Category:

Mental Health

            We are living in a world out of balance. One clear indicator is our global climate crisis. Another is the violence going on in the world, perpetrated mostly by men. I have been working for more than fifty years to address male violence, directed inward in the form of depression and suicide, and outward in the form of aggression and violence. Our Moonshot for Mankind, is a world-wide community, dedicated to healing the trauma at the root of male violence. It is now available for charter membership. I hope you’ll consider joining us at MoonShotForMankind.com.  

            Sometimes the most important truths come from those who can see the humor in the challenges we face. Elayne Boosler is an American comedian, writer and actor. She was one of the few women working in stand-up comedy in the 1970s and 80s and she broke ground with frank discussions about her life as a single woman, as well as political commentary. She said,

“When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.”

            I have been dealing with depression my whole life. When I was five years old, my father became increasingly depressed because he couldn’t support his family. He took an overdose of drugs. Though he didn’t die, our lives were never the same. I grew up wondering what happened to my father, whether it would happen to me, and how I could keep it from happened to other families.

            I’ve written seventeen books addressing various aspects of men’s health including international best-sellers, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, Surviving Male Menopause, and The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression. My latest book, Long Live Men! The Moonshot Mission to Heal Men, Close the Lifespan Gap, and Offer Hope for Humanity, will be published in November, 2022 and available first to charter members of the Moonshot for Mankind Community.

            According to the World Report on Violence and Health published by the World Health Organization (WHO),

“Violence is a universal scourge that tears at the fabric of communities and threatens the life, health and happiness of us all.”

The report examined three major types of violence—homicide, suicide, and war—and concludes that violence is a predominantly male problem since males perpetrate most of the violence and are also the predominate victims.

            What causes male violence? Though the causes are complex, the root causes are related to shame. James Gilligan, MD, is one of the world’s leading experts on violence. In his book, Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes, he says,

“I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed.”

Gilligan goes on to say that

“The emotional of shame is the primary or ultimate cause of all violence, whether toward others or toward the self.”

Shame and trauma are implicated in violence as well as other health issues.

Trauma: The Root Cause of Violence and Other Personal and Societal Ills

            In his book, The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture, Gabor Maté, MD masterfully describes the roots of his own anger and violence as an adult and relates it to the first years of his life in wartime and post-World War II Budapest. In the first chapter of the book titled, “The Last Place You Want to Be: Facets of Trauma,” he shares his mother’s diary and this entry on April 8, 1945, when Gabor was fourteen months old:

My dear little man, only after many months do I take in hand again the pen, so that I may briefly sketch for you the unspeakable horrors of those times, the details of which I do not wish you to know…It was on December 12 that the Crossed-Arrows [The viciously anti-Semitic fascist Hungarian political movement allied with the Nazi occupation.] forced us into the fenced-in Budapest ghetto, from which, with extreme difficulty, we found refuge with a Swiss-protected house. From there, after two days, I sent you by a complete stranger to your Aunt Viola’s because I saw that your little organism could not possibly endure the living conditions in that building. Now began the most dreadful five or six weeks of my life, when I couldn’t see you.

We can only imagine the trauma of the war, the fear, the death, and the separation from mother and family at such an early age. But these wounds can last a lifetime and impact our adult lives. We now have a better understanding of the rage and anger the seventy-one-year-old Gabor had when he exploded on his wife when she couldn’t pick him up at the airport (an incident he recounts at the beginning of the first chapter). We also understand the impact that past trauma has on all families. F

Gabor opens his heart in the book and is totally and honest and vulnerable about how the traumas of his early life affected his adult emotions and behavior.

“I was in my mid-forties, outwardly a successful physician and columnist. Yet who was I within myself and within the four-walled world of our home? A depressed, anxious, psychologically underdeveloped man, years away from addressing his core wounds; a man whose family bore the burden of his dysfunctional, erratic, and emotionally hostile behaviors; a man whose workaholism took the form at home of physical and emotional absence, even negligence; a man addicted to his own internal drama, not knowing how to be responsible for his actions and mind states or their impacts on his family, least of all his child-to-be.”

I recognized a similar pattern in my own life and wrote about it in The Irritable Male Syndrome and other books and articles. In my forthcoming book, Long Live Men! I say,

“Trauma is not what you think. When most of us think of trauma, we think of extreme situations—soldiers facing extreme stress in battle, children being sexually abused, or an adult being raped. We don’t think of trauma as the more subtle and common events that occur in most of our lives as we are growing up.”

Types of Trauma and Our Moonshot for Mankind Community

            Dr. Maté describes two types of trauma.

“The first involves automatic responses and mind-body adaptations to specific, identifiable hurtful and overwhelming events, whether in childhood or later. As my medical work taught me and as research has amply shown, painful things happen to many children, from outright abuse or severed neglect in the family of origin to poverty or racism or oppression that are daily features of many societies.”

            The second type sometimes termed “small-t trauma,” Dr. Maté says are nearly universal in our culture.

“I have often witnessed what long-lasting marks impact seemingly ordinary events—what a seminal researcher poignantly called the ‘less memorable but hurtful and far more prevalent misfortunes of childhood,’—can leave on the psyches of children. These might include bullying by peers, the casual but repeated harsh comments of a well-meaning parent, or even just a lack of sufficient emotional connection with the nurturing adults.”

            I would add a third type that impacts everyone. I call it the “existential trauma” we all feel living in a world culture where human existence, as a whole, is threatened. Some call this culture “civilization.” Others call it the “patriarchy.” I follow historian, Riane Eisler’s description as the “dominator system.”

            Trauma specialize Peter Levine says,

“trauma is about a loss of connection—to ourselves, our families, and the world around us. This loss is hard to recognize, because it happens slowly, over time. We adapt to these subtle changes; sometimes without noticing them.”

            The purpose of our Moonshot for Mankind Community is to help everyone notice and take action. It brings together individuals and organization who recognize the healing men as a necessary step in healing the world. I hope you’ll check out the community and consider joining here.

The post Traumatic Masculinity and Violence: Our Moonshot For Mankind Offers Hope to Humanity appeared first on MenAlive.

Part 2

            In Part 1 we examined the roots of men’s fear of women and how it often triggers male anger. Because the underlying causes of these feelings are most often unconscious, they continue to be a problem for men as well as the women they love. Truly, the truth can set us free and help improve our love lives. Here we will explore how these fears can lead to relationship conflicts.

Males Feel Engulfed By WOMAN

            Sam Keen is a philosopher and author of numerous books including Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man. I’ve known Sam for many years and believe he offers insights into why men are the way they are that can help us better understand men’s hunger for women, along with our anger and fear.

“It was slow in dawning on me that WOMAN had an overwhelming influence on my life and on the lives of all the men I knew,”

Keen says.

“I’m not talking about women, the actual flesh-and-blood creatures, but about WOMEN, those larger-than-life shadowy female figures who inhabit our imaginations, inform our emotions, and indirectly give shape to many of our actions.”

            If you knew Sam, who is tall, good-looking, and successful, you might be as surprised as I was when he shared the deeper truth about his life.

“From all outward appearances, I was a successfully individuated man. I had set my career course early, doggedly stuck to the discipline of graduate school through many years and degrees, and by my mid-thirties was vigorously pursuing the life of a professor and writer. Like most men, I was devoting most of my energy and attention to work and profession.”

            I could definitely identify with Keen’s early experience. My own life trajectory was similar as was “the rest of the story.” Keen continues saying,

“But if the text of my life was ‘successful independent man,’ the subtext was ‘engulfed by WOMAN.’ All the while I was advancing in my profession, I was engaged in an endless struggle to find the ‘right’ woman, to make my relationship ‘work,’ to create a good marriage. I agonized over sex—was I good enough? Did she ‘come’? Why wasn’t I always potent? What should I do about my desires for other women? The more troubled my marriage became, the harder I tried to get it right. I worked at communication, sex, and everything else until I became self-obsessed. Divorce finally broke the symbiotic mother-son, father-daughter pattern of my first marriage.”

            Sam’s story is like my own and that of millions of men. When we are engulfed by WOMAN, we are out of touch with our true selves. We project all our hopes for a life of passion, joy, and meaning on to this or that woman, but it never works out because we are really longing for the mythical WOMAN of our dreams. Yet, we continually deny the reality and the power that this mythical female figure exerts in our lives.

“I would guess,” says Keen,

“that a majority of men never break free, never define manhood by weighing and testing their own experience. And the single largest reason is that we never acknowledge the primal power WOMAN wields over us. The average man spends a lifetime denying, defending against, trying to control, and reacting to the power of WOMAN. He is committed to remaining unconscious and out of touch with his own deepest feelings and experience.”

            It took a long time for me to understand my anger and fear of women and to begin the journey of becoming my own man. Sam’s experiences and his words have helped me.

“We begin to learn the mysteries unique to maleness only when we separate from WOMAN’s world,”

says Keen.

“But before we can take our leave, we must first become conscious of the ways in which we are enmeshed, incorporated, inwombed, and defined by WOMAN. Otherwise we will be controlled by what we haven’t remembered.”

            As long as we are controlled by what we haven’t remembered we will continue to hate and love women, to hunger for them and also be afraid of them, to touch them tenderly and also want to hurt them.

            I took my first step in remembering in a workshop for men and women. In one of the exercises all the women sat on the floor in a big circle and the women sat in a large circle around the outside of the women’s circle. The men listened while the women talked about their lives, their desire for love, and also their fears. I was amazed at the depth of the women’s sharing when they were just talking to other women.

            When the women had finished, they were instructed to move out and let the men create the inner circle. As the women moved to the outside the woman in front of me patted the spot on the rug where she had been sitting. It was a caring gesture, a non-verbal invitation: Welcome, come have a seat here and share your story. I smiled at sat where she had invited me. Immediately I moved aside. It was as though I had sat on a hotplate and I quickly jumped away. She looked surprised and patted the spot again, again with no word, but the intent was clear: Its O.K., have a seat. You’re safe here. Once again, I sat where she had offered and again felt like I couldn’t sit there, moved to another spot, and burst into tears.

            All this happened during the thirty-seconds it took for the women to move to the outer circle and the men to move to the inner circle. “Nothing” had happened. Yet, here was a guy sitting in a circle with thirty other men weeping. The leader finally noticed that “something” had happened. “So, what’s going on for you?” he asked.

            It took me awhile to gather my thoughts. I described the women’s kind gesture of offering me the seat she had vacated then continued.

“By sitting on the spot where she had offered, I realized that I was doing something I had done all my life. I felt I was always trying to plug into the energy of a woman. I always acted strong and independent, but deep inside, I felt I didn’t have any independent energy of my own. But in this instance, I knew I couldn’t sit there and I moved. It was terrifying to be in a new spot, to be unplugged from the force field of the woman. I was afraid I would die. When she offered the spot again, I immediately sat there, but just couldn’t do it.

            The final move to my own spot was a recognition that I have to separate myself from the force field of the woman, even if it kills me. I’m not sure if I have what it takes to be my own man, but I’ve got to find out. My tears are about the fear and terror I feel being all alone with myself and also tears of joy for finally making the break.”

I soon realized I was not alone and that telling my truth in the company of other men was the first step towards manhood. When I looked up and saw that many of the women had tears running down their cheeks, I knew that this journey to becoming my own man, was one that women were coming to understand, love, and support.

            In Part 3 of this article, we will continue our journey to heal men and our relationships with women.

            Our Moonshot for Mankind and Humanity is launching. We’re bringing together individuals and organizations who have a serious interest in helping men improve their mental, emotional, and relational health and wellbeing so they can be healthy partners with women and good fathers to their children. We invite you to join us here: https://moonshotformankind.com/

            To read more articles and get our free weekly newsletter, please join us here:  https://menalive.com/email-newsletter/

The post Men Who Fear, Hate, and Worship Women and How They Can Find Real Lasting Love – Part 2 appeared first on MenAlive.

Part 1

            I’ve been a marriage and family counselor for more than fifty years. It is true, we teach what we want to learn. At my website, MenAlive.com, I greet visitors with a short welcome video, “Confessions of a Twice-Divorced Marriage Counselor.” I talk about what went wrong in my first two marriages and what I learned that helped me have a successful relationship with Carlin, my third wife, that has been growing stronger and more joyful since we got together 42 years ago.

            A friend and colleague that has been on a similar journey is Sven Masterson.

“I’m happily married to Zelda, who I married 28 years ago and with whom I’ve been in a continuous romantic relationship for over 30 years,”

says Sven. But their marriage was not always great.

“I spent about half of our marriage in pain, misery, and frustration before encountering a handful of life-altering perspectives that helped me turn everything around.”

            Looking back Sven says,

“People told me I was a great husband and father, including my wife, on infrequent occasions (and usually in a card). There was just one major problem. Inwardly I was miserable, melancholy, and woefully unhappy, and I had a secret no one knew. My secret? That I spent excessive time fantasizing about my wife dying in her sleep so I could hopefully remarry and live the rest of my life happily ever after.”

“Today, I have a great relationship. One that I often laugh about in sheer surprise, amazement, and gratitude.”

You can learn more about Sven’s healing journey here.

I want to broaden our understanding by taking an evolutionary and historical look at the unconscious reasons so many men learn to fear, hate, and worship women.

Taking an Honest Look at Misogyny: The Male Malady

My professional background is in biology and psychology. I’ve learned that most of the issues we face as humans are multi-dimensional and cross the lines of many professional disciplines. I’ve long believed that if we are going to understand and solve the problems we face, we need to seek out experts in many fields. That’s how I came to meet David Gilmore.

            I was attending an international men’s conference and David was one of the speakers. I liked his topic “Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity” and bought his book of the same title. He had studied cultures all over the world and though he looked like a traditional academic with tweed jacket and short hair, he had exciting new things to say about why men are the way they are.

            I reconnected with him when his book, Misogyny: The Male Malady, was published. I thought if anyone could give me insights into male anger towards women, David was the one. The dictionary defines misogyny as “the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.” Gilmore offers a broader definition in his book:

            He describes misogyny as “an unreasonable fear or hatred of women.” He goes on to say that “this feeling finds social expression in the concrete behavior—in cultural institutions, in writings, in rituals, or in other observable activity.”

            His research is impeccable and his discoveries challenging:

            Gilmore explored cultures from Western Europe to the Middle East, from the jungles of South America to the remote uplands of New Guinea, from preliterate tribal peoples to modern Americans. He looks at ancient and modern cultures and all those in between. He finds that in all places around the world, there has been a tendency for men to fear and hate women.

            A quick summary of his findings, reported in his well-documented book, include the following:

  • One of the last-surviving hunter-gatherer tribes live in the highlands of New Guinea in the South Pacific. “These men believe not only that women are inferior to men, but that women are also polluting to men, sexually dangerous to men’s health. The men declare that women’s monthly menstrual flow in particular is the most powerful and deadly poison on earth; one drop is absolutely lethal to men, boys, and male animals.”
  • The ancient Greeks often displayed a fierce misogyny, putting woman in the category of the God-given ills. Poets charged that women were the original source of kakon, or evil, in the world, which was created by the gods to torture men. The ancients populated their cosmos with she-demons and sorceresses such as Pandora, who brought all trouble into the world, and the sinister island-dwelling Circe, a witch who turned men into pigs.
  • Gentle Yurok Indians of northwestern California, like the Greeks, speak of “a woman’s inside,” the vagina and uterus, as the doorway through which sin and social disorder entered the world.
  • The Christian Bible, the Muslim Qur’an, the Hebrew Torah, and Buddhist and Hindu scriptures condemn woman, not only for her spiritual defects, but also for her body, which they deride in the crudest terms. All these great religions blame woman for the lust, licentiousness, and depravity that men are prone to, and for committing the original sin or its theological equivalent. Weak and gullible, it is Eve, like Pandora, who introduces sin and sorrow into the world.

            Lest we think that misogyny is merely an unfortunate part of our past, we need only listen to the women who have come forward under the banner of the #MeToo movement to recognize that sexual violence continues to pervade the U.S., as well as countries throughout the world.

The Other Side of the Coin: Gynophilia and Men’s Worship of Women

No men I know want to feel that they “hate women.” And most of us don’t. When I wrote my book, Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from the Irritable Male Syndrome, a number of my colleagues in the men’s movement wrote me off. “You’re demeaning men,” they told me. “It’s unfair, reverse sexism.” But I felt that getting at the truth is not demeaning. It can be difficult, but in the long run it helps us all.

            I’ve learned that denying the truth just causes additional pain and suffering. Whether you are male or female reading these words, notice how you are feeling inside. What do the examples of misogyny bring up in you? Do you want to dismiss them or embrace them? Do you want to run away or go deeper?

            Jamie Buckingham said,

“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

Gloria Steinem voiced a similar thought when she said,

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

I’ve often said,

“The truth will set you free, but first it will kick your ass.”

             There’s another truth that I think we need to understand and recognize. Just as there are societies, and men within societies, who both fear and denigrate women, there are also groups and individuals who view women in a very positive light. They almost worship women, feeling they are goddesses and can do no wrong. I’ve seen that tendency in many male clients I’ve seen over the years.

            I was surprised to learn that David Gilmore’s research was clear. The same societies that denigrate and put women down also worship and elevate them. Gilmore has a whole chapter in his book describing the opposite of misogyny which he calls Gynophilia. He says,

“Like so much having to do with men and women, misogyny is only one piece of the puzzle. To be sure, many men hate and fear women, but just as many love and revere them. It is obvious that two edges of this mental sword are related in some labile fashion and share origins in the ancient touchstone of the primitive male cerebellum.”

He suggests that both ends of the spectrum, hate & fear/love & reverence drive us up and down, back and forth. They frustrate and confuse us. I would add that they can drive us crazy. Gilmore describes our human dilemma this way:

“Woman has the uncanny power to frustrate man’s noble (but unrealistic) ideals, to subvert his lofty (hollow) ends, and to sully his (deluded) quest for spiritual perfection; but she also, and not coincidentally, provides him with the greatest pleasures of his earthly life. These pleasures are not just sexual release, but also other life-sustaining comforts that only a woman can provide (based on the organization of most societies): food, tenderness, nurturing, and heirs. It is not surprising that the men who most deplore and distrust women are the same ones who most admire, want, and need them; the most histrionic and poignant rituals of woman-adulation occur in the same societies responsible for the most egregious and sordid examples of woman-bashing.”

            He concludes by saying,

“Like misogyny, gynophilia is kind of male neurosis, for it stems from the same unresolved conflicts and it has both a carnal and spiritual manifestation.”

The first step in healing our fears and anger towards women is to recognize and accept that they exist. In the next part of the article, we will look more deeply at the ways these issues manifest in our relationships and how we can heal them.

            Our Moonshot for Mankind and Humanity is launching. We’re bringing together individuals and organizations who have a serious interest in helping men improve their mental, emotional, and relational health and well being so they can be healthy partners with women and good fathers to their children. We invite you to join us here: https://moonshotformankind.com/

            To read more articles and get our free weekly newsletter, please join us here:  https://menalive.com/email-newsletter/

The post Men Who Fear, Hate, and Worship Women and How They Can Find Real Lasting Love appeared first on MenAlive.

When I was five years old I thought I could save my father’s life. I knew he was in a hospital, but I didn’t understand what happened to him. What I did know was that my mother told me I needed to be her “little man” and go with my uncle to visit my father. It turned out the hospital was a mental hospital. Entering Camarillo State Mental Hospital fifty miles north of our home in the San Fernando Valley, was like entering an Alice-in-Wonderland world.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh you can’t help that,” said the Cat. “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

I later learned that the movie, The Snake Pit starring Olivia de Havilland, was filmed at Camarillo. The hospital is also rumored to be the Eagles’ inspiration for the classic rock song “Hotel California.”

After going with my uncle to visit my father every Sunday for a year and later learning that my father escaped, the last lines of the song still chill me:

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
“Relax,” said the night man
“We are programmed to receive”
“You can check-out any time you like”
“But you can never leave!”

Welcome to the Hotel California
              Such a lovely place (such a lovely place).

During the twelve months I visited my father, I watched him deteriorate. Shortly after he was admitted, my uncle took him out of the hospital to be treated for stomach ulcers that nearly killed him, but my father was forced to return because he was still under a court-ordered commitment as being “mentally ill” and therefore in need of “long-term treatment.”

I grew up wondering what happened to my father, whether it would happen to me, and what I could do to keep it from happening to other families. I wrote about my own battles with mental illness and my father’s healing journey after he escaped from Camarillo in my book, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound.

I have gone on to help thousands of men and their families live healthier, more engaged, and loving lives. I’ve written more than a thousand articles and sixteen books. At this stage of my career, spanning more than fifty years, I want to use the time I still have to make the most positive impact I can so that I can continue to help men and their families.

There are millions of men, like my father, who hunger to be fully alive and well. My colleagues Randolph Nesse, MD and Daniel Kruger, PhD examined premature deaths among men in 20 countries. They found that in every country, men died sooner and lived sicker than women and their shortened health and lifespan harmed the men and their families.

Among their conclusions were these two statements:

  • “Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death.”
  • “Over 375,000 lives would be saved in a single year in the U.S. alone if men’s risk of dying was as low as women’s.”

The primary reason men die sooner and live sicker than women is due to mental, emotional, and relational health problems such as male depression and aggression. Mentally healthy men don’t kill themselves and others. They don’t express their pain through road rage and domestic violence. They aren’t involved with mass shootings.

Google’s [X] is known as their “Moonshot Factory.” Those who work there aim to improve the lives of millions, even billions, of people. Their goal is a 10x impact on the world’s most intractable problems, not just a 10% improvement. We need moonshot mission to revitalize men’s mental health.

Our moonshot mission began in November 2021 when I invited a number of colleagues to join me to share what we were each doing in the broad area of men’s mental and emotional health. A group of us have continued to meet monthly and are working together to make a positive difference in the world of men, their families, and communities. We are a diverse group including:

  • Boysen Hodgson with the Mankind Project.
  • Lisa Hickey with the Good Men Project.
  • Frederick Marx with Warrior Films.
  • Shana James with Shana James Coaching.
  • Joe Conrad with Man Therapy: Men’s Mental Health Resources.
  • MaLe Corona with Male Wholeness.
  • Ed Frauenheim with Reinventing Masculinity.
  • Jed Diamond with MenAlive.

I’ve written a new book, which will be out in November, Long Live Men! The Moonshot Mission to Heal Men, Close the Lifespan Gap, and Offer Hope to Humanity. Each of my colleagues have written a piece for Chapter 10, “Join Our Moonshot Mission to Heal Men and the Women and Children Who Love Them.” Here’s an excerpt from what Frederick Marx wrote.

“Like Jed and the other members of this accomplished team, I aim to provide some of the tools to enable people everywhere to reach for their own human transformation and to lend a hand in support of men everywhere. My simple, albeit ambitious prayer is that male teens worldwide get initiated and mentored into adulthood. To help get us there, I envision thousands of men’s organizations worldwide partnering with us to sign and promote a simple

5-point Men’s Wellness Vow:

  • I will remain healthy in mind and body.
  • I will nourish and grow my emotional awareness.
  • I will become familiar with my internal darkness and never harm another man, woman or child.
  • I will ask for help and strive to live cooperatively, not competitively, with men.
  • I will become the best man I can be, living with honor and pride in my masculinity.

Our goal?  100 million men signatories!” 

Join Our Moonshot For Mankind Community

            Here’s where you come in. We know that healing men is not only good for the guys, but is good for women, children, families, and the planet we all share. Today we are opening the doors for you to join us. Come visit us at MoonshotForMankind.com. We are inviting individuals and organizations, men, women, and those who identify beyond the binary. We invite people from throughout the U.S. and around the world.

            We ask you to join for $43. I’ve chosen that number because I think it is within the reach of most everyone and you get some significant value for your money including:

  • Diamond Gems of Wisdom. Weekly sayings, reflections, and wisdom about men’s health.
  • “Community Campfires.” Life Zoom calls with me and other expert colleagues to share the latest information on health and healing.
  • Free access to my cutting-edge library of articles (plus a new one every week).
  • Exclusive community offers including special editions of the new book, Long Live Men!

But that’s not all. We are also donating 10% to Ecology Action/Grow Biointensive that for more than fifty years has been working in more than 150 countries worldwide to help people. We want to bring together thousands of organizations and individuals that are doing great work so that together we can change the world for the better.

Come join us. We would like to have 10,000 people join our community so we can continue our goal to help save 375,000 men’s lives in the U.S. and in all the other countries of the world.

The post Join the Moonshot for Mankind and Help Us Save 375,000 Men’s Lives This Year appeared first on MenAlive.

Having written a book about the 5 Stages of Love and an article, “The 5 Love Secrets Your Therapist Never Told You About,” I was excited when a colleague told me about a new book coming out called The Go-Giver Marriage: A Little Story About the 5 Secrets to Lasting Love by John David Mann and Ana Gabriel Mann. They sent me their book and it was like nothing I had ever read. It’s not a marriage manual as much as it is magical mystery tour that took me on a journey that made me say, “Yes, this is really what it’s like to fall in love and then to be given the secrets of what it takes to have a love that lasts and gets better through time.”

            I wanted to talk with them directly for one of my podcasts and had a number of questions I wanted to ask them:

  • The original Go-Giver books were wildly popular particularly among entrepreneurs and small business owners. What made you decide to write The Go-Giver Marriage?
  • What is the foundation of your “5 secrets to lasting love”? Where did they come from? How do you experience them in your own marriage?
  • How do the five secrets change marriages or any relationship for the better?
  • In the book you talk about “throwing out the scorecard” — what does that mean, and why is it so important?
  • Can you each tell us which of the “5 secrets to lasting love” is your favorite, and why?
  • In holding a spirit of generosity, how do you ensure you don’t lose yourself in the process of giving to the marriage?
  • Does the advice in your book apply only to married people, or can it apply to unmarried relationships too?
  • I’ve found that men often resist books on relationships or don’t think they would be for them. What would you say to the men watching this that might speak to their concerns?
  • What’s one simple thing people can get from your book that will make a difference in their relationship? 

Here, for the first time, is the full podcast interview with John and Ana Mann. Please let us know how you like it. If you found it helpful, I’ll plan to post other of our podcast interviews. If you aren’t already subscribed to our free newsletter where you will get notice of the latest article and information on resources you can use to improve your love life, you can subscribe here.

The post The Go-Giver Marriage and the 5 Secrest of Lasting Love appeared first on MenAlive.

My wife, Carlin, and I have been married for 42 years. It is the third marriage for both of us. When we fell in love and I had decided that she’s the one, I comforted myself believing that “third time’s the charm.” But we were realistic adults and we had understandable anxieties about commitment. We both had made vows in our previous marriages about loving, honoring, obeying—well, at least loving and honoring—until  death do us part. I wanted to be sure things were going to turn out well.

In one of our intimate conversations, I asked Carlin, “Can you really commit to me?” I felt sure that the answer was “yes,” but I felt I had to ask. To my surprise she said, “I can’t commit to you, but I can commit to us.” I was startled and taken aback. I felt hurt and afraid. All I heard is that I can’t commit to you. But as we talked more and I sat with what Carlin said, I began to feel better about a commitment to us. But it took me many years to fully recognize the wisdom in what Carlin had told me.

We both had experienced the reality that falling in love was the easy part, staying in love was the hard part, and even more difficult was the day-to-day practice of repairing the small and large disconnections that every relationship experiences that can pull a couple apart. It is not easy to capture the essence of a marriage that is moving into its fifth decade. But those who might want to understand ours could be guided by my sixteen books. Number seventeen, Long Live Men, will be coming out in November 2022.

Each book, beginning with Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man, which came out in 1983, three years after Carlin and I were married, described some of our major disconnections and resolutions. They also detail how we worked back to Us when You and Me were pulling us apart. I learned early that most of the conflict between You and Me comes from inner conflict between ways I’d been conditioned to be and the deeper sense of who I am and aspired to become.

In Inside Out, I described the 10 Commandments that I received from the manhood messages that I had ingested by the culture:

  1. Thou shalt not be weak, nor have weak gods before thee.
  2. Thou shalt not fail thyself, nor fail as thy father before thee.
  3. Thou shalt not keep holy any day that denies thy work.
  4. Thou shalt not express strong emotions, neither high nor low.
  5. Thou shalt not cry, complain, nor ask for help.
  6. Thou shalt not show thy feelings.
  7. Thou shalt not be uncertain or ambivalent.
  8. Thou shalt not be dependent on others.
  9. Thou shalt not acknowledge thy death nor thy limitations.
  10. Thou shalt do unto other men before they do unto you.

I knew I wanted to have a different kind of relationship with my wife than my father had with my mother and I wanted to be a different kind of man than my father and the men I grew up around. It wasn’t until I had been through two marriages and two divorces that it began to dawn on me that Me and You would often be experienced as Me vs You when our partner would trigger old feelings and fears that were left over from our childhood experiences growing up in a family that was often dysfunctional to some degree.

By the time Carlin and I were married, we had both experienced what happens when our individual selves feel hurt or wounded and how that can lead to conflict and eventually to distancing and,  in our case, to divorce. But a commitment to Us brings in a higher power, a willingness to think beyond our separate needs to what is best for the larger entity, the Us, our Couplehood.

In his book, Powers of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity, Joshua Wolf Shenk begins the book with this quote by playwright Tony Kushner.

“The smallest indivisible human unit is two people, not one; one is a fiction.”

What a powerful sentence. It says to me that not only are You and Me susceptible to the distortions that come from the inevitable wounding that we all experience from past relationships, but that You and Me don’t even exist as separate entities.

We can talk about the separate parts that make up the human body—the heart, lungs, the brain, the kidneys, etc.—but we can’t really separate them from each other or from the whole that is us. Sometimes we imagine that one part of the body is in conflict with another. My heart wants one thing but my mind wants another, but in reality all our parts are interconnected.

 In our relationships and in the world, we often live in an illusion of separation. We continue to play out the battle of the sexes in our love lives and we continue to play out the battle between political parties and between countries in the larger world.

I believe family therapist Terrence Real has a similar perspective. In his book, US: Getting Past You & Me to Build a More Loving Relationship, he says,

Us consciousness says, ‘We’re in this together.’ You and me consciousness says, ‘Every man for himself.’”

It is easy to get into You vs Me consciousness when we feel threatened. We’ve all had the experience. We’re having a nice, pleasant conversation with our spouse. Then something happens. A word is spoken, a hostile look, body language that puts us off, even a silence that lasts a little too long and we get triggered. We react with a series of harsh words, the tone of our voice changes, and we are in attack or defense mode.

In his book US, Terry goes on to say,

“I tell my clients that if they walk away from their sessions with me with just this one concept, they will have spent their therapy money well. Here it is: There is no redeeming value whatsoever in harshness.”

This wisdom is like money in the bank. It can help us take a few deep breaths before we react to our partner. It can help us ask ourselves will the next words out of my mouth be in the service of us or will they trigger a me vs you reaction? None of us will be perfect in curbing harshness or always supporting the larger value of respect, love, and healing that are inherent in Us consciousness. But we can always make it our intention to do so. We get better with practice.

I had an occasion to practice yesterday when my wife, Carlin, and I were planning to go to a concert in the park that started at 3:30. She came down from a nap and sat down in my office. I was working on this article and wanted to see if she wanted to leave right away or later when it cooled down a bit. She said some things that were confusing and I kept pressing to find out when she wanted to leave. Her responses frustrated me and I got more irritated and harsher in my reactions. She got up walked out of the room and closed my door.

I went back to my writing. I assumed she would calm down and the frustrating interaction would be forgotten when we went to listen to the music. But another voice from the deeper part of Us said, to go in and reconnect. I knocked on her door and went in when she responded. I touched her arm and sat down near her. “Listen, I know I was harsh in my response…I was just feeling frustrated trying to figure out when you wanted to leave…I got more irritated…and I acted dumb.” The words didn’t come easy, but I got them out.

She responded with humor and warmth. We had reconnected. The Us won that encounter and we had a wonderful time listening to the music and seeing friends. Disconnections will always happen in our most intimate relationships and in the world, but we can choose whether to commit to the bigger reality of Us or keep trading harsh Me vs You interactions.

If you found this article helpful, please consider joining our free weekly newsletter for updates on our work at MenAlive and the latest articles on how to live fully, love deeply and make a positive difference in the world.

The post From ‘You vs Me’ to ‘Us’: Healing Our Love Lives and The World We All Share appeared first on MenAlive.

When I told a female colleague about our mission she shared a few interesting comments. “I imagine sometimes you get pushback when you first describe your project as one helping men, as the first thought might be, ‘really, do we need to help men, especially white men anymore? Don’t they get enough?’ But then when you describe the details of what you’re doing, the lightbulb goes off and the answer is YES!!  This is exactly where men need some help!”

            I’ve been working in the field of gender medicine and men’s health for more than fifty years. It is not surprising that many women are suspicious when we talk about differences between the sexes. Differences have often been used to limit, restrict, and control one sex, most often the females, as well as those who express themselves outside the binary of male/female.

            Our moonshot mission began in November 2021 when I invited a number of colleagues to join me to share what we were each doing in the broad area of men’s mental and emotional health. A group of us have continued to meet monthly and are working together to make a positive difference in the world of men, their families, and communities. We are a diverse group including:

  • Boysen Hodgson with the Mankind Project.
  • Lisa Hickey with the Good Men Project.
  • Frederick Marx with Warrior Films.
  • Shana James with Shana James Coaching.
  • Joe Conrad with Man Therapy: Men’s Mental Health Resources.
  • MaLe Corona with Male Wholeness.
  • Ed Frauenheim with Reinventing Masculinity.
  • Jed Diamond with MenAlive.

The inspiration for this movement came from a research study by Randolph Nesse, MD and Daniel Kruger, PhD who examined premature deaths among men in 20 countries. They found that in every country, men died sooner and lived sicker than women and their shortened health and lifespan harmed the men and their families.

They concluded with four powerful statements:

  • “Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death.”
  • “Over 375,000 lives would be saved in a single year in the U.S. alone if men’s risk of dying was as low as women’s.”
  • “If male mortality rates could be reduced to those for females, this would eliminate over one-third of all male deaths below age 50 and help men of all ages.”
  • “If you could make male mortality rates the same as female rates, you would do more good than curing cancer.”

At the time of their study, they hoped their findings would stimulate governments to create programs to address these issues, but thus far, this has not happened.

The purpose of my Moonshot Mission is to bring together individuals and organizations throughout the world who are doing significant work to help men live fully healthy lives, to offer our resources, and coordinate efforts for change. When we help fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, and all males, we help mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, and all women.

Google [X] is called the Moonshot Factory because they tackle big problems in the world where they hope to make a major change for the better, not just a 10% improvement, but a 10X improvement. That’s what we hope to do by creating a world-wide movement to heal mankind and humanity. If you’d like to learn more about what we’re doing, drop me a note to Jed@MenAlive.com. Put “Moonshot for Mankind” in the subject line.

Over the years I’ve been working in the field it is obvious that we can’t improve the lives of men without improving the lives of women and vice versa. Among the colleagues I’ve worked with over the years are a number of well-known and well-respected female leaders who recognize the importance of healing males including:

  • Riane Eisler, Founder of the Center for Partnership Systems, and author of numerous books including, The Chalice & The Blade: Our History, Our Future and  Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives and Future written with anthropologist, Douglas P. Fry.
  • Marianne J. Legato, M.D, Founder of the Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine and author of numerous books including, Eve’s Rib: The New Science of Gender-Specific Medicine and How It Can Save Your Life, Why Men Die First: How to Lengthen Your Lifespan, and Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget.
  • Rebecca Costa is an American sociobiologist and futurist. She is the preeminent global expert on the subject of “fast adaptation” and recipient of the prestigious Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Award. Retiring at the zenith of her career in Silicon Valley, Costa spent six years researching and writing the international bestseller The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse.  

Unhealed Men Harm Themselves and Others

            Often women have uniquely perceptive insights into the problems that unhealed men cause themselves and others. Comedian Elayne Boosler observed:

When women get depressed, the eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.

            We also know from numerous studies that the suicide rate for males is 3 to 18 times higher than it is for females and increases dramatically as males age. Men die at higher rates than women from 9 of the top 10 causes of death and are the victims of over 92% of workplace deaths. Domestic violence causes harm to women and men are also both the perpetrators and victims of community violence.

            We know that heart disease is still the biggest killer of males, but disconnection and isolation may be the underlying causes.

“All the usual risk factors for heart disease—smoking, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and a high-fat diet—account for only half of all cases of heart disease,”

says heart expert Dr. Dean Ornish.

“Every so-called lifestyle risk factor laid at the door of cardiovascular illness by the medical community has less to do with someone having a heart attack than does simple isolation—from other people, from our own feelings and from a higher power.”

            Males have much smaller social networks than women do. Men and boys also have fewer, less intimate friendships, and they are less likely to have a close confidant, particularly someone other than a spouse. Men with the lowest levels of social support are two to three times more likely to die than men with the highest levels of social support. Men’s social isolation significantly decreases their chance of survival of heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

            “Many of my male friends are also struggling with loneliness—and I have struggled with it at many points in my life. But it’s not something we often talk about,”

says Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., who served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States. In his book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, Dr. Murthy says,

“Quite simply, human relationship is an essential to our well-bring as food and water. Just as hunger and thirst are our body’s ways of telling us we need to eat and drink, loneliness is the natural signal that reminds us when we need to connect with other people.”

Now is the Time for Change

            When I began working in the field of men’s mental, emotional, and relational health in 1969 following the birth of our first son, Jemal, there were few people working to improve the lives of men. It wasn’t much better in 1972 when our daughter, Angela, was born. But now there are literally thousands of organizations doing excellent work to heal men and their families.

            Our Moonshot Mission for Mankind and Humanity will bring together individual men and women as well as organizations who are committed to healing. There is much we can do together to improve the lives of men, women, and the community of life with whom we share this beautiful world.

            If you’d like to join us or would like to learn more, come visit us here: https://menalive.com/about/my-moonshot-mission/ or drop me a note to Jed@MenAlive.com and put “Moonshot for Mankind” in the subject line.

The post Long Live Men! Our Moonshot Mission for Mankind and Humanity appeared first on MenAlive.

We’ve all had the experience of falling in love with someone who turns out to be absolutely the wrong choice. Many of us have done it more than once. At MenAlive, you can hear me share my confessions of a twice-divorced marriage counselor.  Why do we make seemingly crazy mistakes in our love lives and in many aspects of our lives? My colleague Daniel Lieberman has some important answers.

 “There’s someone living in your head besides you,”

says Daniel Z. Lieberman, MD in the Introduction to his book, Spellbound: Modern Science, Ancient Magic, and the Hidden Potential of the Unconscious Mind.

“You think you’re calling all the shots—that you’re in charge of your thoughts, feelings, and choices. You’re not. When it comes to how you think and feel your way through life, at best you’re the copilot. At worst, you’re along for the ride, at the mercy of a part of your brain that’s overwhelmingly powerful but entirely unseen, influential but utterly secret from you.”

Getting to understand your unconscious mind may be the most important thing you’ll ever do in your life. Dr. Lieberman is a knowledgeable and compassionate guide. After the success of his book, The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity—and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race, he told me that his book on the unconscious mind, was the one he’s been wanting to write his whole life.

He says the unconscious is

“a vast collection of neural circuits working all the time, just out of sight—just out of mind. It determines whether you will be enthusiastic or bored, full of energy or barely able to keep your eyes open. It can make you compassionate or fill you with hatred. It chooses what you desire and who you fall in love with. It can solve seemingly impossible problems with the gift of inspiration, and sometimes it possesses you completely, plunging you into an alien world of mystical experience.”

I was fortunate to receive a pre-publication copy and shared these comments: “Spellbound” may be the most important book you’ll read in your lifetime. In a world where mass shootings become commonplace, domestic violence and suicide are on the rise, and the global climate crisis gets worse each day, too many people have given up hope. Dr. Lieberman offers real solutions that few people have even considered.

You can learn more about the book and Dr. Lieberman’s work on his website. You can also watch a short video, “Knowing Your Unconscious Mind Changes Everything,” here.

Clinical psychologists George Pratt and Peter Lambrou, offer this insightful story about the subconscious mind in their book Code to Joy:  The Four-Step Solution to Unlocking Your Natural State of Happiness:

Once upon a time there was a flea who believed that he was king of the world.

One day he decided he wanted to go to the beach for a swim. But the western shore was many miles away, and on this own, the flea could travel only inches at a time. If he was going to reach the shore during his lifetime, he would need transportation.

So he called out to his elephant. “Ho, there Elephant, let’s go out!”

The flea’s elephant came to his side and kneeled down. The flea hopped up and, pointing to the west, saying, “That way—to the beach!”

But the elephant did not go west. He rather felt like taking a stroll in the forest to the east, and that is what he did. The flea, much to his dismay, could do nothing but go along for the ride, and spent the day being smacked in the face by leaves and branches.

The next day, the flea tried to get the elephant to take him to the store to buy salve for his face. Instead, the elephant took a long romp in the northern mountains, terrifying the poor flea so badly that he could not sleep that night. The flea stayed in his bed for days, beset by nightmares of thundering along mountain roads, certain he would fall to his death, and awoke each morning in a cold sweat.

After a week, finally feeling well enough to rise from his bed, the flea beckoned the elephant to his side, clambered up, and said, “I’m not well. Please, take me to the doctor.”

But the elephant merrily trundled off to the western shore, where he spent the day swimming. The flea nearly drowned.

That night, sitting by the fireplace and trying to warm himself, the flea had a thought. He turned to the elephant and said, “About tomorrow…um, what are your plans?”

What’s the moral of the story? If you are a flea riding an elephant, before you make any plans, you might want to check out what your elephant has in mind. You may not want to go where the unconscious wants to go, but you best get the know what your unconscious mind has to say.

“This point is more important to your life than it might seem,”

say Pratt and Lambrou.

“The flea of the story represents your conscious mind which includes your intellect and power of reason, your ambitions and aspirations, your ideas, thoughts, hopes, and plans. In short, everything you think of as you. And the elephant? That’s your subconscious mind.”

Many of us have had the experience of consciously making plans to meet the man or woman of our dreams only to become attracted to someone who breaks our heart and causes us great pain. Why did it happen? To understand, we have to tap into our subconscious mind to see why we pick the partners we do. We’ve had the experience of consciously picking a job which we were sure was going to work for us, only to have it turn out to be a disaster. Again, our subconscious mind is at work.

Everyone wants to live a joyful life, have deeply loving relationships, and join with others to make the world a better place for all. Yet too many of us become depressed, irritable, angry, and discouraged. We vow to take more time for ourselves and learn to relax, but we continue to act in ways that stress us out. Why? Once again we must better understand our unconscious mind.

The Power of Our Unconscious Mind

When I was in graduate school I learned a lot about various psychological theories and therapy practices. I learned about Freud and the ways he understood the subconscious. But it was a contemporary of Carl Jung who truly sparked my interest. Dr. Lieberman takes a deep dive into Jungian theory and practice. He offers this quote in the first chapter, Into the Darkness,

“We believe that we are masters in our own house only because we like to flatter ourselves. In reality we are dependent to a startling degree on the proper functioning of the unconscious psyche, and must trust that it does not fail us.” C.G. Jung.

Leonard Mlodinow, PhD., is a theoretical physicist and author of Subliminal:  How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior. He says,

“Though the unconscious aspects of human behavior were actively speculated about by Jung, Freud, and many others over the past century, the methods they employed—introspection, observations of overt behavior, the study of people with brain deficits—provided only fuzzy and indirect knowledge.”

But things have changed in the last decade.

“Sophisticated new technologies have revolutionized our understanding of the part of the brain that operates below our conscious mind,”

says Mlodinow.

“These technologies have made it possible, for the first time in human history, for there to be an actual science of the unconscious.”

George Miller, Ph.D., one of the founding fathers of modern cognitive psychology, says that the conscious mind puts out an average of between 20 and 40 neuron firings per second while the unconscious mind puts out between 20 and 40 million firings per second. So, when we’re talking about the activity of the subconscious mind vs. the conscious mind, we’re looking at a difference of 1,000,000 to 1, which is roughly the difference in weight between an elephant and a flea.

New research from the field of energy psychology has highlighted the importance of healing early life trauma, often held in the subconscious energy fields of our bodymind. Only by healing the way these traumatic memories are held in our subconscious mind can we learn to be more joyful and productive in our lives. Drs. Pratt and Lambrou offer this thought experiment to help us understand how it works:

Imagine you are standing just outside your home, surrounded by a dense fog, so thick you can’t see the other side of the street in front of you. You look to the left, to the right, but can’t see more than fifty feet in any direction. You are surrounded.

How much water does it take to create the blanket of fog that has completely isolated you from your world? They ask.

A few ounces. The total volume of water in a blanket of fog one acre around and one meter deep would not quite fill an ordinary drinking glass. The fog actually contains 400 billion tiny droplets suspended in the air creating an impenetrable cloak that shuts out light and makes you shiver.

This is what happens when we have painful and traumatic experiences in our lives that we just can’t shake.  Pratt and Lambrou call it “the fog of distress” and we’ve all experienced it. What is it made of?  It is partly feelings, partly beliefs, and partly bioelectrical memory traces locked into our bodies.

Most importantly, it operates below the level of our conscious minds. Humans are adaptable and generally we handle the ups and downs of life without any lasting negative effect.  After one of those “bad days” the experience simply vanishes from our minds without a trace and we end up a little older and wiser as a result. “But not always,” say Pratt and Lambrou. 

“Sometimes, especially when we are very young, we have experiences that we cannot shake. Even if they seem insignificant, no more substantial than a glass of water, when these upsetting experiences evaporate, they then condense into billions of droplets of anger, fear, self-doubt, guilt, and other negative feelings, surrounding us with a suffocating blanket that suffuses every aspect of our lives for years to come.”

            As a psychotherapist, these are the kinds of problems I deal with everyday in my practice. Dr. Lieberman’s book is definitely helpful for those who are wanting to heal from past trauma and how it gets held in the subconscious mind. But doctor Lieberman takes us way beyond healing our trauma on a magical mystery tour into the farthest reaches of our creative passions.

            Visit Dr. Lieberman here. You can visit me at MenAlive.com  

The post Sex, Love and The Power and Magic of Your Unconscious Mind appeared first on MenAlive.

Shawn knew he was in love. His insecurities melted away. Every day made him feel on the brink of a golden future. As he spent more time with Samantha, his excitement about her grew, and his sense of anticipation became constant. Every thought of her suggested limitless possibilities. As for sex, his  libido was stronger than ever, but only for her. Other women ceased to exist. Even better, when he tried to confess all this happiness to Samantha, she interrupted him to say, she felt exactly the same.

            Shawn wanted to be sure they would be together forever, so one day he proposed to her. She said yes.

            Many of us have all been there before. Most of us have experienced the rest of the story. As Daniel Liberman and Michael Long say in their powerful and important book, The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity—and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race,

A few months after their honeymoon, things began to change…”

            I’ve been a marriage and family counselor for more than fifty years. I’ve had a lifelong interest in understanding how we come to fall in love and why so many relationships start off like Shawn and Samantha’s and then end in heartbreak and disappointment. My interest has been personal as well as professional since I went through two marriages and divorces before I learned the secret of why our attractions are so powerful and our hopes so high and why so many end in disaster. You can hear about my “Confessions of a Twice-Divorced Marriage Counselor” on my website.

            This is my third marriage. My wife, Carlin, also was married twice before she and I met. We’ve now been married for 42 wonderful years and wrote about our own journey and what we learned in our book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come.

            Here, I’d like to tell you about the “molecule of more” and what you need to know to make it your friend rather than bringing about your downfall. Learning about the molecule of more can help improve your relationship life.

Looking Down and Looking Up: Two Different Ways of Engaging the World

            In the book, The Molecule of More, Drs. Lieberman and Long offer this mind experiment:

Look down. What do you see? Your hands, your desk, the floor, maybe a cup of coffee, or a laptop computer or a newspaper. What you see when you look down are things within your reach, things you can control right now, things you can move and manipulate with no planning, effort, or thought. They are things in your possession.

            Now look up. What do you see? The ceiling, perhaps pictures on the wall, or things out the window: trees, houses, building, clouds in the sky—whatever is in the distance. To reach them, you have to plan, think, calculate. Unlike what we see when we look down, the realm of up shows us things that we have to think about and work for in order to get.

            They tell us that the brain is structured to address these two basic realms. There are a number of down chemicals, neurotransmitters, the brain uses to let you experience satisfaction and enjoy whatever you have in front of you. Lieberman and Long call them the Here & Nows, or H&Ns for short.When you turn your attention to the world of up, your brain relies on a different chemical, a single molecule, called dopamine.

“Mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish all have this chemical inside their brains,”

say Lieberman and Long,

“but no creature has more of it than a human being. It is a blessing and a curse, a motivation and a reward. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, plus a single nitrogen atom—it is simple in form and complex in result. This is dopamine, and it narrates no less than the story of human behavior.”

Dopamine and Love: The Chemicals That Make You Want Sex and Fall in Love, and Why Sooner or Later Everything Changes

            Dopamine was discovered in the brain in 1957 by Kathleen Montagu, a researcher in London. Only 0.0005 percent of brain cells produce dopamine—one in two million—yet these cells exert an outsized influence on behavior. In fact, under the right circumstances, pursuit of feel-good dopamine activation became impossible to resist.

            Initially some scientists christened dopamine the pleasure molecule and the brain pathway, the reward circuit. Early experiments with drug addicts showed that the more activity in the dopamine reward pathways, the greater the high. But further experiments expanded their understanding.

“It seemed more likely that the evolutionary processes that harnessed dopamine were driven by the need to motivate survival and reproductive activity,”

said Lieberman and Long.

“Dopamine, they discovered, isn’t about pleasure at all. Dopamine delivers a feeling much more influential.”

Understanding dopamine, Lieberman and Long concluded were keys to explaining a great deal about human behavior including falling in and out of love.

If dopamine is not about pleasure, what is it about? After reading the science of dopamine that they describe in the book, I imagine having a conversation where a personified dopamine tells us about himself and what he has to teach us about our lives and relationships. Here’s what I imagine he might say:

“I’m all about the pursuit, not about attaining pleasure. I love to live in the fantasy world of ‘what if.’ What if I could get that sexy creature in bed with me? Once I have her/him, my job is done, I want to look for the next rush of excitement. I live in the future, not in the here and now.”

“No matter how attractive the person is, once we spend time together and get to know each other, the novelty wears off and I want to try something or someone new. I crave the unexpected, the strange, the exotic. That’s why pornography is so attractive, particularly to men. There are an infinite number of new choices. When I become accustomed to one, I can instantly search of the next one that will excite me.”

“From my point of view having is uninteresting. It’s only getting that matters.”

“The reality of what is becomes boring to me. I want to dream about what could be. Glamour is me personified. It creates desires that can never be fulfilled because they crave what can only exist in our imaginations.”

“I’m never satisfied. Mick Jagger told his biographer in 2013 he had been with about four thousand women—a different sex partner every ten days of his adult life. It is no wonder the Rolling Stones hit song was ‘I can’t get no satisfaction.’ It is all about anticipation, never about having what we seek. I’m  all about falling in love or lust, never about the here and now, actually loving someone and having a satisfying sex and love life.”

“I may love my partner and be in a committed relationship, but I’m always looking for more, someone better, sexier, more exciting, more fun, different, strange.”

“There are a number of here and now chemicals (H & Ns) such as serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins (your brain’s version of morphine), and endocannabinoids (your brain’s version of cannabis). When I’m turned up, these H&Ns are turned down.”

“Although women are driven by me too, men have a special affinity for dopamine. One of the reasons men who are very successful in the world get where they are is because of me. A very successful actor told me, ‘my drug of choice is more.’ But their desire can also cause them who have trouble enjoying relationships in the here and now and their relationships too often don’t last.”

How to Get the Benefits of Dopamine Without Becoming Addicted to More, Bigger, Better  

            Dopamine is a wonderful gift to life. It drives our desires, creativity, and search for a partner. However, like most things, we need to balance the desire for more with the joy of what is. Through most of human history we had a better balance between the search for more and the joy of what is, between finding a loving partner and creating the joy of an ongoing relationship.

            It was a lot easier to do, when our choices were limited and there were only so many eligible partners in the small bands that were the center of our social world for most of human history. One of the joys of life today, is the greater number of choices we have. But when we have access to millions of potential partners, it is easy to always be looking for a better one. Learning about dopamine, the molecule of more, can help us find the one we love and love the one we’re with. We need to balance the future oriented dopamine rush with the here and now passion and fulfillment of oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, and endocannabinoids.

            You can learn more about the work of Daniel Lieberman, his book The Molecule of More, as well as his new book, Spellbound: Modern Science, Ancient Magic, and the Hidden Potential of the Unconscious Mind, which I’m enjoying now. Find Daniel here and now. Oh, and be sure to check out the wonderful videos on topics we’d all like our psychiatrist to answer.            

I look forward to your comments and questions. Come visit me at www.MenAlive.com

The post The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical Can Improve Your Love Life or Ruin it Forever appeared first on MenAlive.

How the Love Doctor Finally Met Her Match

            I first met Helen Fisher at a conference where we were both speaking about sex, love, and relationships. My book Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Overcoming Romantic and Sexual Addictions had just been published and her book, Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray was just coming out. By background is in evolutionary psychology. She is one of America’s most prominent anthropologists and the author of six internationally best-selling books on the science of romantic love, attachment, adultery, divorce, and the evolution and future of human family life.

            She is from New York and was coming to California where I live to offer a workshop at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. I had taught workshops there and she invited me to join her. I had read her earlier book, The Sex Contract: The Evolution of Human Behavior and I told her it had helped me better understand my marriage. She surprised me when she said, “I don’t think I’ll ever get married.” A surprising statement indeed from Chief Science Advisor to the Internet dating site Match.com.

            I’ve continued to follow her work over the years and was pleased to learn that she recently fell in love and married science writer John Tierney. Though they had known each other for more than twenty years, they both had been in other relationships until they were both free at the same time and the sparks flew. It’s a wonderful love story for a woman who had been studying the anatomy of love for more than forty years and was now putting all the pieces together.  

The Evolution of Love and the Three Challenges All Creatures Must Face

            Whether you are a chimpanzee, a horse, or a human being, there are three things you must do: First, you have to seek a potential mating partner. Second, you must find one who is willing to mate with you. Third, you must ensure that the offspring live long enough to repeat the process. Do those three things and your species survives and thrives. Failing any one and your species dwindles and dies.

            All humans today evolved from ancestors who never broke the chain of success. Each of us had parents who had at least one child. Our parent’s parents had at least one child, all the way back through time.

            More than anyone I know, Helen Fisher has studied the intricacies of dating and mating, explains the process, and is living it. She not only draws on her experience and expertise as an evolutionary anthropologist, but also has teamed up with neuroscientists who are able to examine the biochemistry and brain systems that are involved with the various stages of love.

            Here is a great summary from Harvard University written by Katherine Wu with figures by Tito Adhikary. According to a team of scientists led by Dr. Helen Fisher at Rutgers, romantic love can be broken down into three basic categories: lust, attraction, and attachment. Each category is characterized by its own set of hormones stemming from the brain (Table 1).

Table 1: Love can be distilled into three categories: lust, attraction, and attachment. Though there are overlaps and subtleties to each, each type is characterized by its own set of hormones. Testosterone and estrogen drive lust; dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin create attraction; and oxytocin and vasopressin mediate attachment.

Each of these three categories correspond to the evolutionary necessities that must be met for our species to survive. Lust gets us interested in sex. Attraction focuses our attention on one specific person. Attachment keeps us together long enough to nurture and raise children so they can repeat the cycle. Of course, not everyone has children, but enough do so that our species survives and thrives. (Before the recent arrival of various forms of effective birth control, everyone who had sex was likely to produce children).

Lust

All creatures need to be motivated to action. Lust gives us the energy to get going.

“The sex drive evolved to motivate individuals to seek sexual union with any appropriate partner,”

says Dr. Fisher.

            The hypothalamus of the brain plays a big role in this, stimulating the production of the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen from the testes and ovaries (See Figure 1 below). While these chemicals are often stereotyped as being “male” and “female,” respectively, both play a role in men and women. As it turns out, testosterone increases libido in just about everyone. The effects are less pronounced with estrogen, but some women report being more sexually motivated around the time they ovulate, when estrogen levels are highest.

Figure 1: A: The testes and ovaries secrete the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen, driving sexual desire. B and C: Dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin are all made in the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that controls many vital functions as well as emotion. D: Several of the regions of the brain that affect love. Lust and attraction shut off the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which includes rational behavior.

Attraction

            Meanwhile, attraction seems to be a distinct, though closely related, phenomenon, Dr. Fisher has found. While we can certainly lust for someone we are attracted to, and vice versa, one can happen without the other. Attraction involves the brain pathways that control “reward” behavior (Figure 1), which partly explains why the first few weeks or months of a relationship can be so exhilarating and even all-consuming.

            Dopamine, produced by the hypothalamus, is a key player in the brain’s reward pathway – it’s released when we do things that feel good to us. Dopamine can get us what we want or it can cause great pain and suffering. I’ll have more to say about dopamine in future articles. In their book, The Molecule of More, Daniel Z. Lieberman, MD and Michael E. Long say,

“Dopamine motivates you to pursue, to control, and to possess the world beyond your immediate grasp…It is the fuel for the motor of our dreams; it is the source of our despair when we fail. It is why we seek and succeed; it is why we discover and prosper. It is also why we are never happy for very long.

Attachment

            Attachment is all about connection. From an evolutionary point of view, it’s the glue that holds a couple together long enough to deal with the stresses of childbirth and raising children until they can survive and thrive on their own.

            “Termed ‘companionate love’ in humans,” says Dr. Fisher. “Attachment is characterized in birds and mammals by behavior that may include defense of a mutual territory, mutual nest building, mutual feeding and grooming, separation anxiety, and shared parental chores. In humans, attachment is also characterized by feelings of calm, security, social comfort, and emotional union.”

            While lust and attraction are pretty much exclusive to romantic entanglements, attachment mediates friendships, parent-infant bonding, social cordiality, and many other intimacies as well. The two primary hormones here appear to be oxytocin and vasopressin (Figure 1 above).

            This simplified model helps us understand a good deal about love, but we also know it can become complicated very quickly and the complications can be exciting and painful.

“For each system, the neural circuits can be expected to vary among individuals within a species, and over the life of an individual,”

says Dr. Fisher.

“Men and women can express deep attachment for a long-term spouse or mate at the same time they express attraction for someone else, and also while they feel the sex drive in reaction to situations unrelated to either partner. We are physiologically capable of ‘loving’ more than one person at a time.”

            I followed the pattern of many men and women. I married young, had children, got divorced and tried again. I describe a bit of my own journey in my chapter, “Confessions of a Twice-Divorced Marriage Counselor,” in my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformational Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come. My third wife, Carlin, and I have been married now for 42 years.

            Helen Fisher took a different path, studying the art of love, but waiting until she was 75 to marry for the first time. Love is strange and wonderful and we all have a lot to learn. I look forward to your comments and questions. Let me know if this article was helpful.

            If you liked this article and would like to read more, please join me here.

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