Tylenol and the pain of rejection

By Kirsten Weir

Anyone who lived through high school gym class knows the anxiety of being picked last for the dodgeball team. The same hurt feelings bubble up when you are excluded from lunch with co-workers, fail to land the job you interviewed for or are dumped by a romantic partner.

Rejection feels lousy.

Yet for many years, few psychologists tuned into the importance of rejection. “It’s like the whole field missed this centrally important part of human life,” says Mark Leary, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. That’s changed over the last decade and a half, as a growing number of researchers have turned their eyes toward this uncomfortable fact of life. “People have realized just how much our concern with social acceptance spreads its fingers into almost everything we do,” he says.

As researchers have dug deeper into the roots of rejection, they’ve found surprising evidence that the pain of being excluded is not so different from the pain of physical injury. Rejection also has serious implications for an individual’s psychological state and for society in general. Social rejection can influence emotion, cognition and even physical health. Ostracized people sometimes become aggressive and can turn to violence. In 2003 Leary and colleagues analyzed 15 cases of school shooters, and found all but two suffered from social rejection (Aggressive Behavior, 2003).

Clearly, there are good reasons to better understand the effects of being excluded. “Humans have a fundamental need to belong. Just as we have needs for food and water, we also have needs for positive and lasting relationships,” says C. Nathan DeWall, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky. “This need is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history and has all sorts of consequences for modern psychological processes.”

Pain in the brain

As clever as human beings are, we rely on social groups for survival. We evolved to live in cooperative societies, and for most of human history we depended on those groups for our lives. Like hunger or thirst, our need for acceptance emerged as a mechanism for survival. “A solitary human being could not have survived during the six million years of human evolution while we were living out there on the African savannah,” Leary says.

With today’s modern conveniences, a person can physically survive a solitary existence. But that existence is probably not a happy one. Thanks to millions of years of natural selection, being rejected is still painful. That’s not just a metaphor. Naomi Eisenberger, PhD, at the University of California, Los Angeles, Kipling Williams, PhD, at Purdue University, and colleagues found that social rejection activates many of the same brain regions involved in physical pain (Science, 2003).

To study rejection inside an fMRI scanner, the researchers used a technique called Cyberball, which Williams designed following his own experience of being suddenly excluded by two Frisbee players at the park. In Cyberball, the subject plays an online game of catch with two other players. Eventually the two other players begin throwing the ball only to each other, excluding the subject. Compared with volunteers who continue to be included, those who are rejected show increased activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate and the anterior insula — two of the regions that show increased activity in response to physical pain, Eisenberger says. As far as your brain is concerned, a broken heart is not so different from a broken arm.

Those findings led DeWall, Eisenberger and colleagues to wonder: If social rejection aches like physical pain, can it be treated like physical pain? To find out, they assigned volunteers to take over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a placebo daily for three weeks. Compared with the placebo group, volunteers who took the drug recounted fewer episodes of hurt feelings in daily self-reports. Those reports were backed by an fMRI study, which found that people who had taken acetaminophen daily for three weeks had less activity in the pain-related brain regions when rejected in Cyberball, in contrast to those taking a placebo (Psychological Science, 2010).

The same patterns are seen in situations of real-world rejection, too. University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross, PhD, and colleagues scanned the brains of participants whose romantic partners had recently broken up with them. The brain regions associated with physical pain lit up as the participants viewed photographs of their exes (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011).

The link between physical and social pain might sound surprising, but it makes biological sense, DeWall says. “Instead of creating an entirely new system to respond to socially painful events, evolution simply co-opted the system for physical pain,” he says. “Given the shared overlap, it follows that if you numb people to one type of pain, it should also numb them to the other type of pain.”

Lashing out

Being on the receiving end of a social snub causes a cascade of emotional and cognitive consequences, researchers have found. Social rejection increases anger, anxiety, depression, jealousy and sadness. It reduces performance on difficult intellectual tasks, and can also contribute to aggression and poor impulse control, as DeWall explains in a recent review (Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2011). Physically, too, rejection takes a toll. People who routinely feel excluded have poorer sleep quality, and their immune systems don’t function as well as those of people with strong social connections, he says.

Even brief, seemingly innocuous episodes of rejection can sting. In one recent study, Williams, Eric Wesselmann, PhD, of Purdue University, and colleagues found that when participants passed a stranger who appeared to look “through” them rather than meeting their gaze, they reported less social connection than did people who made eye contact with a passing stranger (Psychological Science, 2012).

In fact, it’s remarkably hard to find situations in which rejection isn’t painful, Williams says. He wondered whether people would be hurt if they were rejected by a person or group they disliked. Using his Cyberball model, he found that African- American students experienced the same pain of rejection when they were told that the people rejecting them were members of the Ku Klux Klan, a racist group. In other studies, participants earned money when they were rejected, but not when they were accepted. The payments did nothing to dampen the pain of exclusion. “No matter how hard you push it, people are hurt by ostracism,” he says.

Fortunately, most people recover almost immediately from these brief episodes of rejection. If a stranger fails to look you in the eye, or you’re left out of a game of Cyberball, you aren’t likely to dwell on it for long. But other common rejections — not being invited to a party, or being turned down for a second date — can cause lingering emotions.

After the initial pain of rejection, Williams says, most people move into an “appraisal stage,” in which they take stock and formulate their next steps. “We think all forms of ostracism are immediately painful,” he says. “What differs is how long it takes to recover, and how one deals with the recovery.”

People often respond to rejection by seeking inclusion elsewhere. “If your sense of belonging and self-esteem have been thwarted, you’ll try to reconnect,” says Williams. Excluded people actually become more sensitive to potential signs of connection, and they tailor their behavior accordingly. “They will pay more attention to social cues, be more likable, more likely to conform to other people and more likely to comply with other people’s requests,” he says.

Yet others may respond to rejection with anger and lashing out. If someone’s primary concern is to reassert a sense of control, he or she may become aggressive as a way to force others to pay attention. Sadly, that can create a downward spiral. When people act aggressively, they’re even less likely to gain social acceptance.

What causes some people to become friendlier in response to rejection, while others get angry? According to DeWall, even a glimmer of hope for acceptance can make all the difference. In a pair of experiments, he and his colleagues found that students who were accepted by no other participants in group activities behaved more aggressively — feeding hot sauce to partners who purportedly disliked spicy foods, and blasting partners with uncomfortably loud white noise through headphones — than students accepted by just one of the other participants (Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2010).

Social pain relief

It may take time to heal from a bad break-up or being fired, but most people eventually get over the pain and hurt feelings of rejection. When people are chronically rejected or excluded, however, the results may be severe. Depression, substance abuse and suicide are not uncommon responses. “Long-term ostracism seems to be very devastating,” Williams says. “People finally give up.”

In that case, psychologists can help people talk through their feelings of exclusion, DeWall says.

“A lot of times, these are things people don’t want to talk about,” he says. And because rejected people may adopt behaviors, such as aggression, that serve to further isolate them, psychologists can also help people to act in ways that are more likely to bring them social success.

The pain of non-chronic rejection may be easier to alleviate. Despite what the fMRI scanner says, however, popping two Tylenols probably isn’t the most effective way to deal with a painful episode of rejection. Instead, researchers say, the rejected should seek out healthy, positive connections with friends and family.

That recommendation squares with the neural evidence that shows positive social interactions release opioids for a natural mood boost, Eisenberger says. Other activities that produce opioids naturally, such as exercise, might also help ease the sore feelings that come with rejection.

Putting things into perspective also helps, Leary says. True, rejection can sometimes be a clue that you behaved badly and should change your ways. But frequently, we take rejection more personally than we should. “Very often we have that one rejection, maybe we didn’t get hired for this job we really wanted, and it makes us feel just lousy about our capabilities and ourselves in general,” Leary says. “I think if people could stop overgeneralizing, it would take a lot of the angst out of it.”

Next time you get passed over for a job or dumped by a romantic partner, it may help to know that the sting of rejection has a purpose. That knowledge may not take away the pain, but at least you know there’s a reason for the heartache. “Evolutionarily speaking, if you’re socially isolated you’re going to die,” Williams says. “It’s important to be able to feel that pain.”

Kirsten Weir is a freelance writer in Minneapolis.

via The pain of social rejection.

Getting ready for your girlfriend to move in?

OK guys, I just confirmed some advice I read online.  If your girlfriend is moving in with you, hire a PROFESSIONAL cleaning service to get it all ship-shape before she arrives.

Other items gleaned from online:

  • make space for her and her stuff. clean everything, buy some flowers and make dinner.
  • Clean your house. Really well. Then clean the bathroom again. 🙂
  • Flowers are nice. If there is any sort of art she likes, buy it, frame it, and hang it. Or do that with a photograph she loves.
  • Hire a maid to really, really, really clean. And then make sure there is plenty of room in the bathroom for her toiletries, which will take up 5 times more space than you think they should.
  • go pillow shopping together. Your personal bed will now become your-the-two-of-you’s bed and a way to say “hey this is part yours now” is to make sure she has her own taste in pillows.
  • First of all, dedicate some private space. Even a drawer or half a closet that she can have to herself is good for making things feel homey.
  • If your domicile is stuffed to the gills with your items, consider donating what you don’t need anymore, and clearing space, and thinking about what sort of storage she’ll need.
  • Clean towels. You can never have enough. Trust me on this.

  • Clean the apartment. Make sure she has her fair share of drawers and bookshelf space. Clean the apartment some more. Make her a copy of the key.
  • She’s not living with you, you’re living together so make things as equal as possible. Also make sure you keep open communication about mess and cleaning. Even the most sane people get freaked out by this stuff so make sure it’s all talkable about. Good luck!
  • Clean. If you aren’t good at serious, deep cleaning, pay a service to come and do a one-time top to bottom deep cleaning of the apartment. Have that place sparkling when she arrives. Floors, counters, every inch of the bathroom, all linens cleaned, everything.
  • If you don’t have a bathroom trashcan (with a lid, ideally), buy one.
  • In the bathroom, make sure that there is lots of space in the shower, near the sink, and in a drawer for her — even the most granola of hippies will have a preferred brand of shampoo, a toothbrush, and some “girl products” that she shouldn’t need to keep in her suitcase. Put out new bars of soap (or full soap dispensers, if you use the liquid stuff) by the sink, in the shower, etc.
  • If you can easily afford it, buying new sheets, towels, and pillowcases is a nice touch, but hardly mandatory unless your current ones are stained and discolored.
  • Give her lots of closet and drawer space in the bedroom; a night-table for her is a nice touch, too.
  • Make sure there is room in the kitchen for whatever food products she likes to have on hand. If you know what she likes, having her favorite breakfast cereal and so on already in the kitchen when she arrives is a really nice touch.
  • Have keys ready for her when she arrives (nothing makes a place feel less like yours than if you have to wait for someone to let you in every day). Help get her a library card, or bus pass, or whatever she needs to have access to cool stuff in your town.
  • If she’s not local, make an extra effort in the first week to introduce her to some of your friends, so she at least will have met a few people — moving far away to be with a SO can be really isolating and lonely.
  • If getting there will be a long and exhausting trip, have something nice but low-key ready for her when she arrives — dinner reservations, or a bottle of her favorite wine, or whatever she might like. If getting there will be a really brutal trip, or if she has just finished a tough time where she is coming from, make reservations (and arrange to pay) for her to get a massage/spa day/luxurious treat on the third or so day after she arrives (the second day she will probably still be wiped out; by the third day she will hopefully be recuperated and ready to enjoy the treat).
  • Get used to referring to it as “our home” rather than “my home”. Start now.
  • Basically, try and look at your place with outside eyes, and make the changes to it that will make it yours plural rather than yours singular. Have a little wrapped up gift basket or something for when she walks in the door, with house keys, some treats, and a gift certificate to a massage/spa, plus some little present that will make her smile.
  • Whatever you do, make sure the toilet seat is NOT up!

  • Have the second key ready. No excuse. This is a small symbol with big meaning. Test it first too. Sometimes copies are a bit off, and require a little fidgeting. Either tell the landlord/key copier it’s not good enough, or give her the good key, and keep the fidgety one.
  • Those wine corks that you have sitting around until you get to your next project? Extra clothes, unfinished furniture? Anything that you’ve been meaning to get around to, get rid of it. Freecycle, goodwill, or chuck it.
  • Buy her favorite foodstuffs. For example, when my partner comes home after a long absence I stock up on his favorite cola and 2% milk, neither of which I drink. It is a really nice gesture, as nice as flowers, to know that they thought ahead to make sure you’d have the right kind of milk for your coffee/cereal.
  • Make room for her. Especially lots of room for her girly stuff in the bathroom.
  • Get a female friend to inspect the house to catch anything you missed.
  • clean all the crap out of the fridge & stock it with plenty of tasty, fresh food. preferably things she likes. if you don’t know what she likes, just remember that yogurt is the official food of women, so buy up on dozens of different flavours.
  • Hire a maid to really, really, really clean before she arrives, and have the maid keep cleaning once a week. Your girlfriend is not moving in clean up after you. If you’re in the habit of leaving your dirty laundry on the bathroom floor, stop. Also, get in the habit of making the bed, if you aren’t already.

 

Conscious Men & Romantic Relationships

It is resoundingly difficult for a conscious, disciplined man to find a romantic relationship.

Particularly for one who has decided to end old patterns and instill new disciplines into his loving ways.

I’ll admit it. I was once a man bent on being in a romantic relationship. I loved the idea of a partner and often blindly went about the being in a relationship without much conscious effort, rhyme or reason.

They just happened. Then they just happened to fail.

If there is one thing the vast majority of us can relate to, it is that relationships ending can be painful events. For those of us who are single, we can also be sure that we have one thing in common: 100 percent of our romantic relationships have failed.

My long-term romantic relationships (the few I had) were indicative of my state of mind, as my relationship experience shifted from the grips of fear and insecurity into the realm of consciousness and knowing.

I can easily look back and understand why those relationships happened and to what benefit they served. Those experiences and the pain associated with having them have also contributed mightily to my current discipline, wisdom and deep understanding of the nature romance plays in my life.

So, I’ve created certain “guidelines” that I feel must be met for romantic relationships to exist in my space.

There are no such thing as vows.

We have all uttered vows in our lives that we’ve broken. I’ve promised “till death do us part” and so on only to be parted before death. We have all promised eternity, fidelity, honor and obedience to our partners. We’ve all uttered the words “I’ll never leave” or “You are the only one for me” at some points in our lives to someone who is no longer with us.

So, why utter the vow in the first place?

In my experience it wasn’t a lie when I uttered it, it just became one as the tide shifted, or the river stopped flowing, or the host of reasons romance dies on the vine. So, I’ve promised myself that I will not utter a single vow in my next romantic relationship save one: “I will not promise you tomorrow, but I will promise you my truth today.”

There are no rules.

Call me picky, but I really want a romantic relationship to be much like my friendships. I don’t create ground rules for my friends to follow. I don’t tell them how to behave even if my friendship with them is determined by their behavior.  We allow each other to be as we are, with friendships growing or ending in the complete liberation of never having to change to be there.

I want my romantic relationships to be just like that. That means finding a partner who is much like me. It makes no sense for me to become involved with a polyamorous woman if I seek monogamy. It makes no sense for me to become involved with a woman who does heroin if I don’t want heroin in my life. It makes no sense for me to get involved with a woman who doesn’t like children.

I don’t want to change someone to be in a relationship with her, just as I don’t want her to change. I should not have to grow my hair because she doesn’t like baldness, or become Catholic because she is one, or to start hunting because she loves to kill animals.

Conscious people know, or at least they should, what is important in their lives. They should never have to change what is important to them to be in a relationship with someone else, and no one should have to change who they are to be in a relationship with conscious people. It’s really simple, it seems, until romance gets involved. Then, the consciousness seems to fly out the window.

Are there some things I would change for my partner? Perhaps. Yet, there shouldn’t be anything I have to change to be with her. Get it?

couple walking outside beachWe both walk as liberated partners.

This is actually easy if we follow the first two guidelines. Since we’ve uttered no vows, and have no rules, we are free to do as we please within the relationship. Almost everyone I’ve suggested this to has called me crazy, but if I’ve found a person who is much like me, who thinks as I think, lives as I live, and desires what I desire, what rules or vows are necessary?

If no rules or vows are necessary, aren’t we both just freely walking our chosen paths together for as long as we wish? Isn’t it possible to walk freely as devoted warriors of love together without feeling enslaved in any way? Isn’t it possible to make love, disagree, cuddle and kiss—not as a rule or requirement—but just because we want to?

Isn’t it possible to be “who our partner wants” without effort, restriction or rules to follow just because who they want just happens to be who we are?

Guess what? In the type of relationship I seek there is no failure even if the relationship ends. Why? Because the relationship was not created to fulfill any promise other than the liberated expression of love. If it ends, we are both still fulfilling that promise. There is no failure.

I can understand why most would not want to adopt my ideas for relationships.

First, it takes a lot of discipline to live this way, particularly if you weren’t raised to.

I’ve had to discover most things on my own, and I live my life now contrary to the way I, and most people I know from my childhood, were raised.

Having grown up in a traditional conservative Catholic family (which, by the way, was completely dysfunctional in its own right), I realized that I couldn’t exist in the mold that I was forced into, and as I suffered through the discovery I had to find a different path. That led me here.

For those of us raised in this way, it takes a lot of discipline and effort to not fall into old, familiar behavior patterns. I’m blessed: I’ve suffered so much at the hands of my own behaviors that I’ve grown adverse to them. Yet, there are times when I can feel familiar emotions cropping up, and when it seems so easy to revert to how I used to be. So, I must remember the lessons learned in order to devote myself completely to the path I’ve created and not the one created for me. I realize that this work is not something most would want to indulge in.

Second, you have to like being alone if you want to adopt these ideas.

There just are not a lot of people out there who walk this way, so your choices are limited. Many you meet still fall in love based on various reasons and then give up who they are to engage in the plunge.

They still believe that loving relationships demand sacrifice, and that we have to die a thousand deaths in the name of love rather than living one life in its glory. Many hate being alone so much that they will engage in relationship after relationship just for the companionship and faux security they feel while in them.

They see the pain of failure as necessary, and they adopt the failure in a pattern of blame and countless tears. They make the choice to suffer.

So, it is hard to find a partner who wants what you want when you want for nothing.

Add to that the fact that even if you find someone who agrees with these principals, she may not live as you live or seek what you seek. The lesson here is that if you don’t love yourself and the company you keep when alone, you will succumb to the pressure of wanting companionship, regardless of whether or not it is truly right for you.

Now, I know that there are a million suppositions and reactions that this article can create.

I’ve discussed many of them already, with many different people who have heard me speak on this subject. Think about it though: what if we all followed the ideas set here in our romantic relationships? What would happen?

via Conscious Men & Romantic Relationships: It Ain\’t Easy Being Easy. | elephant journal.

How to Move In Together: A Checklist

Dear xoJane,

My boyfriend and I are moving in together soon and while I am super excited, I also feel a little unprepared. I’ve never lived with someone before! I was hoping you guys could give me some advice on the matter. So my question is; If you could go back in time to before you first lived with someone, what advice would you give yourself?

Thanks x 10000000,

Emily sent the above letter from a reader to the xoJane crew and I was all over it because a) I’m coming up on my one year living together anniversary with the mostly greatest boyfriend on earth and b) Oh, how I wish I’d had the foresight to ask for advice waaay back in the day when I first moved in with the worst boyfriend of all time.

So first, Dear Reader, I commend you on being smart enough to realize what a BIG move moving in really is. As the New York Times recently emphasized  in the op-ed “The Downside of Cohabitating Before Marriage” many American couples simply “slide” into cohabitating, effectively making a non-decision about a very, very important decision:

Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean.

Touche, touche. It took me three months to figure out who to room with freshman year but all of three minutes to say “Um, yeah sure okay” when my college boyfriend suggested we just share his one-bedroom in Harlem. To make a long story short, the whole thing ended epically bad. Turned out homeboy was a nut. And for my part? I was naive.

I was 19 years old and just sort of testing the waters of seriousness whereas he, at a very old-seeming 22, was ready to put a ring on it right after I rustled up my degree. We never discussed this massive imbalance in expectations until it was too late to talk any lower than a scream. Supposedly one of the hardest things to do after moving in, is moving out.

When I walked out of our former love nest one last time with a box of pictures of my friends — pictures he’d doused with “water” — I tried to be civil. But before I could turn to say a final goodbye, he pushed me down the stairs and then slammed the door on my flying back.

“Just get the fuck out then,” he shouted in an octave that can only be described as hurt. I landed on my feet — literally — stunned and relieved. Mostly relieved. Yeah, this isn’t a happy story.

But there is hope, promise!

image

An artistic rendering of me staring longingly at my main squeeze

After 10 years of “never again” responses when asked about the likelihood of me sharing my sacred space with anyone other than Miles the Magnificent Pug Psychiatrist, I met my main squeeze. A man who I can honestly say turned my self-centered world view on its head.

That is to say, now it’s the two of us (three counting Miles) and I’ve had to dig deep past my only-child tendencies to embrace the chaos of other people’s shit. It’s fantastic, frightening and mostly very fun.

But none of that is to say living together is easy just because I’m a) older b) have more sense and c) know how to ask someone to do dishes. Living together is hard work. In fact, in my opinion it should be just as hard as being married to someone.

To quote the Times pieces once again: “The best time to work on someone’s marriage is before he or she has one.” Or to put it in 21 century “not everyone wants to get married” terms, the best time to work on your serious “we live together” relationship is before your cohabitator invades.

So here’s my totally makeshift, experience-driven and absolutely unscientific Moving In Checklist. This is also me assuming you’ve plowed through the important stuff like who’s paying for what (halfsies or some other fraction), who’s handling the bills (i.e., actually pressing submit or smacking on a stamp) and who’s doing stuff like dinner, the dishes, the laundry, etc.

Put your name on the lease

Moving into someone else’s space is tricky both emotionally and legally. Never let anyone, no matter how cute they are in the morning, hold your housing in their hands. I’ve known too many smart women with jobs who ended up effectively homeless when a relationship ended. And on a brighter note ,when the two of you are both on the lease then you both feel equally empowered to make decisions about the mansion/apartment/shack/house (remember MASH?).

Get a storage unit

Remember the “stupid, wagon wheel, Roy Rogers, garage sale coffee table” Jess wanted to keep when he moved in with Marie in “When Harry Met Sally”? Just avoid the fight and store all of his (or your) hideous crap out of sight. Plus, you don’t need redundant furniture. If someone’s life-sized Darth Vader wax figure is too sentimental for Craigslist but also too ugly to exist, then swath that bad boy in bubble wrap and ship it off to the 10 x 10 that time forgot.

Have conversations

You do this a lot sans rooming but convos not of the “who needs to do x, y and z” variety can fall by the wayside once folks have sides of the bed. And yes, talking always makes things better. Despite being a writer on most days, I hate talking about things like my feelings directly to the person I have them for. I can never find the words and I feel awkward and dorky — like how if your favorite singer sang you a love song. The whole time I’m thinking, Where do I look? What to do with my hands?

Thankfully my love life is not a live action episode of “Glee.” When there’s a problem, it only makes sense to sit down and talk it out with the person you see the most, the person you care enough about to live with. But “We need to talk” is the worst. I usually open with “Can you listen to me right now?” It’s weird, but it works.

Go on dates.

I don’t know how or when people with spawn hijacked the term “date night,” but it’s for everybody. Date Night for all!!! When you move in together, the trajectory usually follows a clear line from high “Holy shit you’re still here” type glances in the steamy bathroom mirror and then quickly devolves into, “Yep, still here” sighs from the front door. Remedy this by getting out of the damn house on a regular basis. There’s a reason your mom demanded you “go out and play” for a while after school — stir crazy is a thing. And it can kill the sex. Also, have sex (if that’s your thing).

Manage your expectations

This check is two-fold. Firstly, don’t think living together will transform your couch into a magical island of psychedelic fun. It’s still a couch. What makes the mundane stuff of your single life even better in your doubled-up life is the act of being in a fun, committed “thing.”

Also manage your expectations by checking in with yourself. Ask if you’re still on the same page with your partner? If you’re still enjoying the relationship? Are you smiling 7 times out of 10 when your main squeeze turns his key or is that sound more akin to nails on a chalkboard?

Living together is a leap. Whether you land on your feet, in his lap or on your BFF’s couch three months later is entirely up to the two of you. But waking up in the morning to your favorite face (aside from your own, of course) is seriously the gift that keeps on giving.

And I know I’m not the only one in the xoJane peanut gallery with strong opinions on the whole cohab confab. Add your deal-breakers and makers to the list folks, I wanna make sure I’m doing this thing right, too.

via How to Move In Together: A Checklist From Someone Who Learned the Hard Way | xoJane.  [check out the comments too]

Healthy Connection

At the heart of attachment theory is the assumption that we all — all of us — have a basic, primal drive to connect. It’s wired into us, after millions of years of evolution, because on our own, we humans are weak, relatively defenseless creatures. That’s why emotional isolation registers in one of the most primitive areas of our brain — the amygdala — as a life-and-death situation (scientists call this the “primal panic”). The anxiously attached lack any faith that emotional closeness will endure because they were often abandoned or neglected as children, and now, as adults, they frantically attempt to silence the “primal panic” in their brain by doing anything it takes to keep connection. In short, they become needy. (The avoidantly attached shut their dependency needs and feelings off altogether to escape the pain of having their longings ignored or rejected.)

It’s not need, then, that engenders neediness. It’s fear– fear of our own needs for connection and the possibility that they won’t ever be met. That’s what hurtles us into the abject despair of neediness. The only way to get rid of a need is to satisfy it, and the more anxious we are about having it, the more quickly we want it met. Overcoming neediness therefore demands that we disentangle the need from the fear, and there a number of ways to do this:

Breathe. If you recognize that fear is the problem, not loneliness or a desire for contact, you can escape the suffocating grasp of the neediness by using stress management skills. Go for a run, meditate, do diaphragmatic breathing — all of these will reduce your anxiety, along with your impulse to act out of neediness.

Get connected. The researchers discovered a healthy version of dependency, one that involves a valuing of relationships. It’s not just more active, it’s more direct. Make clear requests. Neediness is all about blindly reaching when you don’t even know what you’re reaching for. Connectedness is about effectively depending on others.

Practice emotional mindfulness. Rather than acting on what you think you need, sit down and write about the feelings you’re having. Are you afraid of being alone? What’s it like to simply focus on that without trying to flee it by seeking contact? Instead of trying to get rid of the feeling, try to understand it. Not only does that make it easier for you to recognize and express your needs more clearly, it teaches you how to tolerate them.

Take stock of your relationships. Needy people often attract dates or friends who reinforce their neediness — people who crave connection, just like everybody else, but seem loathe to express the desire (they’re often avoidant). If your fear is that the phone will stop ringing if you don’t call, ask yourself, am I the one who always seeks contact or reassurance? Am I OK with that?

Make room for your needs. When we hate or fear our needs, it only makes them more intense because we’re tempted to hide or disguise them. That not only makes them confusing for others, but harder to satisfy. How you express your needs — whether for closeness, reassurance, contact, or love — will change dramatically once you start taking them seriously because you’ll have a far better understanding of what they are and where they come from.

When all is said and done, the key to overcoming neediness is to respect your needs for connection instead of fearing them. When you do, the chaos of neediness gives way to the clarity of intimacy. And everyone’s happier for it.

via Dr. Craig Malkin: How to Overcome Neediness.

I Am Happier, Heavier

Rachel Oh Uiginn Estapa

It’s not insane to believe that once you lose weight, life gets better.

For years, I heard stories from those who have shed pounds, recharged their lives, never felt better, and speak so confidently that once the weight was gone, they became the person they were meant to be: a thin and happy one.

I do not doubt their happiness when they share their story, but I also don’t believe that by losing weight, they have some superior knowledge about happiness that us heavier-folk don’t. How do I know this? I’ve been fat and thinner. And I’ve been at my happiest, heavier.

End of high school and into college, I was BIG and used to decline attending parties because I didn’t remotely have anything cute to wear, so I hid behind sarcasm and baggy shirts. And dating-wise… wait, WHAT dating life?

Midway through my freshman year of college I joined Weight Watchers and the gym, becoming obsessed with both. Within seven months, I lost 55 pounds, fit into a size ten and even felt sexy for about fifteen minutes!

But as the scale dipped lower and the compliments on my weight-loss wore off, something else emerged: I felt exhausted, disappointed and still unhappy.

“Ugh, I just can’t keep this up…” I recall saying to myself after a Weight Watchers meeting, of which was my lowest weigh-in ever. I felt defeated and broken that after all my effort, not much beyond the scale changed.

Wasn’t I supposed to feel amazing? Different? Instead I felt burnt out, over-worked, stressed about every meal and workout… and I wasn’t even at my “goal” — that was still another 40 pounds away!

Within five years, I gain the weight back and while initially bummed, I actually felt a sense of relief.

My story is 98% of all dieter’s stories, but for whatever reason, the myth that overweight people are lazy prevails. If you’ve never embarked on losing lots of weight, you probably cannot understand how all-encompassing the process becomes and the toll it takes on your mental and physical self.

Losing weight isn’t about willpower or determination. People embark upon weight loss “journeys” because they want to fix themselves. And I understand why — it’s very painful to believe something is wrong with you.

I wanted to feel happy, but dieting wasn’t making me feel happy. Isn’t my quality of life worth more than my pant-size?

My road to thin was paved with anxiety. I was constantly overthinking what I could eat, how much I should workout, and how to balance being a young adult and on a diet. Sure, the physical results where was I was aiming for, but I didn’t anticipate my quality of life being so frantic and worrisome.

My lesson wasn’t to learn how to lose weight — it was to learn how to accept myself. Instead of plotting another diet to lose the weight I re-gained, I decided to turn my focus towards learning about authentic happiness, holistic health and well-being. And today at 29, I’m madly in love with who I am and in learning to love myself, I learned how to love other people much better too.

Some might believe that my story means I am anti-weight loss, but I am not. I’m anti-shame, guilt and fear as an avenue to weighing less in the hopes of being a better and healthier person for it.

I believe we each have a unique spectrum of health, and it’s up to us individually to have the self-awareness to gauge if what we do each day is healthy or unhealthy, not just for our bodies, but for our overall well-being. Being larger isn’t an automatic indicator of poor health, as I’m more fit today that I was when I weighed less. Deep down, you know if your actions lean more towards healthy or unhealthy, and this goes for anyone at any size. A more holistic approach to your own body’s needs and happiness may end up serving you better long-term because the best lifestyle is the one you’re excited and happy about.

My travel from heavy to thinner and back to heavy again taught me how deceiving the allure of appearances can be; that confidence comes from a strong will of speaking your truth, and that sustainable health and happiness stems not from calories in versus calories out, but of an attitude of gratitude.

And it’s with learning gratitude my real body-love story began. Gratitude for my body for all it does and in kind, I now treat with respect and balance.

I got married in a large body. I created my own business in a large body. I did my first professional photo shoot in a large body. I adore this large body and even if I lost or gained weight, the core of who I am does not change.

Rachel Estapa, founder of More To Love, is a writer, coach and speaker on plus size body image, health and happiness. See more at http://www.moretolovewithrachel.com

via I Am Happier, Heavier | Rachel O’h-Uiginn Estapa.