Romantic Relationships , Fact or Fantasy ?

Intimate relationships are one of the most enjoyable areas of life. They provide physical, emotional and sometimes even spiritual fulfillment. They can also be a source of tremendous pain when things don’t work out. When that person we fell in love with turns out not to be our soulmate, the one, our forever person.

Personally , I blame movies and love songs for giving many people a distorted view of what a romantic relationship looks like , especially long term. The guy chases the girl relentlessly, essentially stalks her, and eventually she falls in love with him. Just about every action movie ends with the lead actor/actress falling in love with the antagonist and they live happily ever after. Even the fairy tales we heard as kids tell the same story. Remember Cinderella and Snow White? I know when I was a young man I carried unrealistic expectations of how romantic relationships should be, how they should start, and how it would change my life. I can tell you it left me with a lot of pain and disillusionment.

Sometimes the problem can be our expectations of what a relationship is and what it can do for us. I remember years ago being at a wedding and the pastor saying, “marriage won’t change them, but it will reveal who they are”. That resonated with me, at least at an intellectual level. Emotions, however when it comes to romance can be so strong the brain doesn’t get a say 😊

I think that old hackneyed saying, you have to love yourself before you can love someone else is a least partially true. Maybe love is too strong a word but you must at least like yourself and feel reasonably comfortable in your own skin. If you come from a place of needing another person to change the way you feel about yourself, you may be in for a rough ride. Besides if you come from a place of need rather than want, how do you know you are with that person because you want to be, rather than because it is better than being alone?

Another question I will pose is, what if there is no soulmate, the one? What if everything you thought about long term relationships was wrong? What if that was good news? What if you are then free to live your life no longer searching for that perfect person but instead opening your eyes to all the potential romantic options out there. I think that is empowering. Just an imperfect human being looking for another imperfect human being and seeing where the journey leads.

The following video by Dan Savage gives a good insight into relationship expectations:

Dan Savage – The Price of Admission

I might add in closing this I is not meant as relationship advice (do as I say not as I do 😊) but as a different way of looking at love and romance. As the late Wayne Dyer often said” If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”.

Wishing you all the best in your journey

Phil Miranda

Childhood Trauma and Poor Health Outcomes.

I have spoken to many people who experience poor mental health and have done so for most of their lives. One of the questions often asked is, why am I not getting better. They often experience depression, anxiety, substance abuse and relationship difficulties. Many have spent years in counselling and therapy and yet nothing seems to change. They take prescribed medications, engage in talking therapies, learn and practice Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques, mindfulness, gratitude and the like.

A common and often overlooked (in my opinion) issue for many is that of childhood abuse/neglect. It amazes me how many state that they have never been asked about any traumatic childhood experiences, particularly, sexual abuse. The latter has often been a taboo subject and openly discussing it was considered by many as inappropriate and uncomfortable. It is also possible they were asked and did not feel comfortable sharing their experiences. Or maybe they already have a mental health diagnosis and are being treated based on that diagnosis. The last few decades of research have shown the effects of childhood abuse and neglect on both physical and mental health. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study conducted by CDC-Kaiser Permanente is the most comprehensive study to date on the effects of childhood trauma. The study done in the late 1990’s showed how negative childhood experiences can have a profound effect on adult physical and mental health.

One of the study’s lead authors Dr Vince Feletti gives a brief explanation of the findings here:

How Childhood Trauma Can Make You A Sick Adult

Much of the ongoing research has confirmed initial studies and is slowly leading to a shift in treatment approaches. The question, what is wrong with you? is now being replaced with, what happened to you? It is also shifting the treatment from traditional talking therapies to body-based therapies such as massage, yoga and  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy according to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. He has been a clinician, researcher and teacher in the area of post-traumatic stress since the 1970’s. His New York Times bestselling book “The Body Keeps the Score” discusses how trauma effects the body, especially the brain, and how new treatments can be integrated into healing the individual rather than masking trauma related symptoms. There are some free resources online for his book and his work, or the paperback version of the book will set you back around $25 and is well worth the read.

For those who love TED talks here is a longer video about the effects of childhood trauma.

How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime | Nadine Burke Harris

This article is a very brief summary of how childhood experiences can impact in later life and I will be talking about this more at a later date. If anything resonates with you I would encourage you to do your own research or find a counsellor who is trained in trauma treatment.

 

Wishing you all  the best in your journey

Phil Miranda

Sources:. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9635069        https://besselvanderkolk.net/index.html

PS: I appreciate this article may be triggering for some people. It is my hope that it will be enlightening for many and help explain why traditional therapies may not be working for you. If you are in Australia, you can contact Blue Knot Foundation for support and advice. International readers can follow this link to International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.