Exercise:Tell me what you love!

So here is a great  exercise I learned at a Tara Brach conference. Tara Brach She is truly an amazing teacher and human being. This exercise is a great way to feel Enjoyment and Pleasure. It is also a great exercise to deepen loving bonds with partners, children, friends, family, etc. And, of course that will also increase your Pleasure.


Try this experiential exercise 1-on-1 with someone you love or desire to grow closer to, a partner, child, or friend.

1-Sit facing each other at a comfortable distance and set a timer on your phone for 2 minutes.

2-Decide which person is going to begin as (A), the Questioner and who is going to be (B), the Answerer.

3- (A) makes comfortable eye contact with (B) and using their name, asks this question. “      ______please tell me what you love?”

4-(B) provides a one word, or a one sentence answer of something they love or really enjoy. I.e. “Nature”, or “Being with you”, etc.

5-(A) registers that they heard this answer with a nod or a thank you, and then pauses for a few seconds and then asks the same question again…___ please tell me what you love?

6- (A) asks the same question, and (B) answers over and over for entire 2 minutes.

7- PAUSE and both A & B check inward with bodies and hearts and notice how the process has shifted any feelings, emotions and sensations so far.

8-Then you switch roles, set the timer for 2 more minutes and (B) begins asking (A) the same question. “_______ please tell me what you love?”

9- Again, PAUSE at the end and notice the pleasure, feelings and emotions this connection has generated in both of you.

10-There is no cross talk or commenting on the other person’s answers, you are just witnessing each other sharing what they love and increasing your emotional resonance.  Which is very Pleasurable.

Please give this and try and let me know how it goes. Couples who do this on a regular basis have a deepened connection and build up their Couple resiliency. This resiliency which helps balance out the effects of the normal relational conflict we all experience. And, kids love this one.

One of the most deeply bonded couples I know!


  1. What was that exercise like for you? Was there any discomfort in the process? Sometimes intimacy is difficult even though it is what most of us long for in a relationship.
  2. Which role did you enjoy most? What was the difference inside your body and heart when you were the questioner? When you were the answerer?

Blog 44: Love & Anxiety, Pleasure matters- Part 2.


Hello all, and happy July! I received a few comments after the previous Pleasure blog expressing a desire for more content about how to get more Enjoyment from healthy Pleasure. So as requested, part 2!

My first suggestion comes personal experience. Learn how to SLLOOWWW DOWN! We race through our lives, cramming in experiences, relationships, long to-do lists, and job/career pressures. We are so busy, (I was so busy) it is hard to have any space to deeply feel anything, much less Pleasure.The pace by which we live our lives impacts our ability to feel our lives. The slower we move through life, the more time and space we have to FEEL our lives. Of course, this stance is challenging when it comes to unpleasant sensations. One reason many of us compulsively ‘water ski across the surface of our lives’. But the benefits of slowing become more evident when it comes to increasing enjoyment of our healthy Pleasure. Being Present is so much harder when we are racing about.

The best way to get more enjoyment out of Pleasure is to be “Fully Present” and solely in that period of time the Pleasure is occurring. In this way, allowing the Pleasure to deeply register in mind and body. This is important because what we FOCUS upon we potentiate, increasing its power. Rick Hanson’s research Rick Hanson suggests that we must focus upon, keep in our awareness, a positive experience for at least 30 seconds. This enables the brain to register the positive experience as stimuli that matters. Our brains are biased toward negative stimuli so it takes extra effort to register positive stimuli. In the past, by barely noticing when something pleasant occurred, I have skimmed over (missed) the Pleasure within that experience in my hurry to move onto what came next. And, consequently I missed enjoying that Pleasure.

Many of you have heard about  Mindfulness. But for those that are less familiar with the concept, here is a simple definition of mindfulness, or being “Fully Present”. Being Present occurs when you are aware and conscious of what is occurring, and keeping mind & body fully in the experience. This sounds easy but it is not. Many of us have an experience but do not register the impact or notice what is occurring within our own body. This can occur due to living in our head/thoughts, or in a different time zone. We think about the contents of our to-do lists, or worry about tomorrow, or obsess about an earlier situation, i.e. the past. Another words, we are not actually living in the Present, but in the past, or the future, or in caught in worry or compulsive mental loops.

Healthy Pleasure restores safety physiology, as I have previously stated. But did you know that experiencing the physiological impact of Pleasure (the Enjoyment) also improves heart health, deepens bonds in relationships, and balances out the pain and stress that can very easily overwhelm our everyday lives?  An additional benefit of Pleasure is that it increases gratitude, which has its own health benefits. When I feel the Pleasure of a loving encounter with friends, or the rush that comes while surfing (every day surfing is a good day even if I never catch a wave), not only does my heart rate slow and harmonize, my physiology settles and my sense of well-being and feelings of gratitude soar.

Our usual behavior creates our sense of Normal!” A very simple statement but a profound truth! What you and I do on an everyday basis, our habits, attitudes, and behaviors, create a way of life that feels normal to us. Though it may be far from normal when compared to that of  the general population. For example, when I was an inveterate workaholic, putting in 12-14 hour days and working while on vacation, to me this seemed perfectly rational and normal behavior. However, now, after years of personal work in therapy, spiritual direction, and Somatic Experiencing, I am shocked at how out of balance I was and saddened by all the life and Pleasure I missed while enslaved by my old “Normal behavior”. Life feels so much better now! I am far from achieving expert status, but I continually focus on attaining a healthy work/life balance and have made Pleasure and Enjoyment primary values and this has made all the difference.

I will close by suggesting we use the truism, “ your usual becomes your normal” for our benefit!  Experiment by changing your usual behavior gradually but consistently to include more healthy Pleasure, Mindful awareness, and Presence, in order to enjoy life’s Pleasurable experiences. Make a new habit of adding more self-care and Pleasure into your life, and/or more deeply noticing and enjoying your Pleasure until that becomes your new normal.

In the next Blog I will share a simple but profound exercise I learned at a Tara Brach conference. It is easy, enjoyable and Pleasure focused.  As always, I invite you to write in and let me know how the experiments go.


  1. What does the term ‘Being Present’ mean to you? Does it have a positive or negative connotation? Where do you spend most of your time, in your body/being or in your head/thoughts?
  2. What keeps you from living fully Present to your life and relationships? Do you need to let go of some past pain, or surrender a future concern in order to really feel the overall goodness of your life?

Blog 42: Anger & Anxiety # 3-Healthy Anger finally!

Fight or flight- African Style

Today is the final blog about Anger & Anxiety, at least for now. One final way Anger and Anxiety are linked is that the strong fear of someone being Angry with us, scares the pee out of many of us humans. Unfortunately Anger can be, and often is, used unhealthily to control and manipulate others due to how uncomfortable most humans feel when someone is angry with them. Fear of loved one’s Anger causes great anxiety and often a loss of our sense of self. This is evidenced by how many people placate their angry family member(s), rather than firmly standing their ground and asking for what they really want. Some of my clients are living with an often explosive and angry family member. These clients live in chronic anxiety anticipating the upcoming explosion. The fact that anger’s eruption is somewhat unpredictable just makes the anxiety worse. Many humans would rather temporarily placate, and let go of what we desire, to avoid experiencing the blast of rage that may occur if we stand up for those desires.

I have lived with the fear of Anger a good portion of my life. In the past I lived with an angry family member (who was terribly treated and had a good reason for the anger, but not much control over it.) I have also feared friends and coworkers being angry with me. AND, what has caused even greater problems, I have feared and been blind to my own Anger. It has taken lots of work, with wise and professional support, for me to make peace with Anger and to stop fearing it. I have had to accept my own Anger, and the fact that at times, I can be an angry person. (Which wreaks havoc with my own image of my goodness). Breaking up with the need to be terminally nice, was a related issue, but one I will save for different blog. However, the journey has been well worth the struggle and living on the side of healthy Anger and the acceptance of this strong emotion has brought me great joy and much healthier relationships.

What I have found is that living in fear, and especially, ignorance of our own Anger is a harmful place to be. Unresolved and unaddressed anger leaks out and causes great harm and often, we can get caught in ruts of bitterness and resentment. Both of which cause irreparable harm to our bodies and relationships. I recently have been re-reading old journals and I came across a passage I wrote a while ago when I was really wrestling with my own unhealthy expressions of Anger. Though it is old material, I will include a small portion as it will illustrate my point about the need for healthy Anger better than just giving factual content.

Journal Entry: “Wow, what a journey this has been. Please continue to let the words and concepts of honesty and healing settle deeply into my soul, transcending and traversing any areas of blockage, confusion, or stuck buried resentment or bitterness. I want none of these now, they are not helpful to me, nor are they worthy of me.  For resentment and bitterness are at the core postures of helplessness and victimhood. They are knee-jerk responses that can come after experiencing being harmed, hurt or betrayed, but when I am not willing to deal with or confront the damaging influence. So the energy of angry pain, instead of being worked out through appropriate conflict coming from confrontation and the energetic attempts to make events feel fair and right to both of our body’s and beings, leaks out into stagnant pools of resentment and bitterness. This stuck energy swirls round and round but goes nowhere. These emotions are often a trap of self-pity, and fear of the energetic needs of real human relationships, which are messy & beautiful, harmonious & fractured, joyful & sad. There are seasons in every deep relationships. But resentment and bitterness keep the relationships stuck in dank cold water. The usual  warmth of connection, companionship & sexuality significantly decreased or absent all together.”  END OF ENTRY

Why talk about Anger anyway? Anger is a universal human emotion that often gets a bad rap, mostly because when humans are angry it is very hard to rationally make choices that improve the situation that is causing Anger in the first place. When we are very angry, our net-cortex is mostly off-line. Many times Angry energy causes people to act badly and use Anger for power and control, dominance, etc. No one likes to be scared so we give angry people a wide berth. But Anger is an important aspect of our humanity and an emotion we really need to pay attention to and learn how to properly express if we want to live a healthy and happy existence.

Anger is a good and important emotion. Humans need to be able to experience and express Anger in order to lead healthy lives. Anger is that strong message from our bodies that we feel threatened, that we have been, or are about to be, harmed or hurt. A healthy relationship to our own Anger allows us to perceive the “threat” early on. That allows the anger “energy” to help us say “NO”, or to set a boundary, or worst case, fight back to protect our lives. Allowing yourself to connect to your Anger in a potentially dangerous situation can save your life.

This actually happened to a friend of mine. In her early 20’s she was in a dangerous area late at night and 2 men tried to kidnap her. The driver stayed in the car while the other man tried to drag her into the back seat. Her Anger became her best ally. She felt a surge of adrenaline and rage, and she fought back with such powerful angry energy that she beat her assailant up and yanked out hunks of his hair. The other man drove off in terror, he was so frightened by her rage. (Imagine of the Amazon warrior woman archetype here.) So her ability to access her Anger was her best friend that night.

So in closing, don’t be afraid of your own Anger. It is an important emotion and one that allows us to be fully human. Even the Bible (written over  2000 years ago) has a saying, “Be angry but do not sin.” Practice allowing healthy Anger expression when needed vs. letting it leak out in other ways. Or keeping it inside and poisoning our own bodies.  As always, I am eager to here how it goes. Please write and share about your own journey with Anger!

Going Deeper

1.) Can you describe a time when you felt and expressed your own anger in a healthy and appropriate manner? How did it go? Who are the people who are more open to allowing your healthy expression of any emotion? If you have no one who can do this or very few, adding some new emotionally healthy friendships may be a great idea.

2.) How is your boundary system? In your daily life, how does anger and boundaries interact, if they do at all? Are you able to say NO, and hold your position even if the other person gets angry with you?

Love & Anxiety #7: Early Lessons Set Comfort with Love.

Love and relationships can be so scary and confusing, especially for those of us who were raised in an environment with any abuse/danger, neglect, or lots of anxiety. Here lies the primary premise of attachment theory: Your early environment sets your attachment style for your future! Thank goodness, that is barring any treatment. There are four types or styles of Attachment. The type we want is Secure Attachment, and three are Insecure Attachments. For more information go to Dianepooleheller.com.

Luckily, thanks to brain plasticity (Google it, it’s a fascinating topic, or reply to me with questions,) we can change our attachment style from any of the insecure styles to Secure attachment, at any age in life. The key is a safe, loving environment and safe, loving people to whom you can attach. Ultimately, learning new lessons about ourselves, about love, and safe relationships.

To explain this to clients I use my concept of a 3-tiered process, tiers that build upon each other and explain how we have been shaped by our early environment and parental attachment styles. It also explains the way we live our lives. In the long run, using this process as adults, we work to change our lives to replace feelings of anxiety with feelings of love. For visual learners, the three tiers and definitions are listed below:

LESSONS: The bottom tier is the foundation. The events we experience in our infancy and throughout our youth, teach us implicit and unspoken lessons or rules regarding the way life works. I.e., ‘If I have an angry and disappointed parent(s), the lesson I learn is, ‘I must be a disappointment and a failure’.

LENSES: This, hopefully, unspoken rule/lesson, becomes a part of my identity and it forms a lens through which I view myself in relation to the outside world. Using the above example, no matter what the situation, I will view myself as a disappointing failure. (Don’t be fooled, we all wear some form of lens, many exist below our conscious awareness. This is why therapy is not usually a speedy process.)

LIFESTYLE: Finally, the top tier is my chosen lifestyle. The lenses I wear, color and shape my view of life and sets my lifestyle-the way I act and live in the world. So, I won’t try new things or I will have tremendous anxiety and an expectation that I will disappoint or fail, even if I do try.

Unfortunately, those early lessons and lenses impact us more deeply than we would like, especially if they were painful. Many of us go to therapy or set goals to change our lifestyles. Sometimes, we try using will power alone, and, often these attempts fail and the old messages are once again reinforced.

Using the tier system as our guide, the key to significant life change, and to changing our attachment style to secure attachment, is to LEARN NEW LESSONS in your current everyday life. Once you learn some new, positive lessons, you will change your lenses through which you view yourself. Finally, changing these two tiers will automatically change your lifestyle. This will be easier than you think because you now have your adult brain and all your life experience and context to help you extract the right lesson from each situation. The need to learn new lessons is one reason why we are always told we need to face our fears or our stuck experiences, in order to move past them. You must have different (positive) experiences to learn the new lessons. Tune in to my next blog where I use the topic of spirituality to talk about learning new lessons.

Going deeper:

What is one or two of the main lessons you learned as a child with regard to relationships? Is this a message you want to keep living by, or is it one that you desire to change?

Identify one lens through which you view the world that differs from the lenses of your spouse or best friend. Journal about that difference and how each of your lenses changes the way both of you interact with the world

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-week anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.

Love & Anxiety #5: Trusting vs. Tightening

Last week we spoke about worrying and how that brings up anxiety. Today I will talk about how when we enter a new situation, a new relationship, or experience a loss, a trauma, accident, or unpleasant situation; experiencing some anxiety is a normal response. Anxiety is physiologically hard-wired into our nervous systems. When we feel unsafe, it can flood our body like water from a burst dam. Deciding to trust that we will be safe and things will work out, in a new or scary situation is one means of calming down the anxiety response. This decision is part mental, but a big part of the decision is made in our physical body, in our muscle-skeletal system.

When we experience anxiety, all our muscles are tense and braced in anticipation of a threat or danger. This is a natural response and helpful, if there is something we need to fight, or flee from to get to safety. After we attain safety, our muscles should return to a loose, relaxed state. Sometimes this doesn’t happen. Some of us have lived for years with braced muscles, myself included. This causes physical problems, health issues, and lots of pain. Additionally, braced and tight muscles unfortunately keep sending the signal to the primitive brain (avoid mode) that we are still in danger. This vicious cycle, physiological anxiety, causes our minds to race to find the new trouble.

When we perform any of the tools mentioned in the previous blog, mindfulness, guided imagery, meditation, yoga, prayer, relaxation, breathing exercises, etc., we relax our muscles into a posture of safety and trust. We trust that all things will work out, or we will have enough strength to move forward. Relaxing our muscles shuts off the danger signal their tension had been sending to the brain. A tight muscle-skeletal system is not the only source of this signal, but it is one of the significant ones. Tightening against our lives and the events we experience, only increases our anxiety and stress levels. Resting into our lives and trusting in goodness, allows our body to re-ground. We go back down into our trunk & roots, (see previous blog) and the relaxation response reasserts itself. We rest in the goodness of the present moment where we are safe, and lack nothing. We can trust in God, our own body, the goodness of life, the love of our friends. There are many things in which we can trust. Your muscles at least will thank you, and so will your long-term health.

Going deeper:

1. What is your response to this blog? Is trusting an easy task for you, or do you live in tension and anxiety much of the time?

2. What do you currently trust in?

3. If you live in tension, which of the following tools would you be willing to begin to consistently utilize to bring relaxation to your body? I.e. Yoga, massage, acupuncture, stretching, relaxation exercises, breath work, etc.

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-wk anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.

Love & Anxiety in a wrestling match for supremacy

Love & Anxiety – Part 2

As discussed last week, love can cause anxiety or calm anxiety, so how do we get love to consistently perform the latter miracle, rather than experiencing the former fright? To do this it helps to understand a bit about the nature of the 3 main systems of the amazing human brain. I will list them for my fellow visual learners.

1. Primitive/Reptilian-brain stem; this is responsible for avoiding any hazards or danger. It is also where the automatic processes originate including the famous fight or flight responses.

2. Mammalian/Limbic system, this is responsible for approaching rewards/goals, including relationships, career moves, long-term goals and love.

3. Cerebral Cortex; allows us to affiliate and attach to other human beings.

These 3 work nicely together, but in very different modes depending on whether we feel safe or feel threatened by any kind of danger. When we feel safe and loved, we don’t need to avoid situations, and we approach rewards and affiliate and attach (love) to others. But when we feel threatened, and especially when anxiety has a death grip on our mind & body, the Reptilian-Avoid system comes online with a vengeance and broadcasts danger messages. The danger signaling, in turn negatively impacts the Approach and Attaching systems. We are more hesitant to approach rewards or attach to others. Danger is a compelling message to our bodies; it turns on our stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), and acts like a siren on a rescue vehicle. Until the danger is resolved, the signal stays on and we stay primarily in Avoid mode. The drawback, one of many, to being in fairly constant anxiety, is the danger signaling often is very hard to turn off, even when everything in your daily life appears to be fine.

So, to allow love to triumph over our anxiety, we must deliberately focus on turning off the danger signal in the avoid system of the brain. This facilitates movement back into approaching and, especially, attaching to others, with hope and desire. Unless you are in actual danger, a mountain lion pacing the rock above your campsite, imminent car accident, or losing a valued job, home or relationship (emotional events trigger the danger signal as well), your avoid system should be off. Tune in again to read about the tools that have been proven to calm the body down and allow the brain to exit from the dominance of the Avoid system.

Going deeper:

  1. Are you more aware of how love in your life calms anxiety, or how it causes anxiety? If the latter is more often true, journal a bit about why this might be so.
  2. Using the information above, this week try to pay close attention to your daily life and see if you can identify when your danger signal gets turned on.
  3. If you notice that your avoid system is in play most often, feel free to contact me for some free tools to help calm your body down.

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join a Real Life Solutions 3-wk anxiety reduction workshop. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.