The Evolution of Love – the News Heart Lines
Before going on to the practical ideas in the handbook, I want to present a ‘heart line’ version of the book for those who do not have the time or inclination to read the whole book. If a heart lines ‘catches your eye’ you can always go back to the main body of the book to read more.
The central theme of the book is to:
‘Develop the beliefs, acquire the knowledge and learn the skills to love and accept yourself in order to be able to love and accept others’.
Three principles are central to the book:
- We all have a drive towards completion, which influences the experiences that we attract towards us, and our choice of partner.
- The relationships you will have are a reflection of your own personal development. So if you want a better relationship you need to develop a better relationship with yourself.
- Learning to love is like learning a language, being good at a sport or learning to play an instrument. It is a skill that needs to be learnt.
Here are the heart lines…….
The nature of relationships
Men are as emotionally complex as women but they don’t have the language or societal permission to express their feelings.
There is probably a connection between the high suicide rate in young men and their inability to identify and express their emotions.
Until men have the behaviours and language to be able to nurture their own emotional selves they will not be in a position to nurture the emotional lives of their partner and nurture the needs of the relationship.
There is no structure or implicit codes and mores in today’s dating and relationship patterns.
Many men today have given up on relationship and just want ‘fun’ and sex.
We are conditioning men into rapid sexuality and not teaching them how to relate.
Men and women need to learn to relate on an emotional level.
Men and women have very few role models to illustrate what a successful relationship looks like.
If you are looking for a relationship, don’t discount the suggestion to get to know someone first before having sex with them.
Men hold the key to changing the face of relationships today once they understand the relationship terrain.
It is only when you develop and honest, compassionate and functional relationship with yourself that you can begin to experience a healthy, loving relationship with, an ‘other’.
Since the breakdown of the extended family, women are looking more and more to their partners to fulfill all their emotional needs.
A ‘healthy’ relationship involves two individual adults who make the decision to have a relationship that becomes a third entity.
Interdependence in relationships can be defined as ‘they take care of the majority of their wants and needs on their own, but when they can’t they are not afraid to ask their partner for help’.
It is up to us to decide what type of relationship we want and to develop ourselves to enable that relationship to become possible.
How we became the people we are and the significance that has for our relationships
We choose our personality based on the behaviours, which enable us to get attention.
We become the person we are by identifying the qualities, behaviours and beliefs that enable us to get attention and then decide that we are that person.
We programme ourselves to be the people we are.
The idea behind the Psychological Bingo Board is that we have within us potentially all 78 aspects of our personality that are represented on the board (and many more). We make choices regarding who we are at three main stages in our lives which are childhood, the teenage years and adulthood.
The Psychological Bingo Board can be used to develop, acknowledge, accept and learn how to integrate the ‘disowned’ aspects of ourselves.
If you have decided something about your personality and who you are, you have the ability to ‘undecide’ it too.
The Psychological Bingo Board gives us some idea of the areas that we need to work on in order to improve the acceptance of ourselves and in the process the acceptance of others.
The Psychological Bingo Board is an effective way of predicting or explaining whom we decide to partner with.
Since we have a drive towards completion or wholeness we unconsciously look to complete ourselves through another person in a romantic relationship.
The Psychological Bingo Board can be used to predict, with some degree of accuracy, the sort of person or the type of relationship that we are likely to be subconsciously drawn to.
The continuum of love
The continuum of love suggests that romantic relationships can be categorised into impoverished, romantic, teamwork, accepting and evolving love.
Impoverished love can involve game playing, drama and manipulation with both parties having low self esteem with significant gaps in their personal development and unresolved wounds.
Romantic love involves a feeling of ‘you and I against the world’, which feels magical as if under a spell. This stage typically lasts for eighteen months to three years.
Teamwork love involves allocation of roles and responsibilities within the partnership with the success of the relationship depending on the perceived fairness of the division of services and resources.
Accepting love involves acceptance of self and others in all their facets and recognition that we are all a blend of positive and negative, light and dark combined with a drive towards self- completion.
Evolving Love involves two creative, evolving people who are ‘easy to be with’, share common values, enjoy each others’ company, exchange the leadership roles and have an emotional flow between them.
Impoverished love involves two underdeveloped people coming together to create an underdeveloped relationship.
This type of love is characterised by game playing, manipulation, control, lack of clear boundaries, excessive neediness, poor communication, little sense of self and often violence.
Impoverished love comes from not having received or learnt how to love and accept love in a direct and honest way when they were children.
The ideas and strategies described in this book will help you to disconnect from some people and reconnect with yourself and in the process enable you to reconnect with other more healthy people.
Many men suggested that they did not get the amount of sex in their marriage or long-term relationships that they were expecting or hoped for, so when they are no longer in these partnerships their primary interest seems to be sex not relationship.
A lot of men come out of messy relationships, are not able to process their emotions, may be still paying for the wife and kids, go into self protection mode and don’t want to be hurt again..
In this instance what they are looking for is good available sex with little emotional involvement and few financial ties.
Although healthy relationships feed our emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well being, men in particular are choosing to ‘opt out’ of becoming involved because relationships can be complicated, chaotic and to many of them unfathomable.
In the absence of relationships, many men are turning to porn and according to Sean Thomas in his very funny book ‘Millions of women are waiting to meet you’ many have become addicted.
There is also increasing evidence that as in all addiction the search for the next pornographic ‘hit’ becomes progressively more extreme and disturbing which has led to an increase in erectile dysfunction, particularly in young men.
On a more positive note the fact that men are starting to talk about the issue amongst themselves and to realise that it is not just them that is being affected by pornography. Ironically this can only be good.
Addiction to pornography can only be resolved when men are forced to confront their increasing dependence, open the lines of communication and realise that in many respects they are being exploited by the sex industry.
It is also probable that addiction to porn affects the way men see and behave towards women in the real world.
When looking at the nature of obsession as part of impoverished love, it is likely that a healthy person who has been sufficiently loved would know the difference between regular contact which is positive and builds the more they meet each other and the fleeting occasional contact which stimulates hope – or illusion.
A sufficiently bonded or attached person would not dream of staying in such a frustrating and painful situation. In contrast an insufficiently attached person would stay in the hope that the ‘crumbs off the table’ would turn into something more than casual and infrequent contact probably in some way replicating their experience in childhood when they had to accept any of the attention that was on offer.
This ‘illusion of connection’ is also reflected in internet scammers who are often based in Internet cafés or offices in places like Nigeria. The aim of the scammers is to build trust until they are ready to ask first for small amounts of money and then to ask for increasingly large sums of money to support their fictitious finance, oil, film, diamond mining or large scale engineering projects.
In the process women and men (who get involved in Russian girlfriend type scams) find themselves losing not only tens of thousands of pounds but also the loss of the ‘relationship’ they valued with ‘someone’ who they felt completely understood them.
The rise and fall of romantic love
Romantic love is the form of love championed in Western society and is the preoccupation of books, films, plays, songs, poetry and advertising industry.
Romantic love is characterised by one person seeking and finding their ‘other half’ in order to feel complete. Achieving this creates a feeling of euphoria and a sense of ‘you and me’ against the world. The union feels magical as if we are under a spell.
If you fall into romantic love once and it leads to lasting happiness and an evolving relationship together that lasts ‘until death do us part’ that is wonderful and to be celebrated.
No one should give up on having the unique, exciting and almost intoxicating experience of romantic love but it is unlikely to last. It’s a heady almost addictive state that will pass as the illusions fall away.
Whoever you are, who ever you are with, romantic love will not last.
It is generally agreed that romantic love lasts for about 18 months to 3 years but this time may shorten depending on how many ‘love cycles’ the person has been through.
This is important because if you think that romantic love with last and it has ended in your current relationship you will blame yourself or more likely blame your partner.
The most positive way forward from romantic love is to realise that as Alain de Botton says in ‘The Course of Love’ that ‘love is a skill rather than an enthusiasm’.
Teamwork love is where the relationship stabilises with an allocation of roles and responsibilities.
It is likely that the pair will appoint a dominant partner who will act in the leadership role. Usually this is the man but it doesn’t have to be.
Love relationships can also start at the teamwork stage if people consciously decide to seek partners to compliment their existing skills and qualities.
A cautionary note on teamwork love comes from the book ‘Advice to a Young Wife from an Old Mistress ‘ when she suggests that a ‘wife who falls in love with the ordering process as if that in itself filled up life’s purpose, smothers her marriage in logistics’.
A lot of men who have been married for years, love their wives and family and don’t want to jeopardise their lifestyle, however they are bored and crying out for adventure.
Men in particular need adventure and excitement to feel alive. In teamwork relationships, this needs to be understood and built into their lives and of course women have unmet needs for adventure too.
For a teamwork relationship to succeed and evolve both parties need to take responsibility for their own happiness and address their own needs for development.
For the couple in Teamwork love, it involves learning to accept themselves but also learning to accept the other as they are.
If the partner chooses to change, that is a bonus and this joint development will allow them to move forward together however change cannot be expected of the ‘other’.
If impoverished love, romantic love and teamwork love are relationships, accepting love is a conscious choice and an attitude of mind.
One of the main achievements during the accepting love stage is that a person can identify and meet their own personal, emotional, resources and services needs.
This does not mean that they become isolated from people, rather it means that they are able to have inter dependent relationships with others based on their wants rather than their needs.
It involves striving towards self-completion rather than completion through another person.
As Neil Strauss says in his book, The Truth:
‘Love is not about finding the right person. It’s about becoming the right person’
This can be achieved in the context of teamwork love or on your own outside of a love relationship. These sentiments are also echoed by Michael Foley in The Age of Absurdity, when he writes:
Accepting love is characterised by acceptance of self.
It is a recognition, that we are all a blend of positive and negative, light and dark. In fact we are potentially all elements of the Psychological Bingo Board and more.
This acceptance is propelled by the drive towards integration that we have inside of us.
In the process of learning to accept and love yourself you will also learn to love and accept others.
A significant characteristic of accepting love is being perceived to be ‘easier to be around’.
Healing of old wounds and learning new skills appear to be the keys to this transformation.
These developments can be achieved outside of a relationship or inside a relationship.
The Handbook section of this book, will specifically address how to learn to accept and love yourself and in the process be able to create an evolving and loving relationship with a partner.
Evolving love is a journey without maps.
As you change, it would change. If you are single and on this journey the people you have previously been attracted to ceased to interest you and people with different qualities will start to come into your life.
Evolving love (and maybe all love) is characterised by continual growth and renewal, with ‘winters and summers, planting and harvest with time between growth’.
A creative tension underlines evolving love where each is whole, yet each is more because of the other.
What is created at this level is two people who accept and love themselves, enough to be able to love and accept the other.
Evolving love occurs in a relationship where two creative evolving individuals are together through choice because they enjoy each other’s company, can achieve more as a couple than they could achieve individually and have energy to contribute to the wider society.
Regarding a partner, Neil Strauss says in his book ‘The Truth’ ‘the most caring thing to do when they’re upset is simply to ask if they want you to listen, to give advice, to give them space or give them a loving touch’.
Co-creating evolving love relationships include shared common values, exchange of the leadership role, emotional flow between the couple, healing of emotional wounds, real time reactions to events and methodologies to deal with differences and disagreements.
Psychiatrist John Bowlby identified 4 patterns of attachment a child can have with the mother, which would influence people’s relationships later in life. The different forms of attachment he identified were labelled Secure, Ambivalent, Avoidant and Disorganised.
Secure attachment would result from a healthy bond between mother and child, enabling the child to have secure attachment to other significant others when they were older.
Attached people would have a positive self image, be confident, able to protect themselves, have good problem solving skills, clear boundaries, be able to process their feelings and treat others the way they wish to be treated.
People with secure attachment are likely to find others with secure attachment and be able to have loving relationships. Those who lack a secure attachment can experience confusion and drama in their love relationships.
Why would people who can form secure, loving relationships be interested in the dramatic and volatile people who can’t?
Limbic (or Emotional) Development
In a General Theory of Love, three American Psychiatrists discuss the nature of love and particularly focus on limbic development.
They believe that limbic or emotional development has three elements – limbic resonance, limbic regulation and limbic revision.
In limbic resonance we physiologically become like the people we love.
If we have been raised by, an ‘adept external moderator’, we learn the skills of love implicitly and it becomes a natural part of the self.
If a child has been raised by angry, detached parents the child will tend to see anger as normal and be surprised when people suggest that they might be aggressive.
If they are raised by someone who ‘does not do emotions’ the child and later the adult will tend to appear emotionless and aloof and cold to others.
Limbic regulation can be explained as how we learn our moods and how people internalise their emotional balance. It results from a two-way exchange, between the mother and the baby, with both of them benefitting from the experience.
Infants are born with their limbic systems ‘open’ and unregulated and need their mother’s closeness to slowly over time get regulated.
The authors suggest that humans are never capable of self-regulation but are wired with an ‘open loop’ limbic system that requires a limbic connection with another to be successfully regulated.
Part of limbic regulation is the concept of ‘Attractors’, which suggests that we will become attracted to a familiar pattern of experiences, which have been subconsciously imprinted on us when we were growing up. So a happy mother with encourage happy reactions in her child and a sad mother will encourage sad reactions in the child or no reactions at all.
As a result of our experiences and our parents’ reaction to our experiences either positive or negative we are trained to be in touch with our emotions or to disassociate from them.
Limbic revision is the power to remodel the emotional parts of the people we love. This can either be learnt subconsciously in our childhood from empathetic or attuned parents or learned from a therapeutic professional who also has the ability to tune into the needs of their client.
Limbic revision is how we learn to have empathy.
It is as a result of apparently small and significant moments of ‘correction’ to our behaviour and our moods that as children (or later adults) that our parents or significant others suggest which help us to make decisions about how we should ‘be’ towards others in our emotional lives.
Limbic development and relationships
It is suggested in a General Theory of Love that those of us who are lucky enough to be parented in an attuned way will be able to modulate our emotions and will subconsciously be attracted to other people who can do the same. Whereas those who have been poorly regulated will attract people who have also been poorly regulated.
Most of our emotional development is achieved during our pre verbal years and requires ‘mountains of repetition’ and years of long-standing togetherness to write permanent changes into a brain’s open book.
In a relationship one mind revises another, one heart changes its’ partner.
In a General Theory of Love, the authors suggest a number of things:-
- Since many of the problems of limbic development will have occurred pre-verbally, talking therapies, which work upon the neo cortex (or logical problem solving brain) do not allow the client to facilitate change at the limbic level.
- Because our attractors were developed in our unconscious limbic brain probably even before we could talk that they are almost impossible to modulate by the conscious mind:
- No one therapeutic approach seems to have an effective impact on developing the limbic system but what does seem to make a difference is the character and personality of the therapist.
- A therapist who is prepared to be open, honest, engaged and present in the relationship may have a positive impact on the limbic development of the client regardless of the type of strategies they are using.
Although this book will undoubtedly assist you to make some different choices with regard to your relationships, it is the interaction or limbic resonance, limbic regulation and limbic revision with other people that will make the real difference because you can’t develop limbic or emotional skills in a vacuum.
When people develop themselves limbically it is antipated that people who are at present invisible will start to become visible.
The masks we wear
‘The Lonely Hearts Club – a Novel’, written by psychiatrist Dennis Friedman made the point that we all wear masks.
In the book Friedman documents the developing friendship of six main male characters, who are all brought together, when they attend regular exercise classes after having heart attacks.
At first they are all wearing masks and play into their own ‘scripts’. One member only talks in Shakespearean quotes, another is a ‘play boy’, a third constantly sets himself up to be rejected, the fourth is a chronic ‘people pleaser’, a fifth always needs to be right and the sixth is embarrassed by his male body.
As the book progresses and their friendship develops, each of the masks begins to slip as they feel more and more accepted by the group for who they ‘really are’.
The Lonely Hearts Club book provides an interesting insight into how we can put on masks to enable us to function and illustrates how in the end they stop us from relating in an authentic way with others.
We may put on a mask (or several masks) to protect ourselves from the emotional disturbance brought about by interacting with the family and the outside world.
Groups can be uncomfortable places for people who have experienced difficult childhoods since they can bring back all the disturbing feelings of humiliation, exclusion and unhealthy competition.
The Lonely Hearts Club illustrates the power of groups – once we feel comfortable we stop playing a role and become our authentic selves.
In the same way that one day we made the subconscious decision to adopt a mask to protect ourselves, safety within another group can provide the opportunity for us to make the decision subconscious or otherwise to take off the mask.
If we are raised in a family where we have to put on a mask (or adopt a persona) in order to fit in, it is likely that we will attract another person who is also wearing a mask when it comes to relationships.
It takes a supportive group or relationship where we are able to be present in a non judgmental and accepting environment for our masks to fall away.
Other examples of masks include constantly apologising, talking too fast or being very theatrical.
If we create a relationship where both parties are wearing masks we will just be ‘playing roles’ in the relationship and not allowing our true selves to shine through. This cannot be good for having an authentic relationship and it will certainly not lead to accepting and evolving love.
The healing power of groups
Groups can replicate the family dynamic and can be very uncomfortable places to be since our old stories of inclusion and exclusion can be played out in them. They can also be incredibly healing places too.
Clear boundaries enable groups to focus on learning, loving or living and reduce the likelihood of individuals within the group having a negative experience.
These boundaries include:-
- Treating people equally and with respect
- Avoiding unstructured discussions and the domination of one individual
- Creating processes to avoid cliques and exclusion
- Enabling quieter people to process and express thoughts and ideas
- Encouraging the more experienced to share knowledge and experience in a structured and supportive way.
These safety precautions enable people to feel more relaxed, acknowledge their contribution and raise their level of challenge.
In groups with virtually no rules but with loving people, participants can learn to be accepted for DOING NOTHING apart from being an active participant of the group.
Other groups that heal have very clear processes like Alcoholics Anonymous and all its variants that use the 12 step programme. Here the structure provides the safety and lack of judgment that is required for healthy emotional (or limbic) development. The requirement for regular attendance also creates the repetition that limbic development requires.
The very nature of limbic development means that it has to be undertaken with other people.
You can’t limbically develop on your own. The three simple exercises which replicate the experience of pre verbal limbic development of hand holding, looking into another’s eyes and the deliberate hug done with a person you trust demonstrate this.
When learning limbic development and the skills of loving it is important and only effective if you do this within a safe environment with at least one other person to create an environment of trust where the world is regarded as a safe place and full of adventure.
The role of adventure in life and relationships
In talking to hundreds of men over the past few years one thing that has been striking is the need they have for adventure.
It would seem that that a lot of men who have been married for years love their wives and families and don’t want to jeopardise this lifestyle, however they are bored, not getting the amount of sex they want and are crying out for adventure.
To address this problem psychotherapist Esther Perel advises that partners reconnect with their playful side and step out of ‘Management Inc’.
Neil Strauss after writing ‘The Truth’ set up a group called ‘The Society’ to provide cutting-edge training, development materials and one-of-a-kind adventures to an exclusive global fraternity of like-minded people focused on becoming their best selves’.
If you want a loving and evolving relationship it makes sense to build some healthy adventure into your life and your relationship.
Learning how to love
We have to learn any skill like riding a bike or playing an instrument and learning how to love is just another skill.
It would be great if we learnt to love as part of the growing up process within our family of origin but if that opportunity is not available we have to learn how to love positively and consciously during our adult lives.
There is also a need to be conscious of time when learning how to love and some couples cannot love simply because they do not spend enough time in each other’s company.
This lack of time to devote to relationships may be a contributory factor in the inability to sustain a loving relationship.
The aim of this book is to provide the knowledge and skills in order to learn how to love.
Whilst looking for love, this book became an immersive research project around love and relationships.
Out of this the Continuum of love model and the Psychological Bingo Board evolved. These approaches are ways of explaining how we become the complex beings we are and the implications that our decisions have on the type of relationships that we attract and the people we find attractive.
After sharing these thoughts with colleagues, friends and coaching clients, it was clear that these concepts were resonating with them and their own experience. It helped them to diagnose their relationships and understand their relationship history.
Days or weeks after sharing the themes in the book, it was noticeable that many of them were changing their behaviour regarding relationships and people started to say things like ‘I am not looking for a relationship at the moment, I have decided to work on myself first’.
During a moment of serendipity, Veronica come into the picture and the ‘meetings’ started.
The purpose of the ‘meetings’ was described as ‘To explore the subject of relationships and formulate a set of tried and tested workable tools for our benefit and the benefit of others’.
After nine months the following themes were identified. These were
- Being focused – setting goals
- Change – willingness to change and grow
- Identifying and clarifying your own needs
- Communication and boundaries
- Emotions and healing old wounds
- Freeing the drama
- Positive outcomes
Then each of these categories was systematically explored. Much of this work forms the practical aspect of this book.
The handbook section will enable you to work out where you are currently in terms of your relationships, work out where you want to be and give you the tools to get you there.
It is very much suggested that you do the work in the handbook section of this book with someone else since it is virtually impossible to learn how to love and relate to others on your own.
Men (and women) and emotions
Suicide is now the single biggest cause of death in men under 40. It is widely acknowledged that there is a link between this and men’s inability to identify, acknowledge and express their emotions.
Whilst mainly focusing on men, the issues for women can be the same if they do not address the need to talk about their feelings and emotions.
One of the main reasons for this is that ‘being a man’ is very carefully policed, particularly by other men.
An important question is ‘if men are not able to deal with their own emotions how are they able to deal with the increasing expectations of their partners to support them emotionally?
In the BBC programme ‘Being Mum and Dad’ Rio Ferdinand an ex international Manchester United footballer shares his journey to heal his grief after the death of his young wife Rebecca. He wanted to do this not only for his own benefit but also for the benefit of his three young children.
The film documents his realisation that he must learn to acknowledge, feel and address his own grief – to open up and talk about his emotions – not just for him but also for his children’s sake. In other words he did not want to be the kind of father who pretended that Mummy never existed.
During the documentary he makes the point that once you are prepared to ‘feel’ that the organisations, methods and ways forward are available.
Rio Ferdinand tells his children about one of the methods to heal grief that he has learnt called the ‘memory jar’. When he tells his children about the idea he is moved to tears when his youngest son Lorenz, the child he is most worried about, writes something for the jar and then tells them all about it.
The footballer then goes on to describe the time he met their mother. In that moment he not only allows his own grief to surface but has opened up and given permission for his children to grieve.
Reinforcing the idea of limbic resonance where people become like the people they love, a representative from Child Bereavement UK suggests that children look to the adults around them to learn how to grieve and they will mirror the behaviour of the remaining parent. They will see how their Mum or Dad is grieving and then feel that is the way that they should do it.
So in families where people are not expressing any emotion, children pick that up quickly and learn not to express themselves too.
These sentiments were echoed by Prince Harry in an interview, with Bryony Gordon, when he opened up about his experience of losing his mother Princess Diana, at the age of 12.
Both Rio Ferdinand and Prince Harry talk about the importance of timing and being ready to open up about their feelings and emotions.
Sometimes it is about making the decision to open up and then when this happens the methods appear.
Conclusions to be drawn about grief and emotions from the examples in the book include:
- Unexpressed emotions do not go away they are just stored somewhere in our systems and continue to influence our behaviour and distort future relationships.
- Releasing hidden and repressed emotions requires a decision to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to find people and processes that we trust to help us.
- When grief and emotion is released safely it creates a sense of lightness and freedom.
- Talking to people who have had similar experiences is very healing.
- Letting go and opening up to emotion and grief is about finding a time that feels right.
- When men (and women) are able to connect with their own emotions they are in a much stronger position to connect with others and assist them to do the same.
The Evolution of Love handbook section of this book will follow ……