Archive: September, 2012

Step into Fall

A few days ago, the 22nd of September, marked officially the first day of autumn. Although today seems to be pretty similar to yesterday, or any day last week or the week before when it was still summer, somehow there seems to be a difference between then and now, though not quite discernible at first sight. What is it?

Actually, there is more than one difference, according to whether you are a student or a worker, a child, an adolescent or an adult; whether you live in a tropical area like Hawaii, whether you are in Arizona, or you happen to live in Connecticut or Washington State. The change of seasons, in fact, announces itself in different ways according to the natural surroundings of where you live and what’s going on in your life.

There are also specific meanings attached to the change of seasons according to your idiosyncratic situation and your personality – do you like this time of the year, or do you feel sadness because it marks the end of the fun and lazy days of summer? – and your particular memories associated to this time of the year. Perhaps something dramatic or sad or something very exciting happened to you at the beginning of the fall season, and fall will forever be associated to this event for you.

Aside from the idiosyncratic meaning each of us may attach to this particular time of the year, there are some general attitudes most of us share. Most of these attitudes and expectations were transmitted to us via our culture – from its microcosm, our family, to the larger society. Most of these general attitudes associate fall with a time of new beginnings and serious endeavors. In this culture, since we were children, we were told that June is the beginning of vacation and September the beginning of the new school year. So, it is time to let go of being on vacation. Whatever we did during July and august now needs to be put aside and we need to re-focus on homework, prepare new goals, plans and directions; organize new schedules and set new priorities.

All these new beginnings create a surge of energy and offer new opportunities to look forward to, leading to new growth. Psychologically, we feel a renewed sense of purpose and, as the air gets crisper and the days shorten, we feel ready to take on new challenges. New prospects open up that generate motivations to work hard in order to succeed.

Seasons are good markers of change. They give us a sense of moving forward and introducing new things while at the same time maintaining consistency and continuity, in this way providing an ongoing narrative of our activities and experiences. The transition from one season to the next makes us feel like we are growing, moving to the next step, whatever that step is, and reminds us that change is the only reality that exists. If we flow with it, we can learn and grow. If we resist it, we get stuck in a time warp where we stagnate.

Flexibility toward change and openness about it afford us new experiences and opportunities. Fall is a time of excitement and preparation for the holidays ahead and of preparation for the quiet days of winter that follow.

So, welcome the new season with open arms and be receptive to what it has to offer. Like the falling leaves of this season, let’s shed what we no longer need so we can make room for the new. Enjoy the changes fall brings rather than fighting them. And, above all, be aware of the personal meanings you attach to this seasonal change and expand and multiply the joys it brings.

Daniela Roher PhD

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Eros and Relating Intimately

We more commonly know Eros, which is a name for the figure of love, as Cupid. This figure appears around Valentine’s Day looking like a cherub, a boy, a young one. However, Eros is actually a very powerful aspect of our personality and hits us as adults in many surprising and penetrating ways. Although it initially takes the form of passion, Eros is also and more truly a desire for psychological relatedness and intimate interaction with another.

However, too often couples stop sharing their fantasies and desires with each other. When this occurs it is like a slow leak out of the couple system. They each gradually become bored and boring. The sparkle of sex based on lust and love erodes, weakening the ground of the relationship. The instinctual system for relating that comes through the erotic withers.

Why do couples fail to address this? What holds people back from opening up about what they each want and need? And, here is where Eros is the child. The adult needs we have for physical and sexual connection harkens back to early needs that have been met or more accurately unmet in childhood. How we were loved as a child helps shape our erotic self. Herein lay the needs for closeness, warmth, love and affection. In addition, attention and attachment satisfaction are also significant aspects of sexuality.

Eros is more than physical body or sexual expression. It really is an expression of relatedness and leads us to seek intimacy through being aware and sharing our secret fantasies and innermost desires. We do not do this with just anyone, but with someone we value. The Greeks ascribed to Eros the title of the Bringer of Union. He infects us to the core of our being, transforming us. He brings us to the experience of love. This describes the deep involvement between two personalities engaging in a profound and sometimes unexplainable, but nonetheless valuable connection.

Being attentive to our needs for intimacy on a physical level requires us to feel vulnerable to let love enter. Eros is part of what leads us to find the ‘we’ and is such a compellingly attractive force that we cannot stand against it. Intimacy melts our defenses and brings us to psychological and physical places shaped by the coming together of self and other.

So, any relationship can always benefit from increased attention to Eros and the erotic. This includes a variety of ways of interacting. It is spending time together, talking, showing affection, doing something different, reading in bed to each other, having a massage or anything that gets both people out of their heads and into their bodies. This is essential for the relationship and also for the well being of each of the partners in it. Eros and the erotic are part of the glue between you and your partner. It helps the emotional and relational intimacy and is a way of showing how each partner cares deeply about the other and themselves.

Susan E. Schwartz, Ph.D.

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Illness Puts Us At The Crossroads of Stress

Crossroads in a relationship derive from many outer events. One of the most powerful is that of illness of one or the other partner.
The stress of this time can either further or hinder communication. It can bring partners closer or farther apart. It can enhance or diminish. In other words, like any life-changing event, we cannot know ahead of time how to react or how we specifically will feel. And, we cannot prepare ahead of time.
We do know we are challenged. At this time we most especially need to communicate feelings and emotions—those of our own and those of our partner. They may not be the same. We cannot assume. We often view illness according to our past, our philosophical outlook, our fears and anxieties that are aroused. This is a very intense time.
So, if we take it slowly and stay in the present, we may adopt, both separately and together. ways of coping. These will help each of us get through—perhaps in different ways, but through the actions and emotions of shouldering this crisis together.

1. Communicate fears and anxieties. Really share what is different now. Maybe one drives when the other used to. Maybe your partner now handles texts and e-mail. How does each of you feel about this change? And, can you be honest with each other? We can ask why not be straightforward now? This is necessary because, whether you realize it or not, it gives a sense of relief when the obvious and the most distressing is given expression.

2. Continue on with the old life as possible. Go out to dinner, be with friends, tell people how they can help. Keep life as simple as possible. Don’t sweat the small stuff. At the best of times, it is irrelevant. Now it really is. Do the essentials but try to not get lost in the details. It is a fine line between attending to them as closely as is needed yet not letting them take over. The point is that each one can help the other pay attention and keep your eyes on your life together and individually.

3. In other words, focus on the quality of your lives both individually and together. It is hard when one is ill and the other not, one the caretaker and the other being cared for, when life is markedly different. And yet, each needs to maintain your own dignity and integrity of being. Each of you can do what is possible. Even if it is small, because independence of being is essential for each person.

4. Keep track of your dreams and share them with your partner. You do not have to be a ‘good’ dream interpreter to value what is going on under the surface. It may, in fact, help—if for nothing else the sharing of them together.

5. Be open to the unexpected expressions of love. Watch for unique ways to reach out to each other. Realize each one is altered from the shock of illness. Talk about this. Express the distress. Wrap your arms around each other as you both create an atmosphere of mindful attention.

Susan E. Schwartz, Ph.D.

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