Challenging the “Experts”

Listening to “experts” is always a fascinating experience—I notice myself being enthralled, not always by what they’re saying but by how well they present themselves!  …Generally speaking anyway.  Such an art form, really, and one I’ve yet to perfect.

I had the opportunity to hear an expert last night—John Gray, author of Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, among many other books.  He was part of a weekend event for couples—their keynote speaker, in fact.  I was scheduled to speak directly after him, integrating some relationship theory and movement practices to increase intimacy into my presentation of “Becoming Embodied with Our Intimate Partners.”

Gray shared some concepts and evidence-based theory that, when I heard it, had a strong impact in my mental circuitry as well as in my gut.  There were things he stated that I agreed with and others that literally made my insides begin to go into hyper-vigilance and scream to the audience members, “Don’t listen to him!  That’s not true!”

One of the first things I want to touch on is the idea that “oxytocin increases cortisol in men,” which John Gray stated as fact, and coupled with the concept that while oxytocin is a bonding hormone for women, it does just the opposite in men, leaving them either fast asleep or anxiety-ridden.

Clarification From the Non-Expert: 

There are three primary types of stress hormones—Adrenaline, norephinephrine, and Cortisol.  Adrenaline is what we might feel when we experience a sudden threat, when the fight or flight response kicks in, and that sense that we need to protect ourselves in the present moment.  It increases our heart rate and helps us focus on what’s most important.

Norepinephrine is similar to adrenaline in that it’s an “immediate response” type of hormone.   It supports blood getting to the necessary parts of the body, such as muscles, to support an immediate response to threat.  It also acts as a “back up system” to adrenaline if our adrenals are a little tapped out.

Cortisol, on the other hand, occurs when stress is ongoing…  for hours, days, weeks, or months.  As an evolutionary response, our bodies have learned to create cortisol to counter the effects of long-term stress on the body, by breaking down non-essential organs so as to basically “feed” other more vital tissue.  It’s really a survival mechanism.  Stress does increase cortisol concentrations but not in that, “Oh my God I’m going to die right now!” kind of way.

Here’s another interesting fact:  Oxytocin is also a stress hormone.  You may be asking, why is that?  Why would the hormone necessary for bonding and attachment, for those yummy feelings of connection, to be released during stress?  Well, some theorize that oxytocin is released during stress because we’re simply not wired to deal with stress–or life–alone.  We’re wired to feel connected and held and supported.  Oxytocin is a hormone that will support what we most need–relationship with others.

Gray’s idea that the release of oxytocin would necessitate a cortisol response makes no sense—at least to me.  The release of oxytocin, first of all, would have to take place over time to create the necessary physiological response requiring cortisol to begin breaking down vital organs to maintain blood sugar, and keep a man’s (person’s) body functioning when he’s in survival mode.  Now granted, a post-coital response can certainly trigger a need to go into survival mode (probably more related to adrenaline), for some, due to certain insecure attachment styles and lack of comfort with intimacy, but to negate the overall counter-effects of oxytocin on the entire stress system is simply irresponsible (in my humble opinion).

Ultimately, what we know about oxytocin is that it directly counters the release of other stress hormones, including cortisol—in BOTH genders by moving us toward necessary connection, which ultimately soothes the nervous system.  The more we experience relationally-oriented activities, such as sex with intimate partners, and feel the release of oxytocin; the more we strengthen and even increase oxytocin receptors in the brain.  We literally “build” the neural pathways related to the foundation of what scientists deem LOVE—from a neurochemical perspective anyway.

Oxytocin-image

Oxytocin Neurophsin

Oxytocin is a unique neurochemical that way.  (Here… take a peak.  Pretty huh?)

…So even if an individual struggles with feeling “comfortable” with intimate connection that contributes to oxytocin release, continued practice—yes PRACTICE—will increase, not only that individuals comfort, but actual brain chemistry and “wiring” that allows for the benefits!

To counter Gray:  Some men (or women) may have an increase in adrenaline after climax with a partner, due to insecure attachment and experience of newfound intimacy, and finding themselves beyond their normal comfort zone.  And the simultaneous release of oxytocin can, and most often does, powerfully counter that process.

…and the Research says

Gray referenced that when men were injected with oxytocin, they had an increase in cortisol.  This is confusing as the research states that oxytocin doesn’t cross the blood brain barrier, except in the form of nasal spray.  However, the use of spray on a long-term basis for research caused amnesia, hallucinations, and imbalances in hormones and electrolytes and was, as the research implies, long-term, and so has a more understandable connection to cortisol.  Maybe this is what he’s referring to.  However, this research actually applies to both men and women as well.  I wonder if this might be one of those areas where an “expert” has taken some liberty with research so as to defend his position.

Another scientific theory regarding oxytocin, researched by Dr. Jay Zak, is that those people—primarily men in his research—who were found to be lacking “trust-ability” in their intimate relationships were those same people who had fewer oxytocin receptors than most.  So if men were to buy in to the ideas of John Gray, denying any benefit of oxytocin for themselves and subsequently sinking into a familiar “disconnect” after sex with a partner rather than deepening the bond through increasing one’s tolerance for post-coital intimacy, there’s a possibility that the chance for strengthening and increasing oxytocin receptors in the brain would be inhibited, thus creating further disconnect and ultimately doing nothing to strengthen the bonds of attachment via lovemaking.  Run… on… sen… tance…!

The Journal of Neuroscience reports research done at the University of Bonn, where René Hurlemann and colleagues conducted a study with a group of healthy, heterosexual men; some single and some in committed relationships.  The study found that the presence of (administered) oxytocin actually inhibited closer proximity for the men in committed relationships, with an unknown attractive woman.  Essentially the study purports that men in committed relationships—those with adequate oxytocin due to their relationships—kept a “safer” distance with an attractive woman they didn’t know.  Hence, the research suggests that oxytocin may establish a greater sense of intimacy and attachment, and foster fidelity in committed relationships!  Clearly, this research would counter the ungrounded ideas of John Gray.

Gray also had the ….I’ll just say it, audacity to make the claim that after men have sex with a woman, his drive to be with her further is automatically inhibited by the lack of newness and excitement, therefore he will always be looking toward the next best thing.  Now, clearly we have all experienced this idea, whether from media, movies, our own relationships, or fear of relationship.  And there is science that espouses a dramatically different theory—that when men and women (both) experience climax with one another, and oxytocin is released, those experiences literally lay the foundation for love and a desire for increased intimacy and sexual gratification with that partner.  There are certainly a variety of other relational components that lead people to buy into the idea that men are consistently on the lookout.  But let’s get clear on the facts folks!

This from Wikipedia:

Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security around the mate. Many studies have already shown a correlation of oxytocin with human bonding, increases in trust, and decreases in fear. One study confirmed a positive correlation between oxytocin plasma levels and an anxiety scale measuring the adult romantic attachment. This suggests oxytocin may be important for the inhibition of the brain regions associated with behavioral control, fear, and anxiety, thus allowing orgasm to occur.”

Oxytocin is even thought to promote wound healing, among contributing to other health benefits.  Some research is now looking into the effects of social bonding to increase overall health in men and women.  The preliminary research is being done with rats, of course, so we can’t be certain.  But the results look promising!  And as isolated as many of us are these days, knowing that increases in oxytocin can ameliorate some of the negative effects of social isolation on physical health is yet another reason to get as much as we can!

When our “relational circuitry” feels soothed by the presence of certain neurochemicals such as oxytocin, and this occurs again and again, when we are in the presence of someone we love, we can become more comfortable “in our bodies.”—And with so much of our current lives taking place “from the neck up,” in this fast paced age of information in which we’re living; when we become more embodied with our partners, our ability to regulate our emotions and develop a “learned” secure attachment becomes possible.

Like I said, however, I’m no expert!  So get curious and do some of your own research—both the didactic as well as the embodied kind!  And let me know what you come up with!

For the Love of Your Life,

Angie

Orgasms: Part One

Orgasms.  It’s a peculiar word.  It’s one of those words that can make some people cringe slightly, just in hearing it.  Like the word, “Vagina.”  I used to not like the word vagina.  I wanted to change it because I felt uncomfortable saying and hearing it but the older I’ve grown, the more I’ve fallen in love with what my vagina can do—from pre-pubescent clitoral “wow’s!” to birthing babies and everything in between.  Vagina kinda says it all.

And orgasms…  well, that’s a word that can get us flushed, interested, embarrassed that someone might think that we have them. Or don’t.  Or like them.  Or connect us in any way to the actual occurrence of them.  And in that nanosecond of acknowledgment of the word, we admit to the world that we are sexual beings.  Oh my God!!

“Oooohhhhh”

Orgasms are fabulous, aren’t they?  Look at all we do to achieve more and more orgasms!  The person with the most orgasms at the end wins!!

At the same time, though, they can wreak some havoc in our lives.

Chemical Connectors

Orgasms can be a little hard (hmmm…..  difficult?) …to come by, for some–or during certain life phases.  They can cause a lot of stress if they become too infrequent or not as “potent.”  They can create insecurity in relationship, if our partner isn’t having them with us—especially if she’s having them alone!—And the crazy thing that can be both wonderfully intoxicating, or crazy-making, is that they can be the “glue that binds,” so to speak!

Orgasms are most often correlated with a powerful surge of the neurohormones, oxytocin and prolactin, the bonding chemicals that are also released during birth and breastfeeding.  When we orgasm with a particular partner—and we do so often with that person—we develop and deepen a connection that can defy logic.

The How & What of the Big “O”

Orgasms, which are controlled by the involuntary—or autonomic nervous system, don’t just occur in our pelvises.  Of course you all know that!  They occur throughout our entire BodyMinds, in measurable ways.  From brain wave alterations to involuntary muscular contractions and spasms throughout the body—including lovely facial grimaces—to spontaneous vocalizations and sweat glands being intensely activated; high sexual arousal that leads to orgasm is the culmination of a complete mind and body experience that is unparalleled when compared to other bodily sensations.

Wikipedia describes orgasm as the sudden discharge of accumulated sexual tension during the sexual response cycle.  It comes from the Greek word, οργασμός orgasmos, a derivation of the word organ, meaning to swell, or to be excited.

Most often, stimulation of the penis in males and the clitoris in females is the starting point that leads to orgasm.  Whether through self-stimulation, partner stimulation, penetrative or non-penetrative sexual intercourse, genital play, oral sex, a variety of rhythmic types of genital stimulation; or the plethora of other erotic sexual activity, orgasms occur when our bodies are thoroughly engaged and our brains sufficiently relaxed.  And climax becomes imminent as blood rushes to our genitalia, heart rates increase, breathing becomes rapid, genitalia and nipples stand erect, the lower part of the vagina narrows and the penis becomes enlarged (hmmm…  someone was thinking!) …tension, tension, tension….  And somehow, simultaneous relaxation—of the mind anyway—until… our bodies release the build up of sexual energy in waves of complete pleasure.  If all goes well.orgasm1

(Maybe time for a little breather?)

And onward…

Scientists now believe that while men and women have obvious anatomical differences, our subjective experience of orgasm—both physiological and psychological—is actually quite similar.  In fact, in certain studies, researchers have not been able to reliably determine gender when reading descriptions of orgasms with all anatomical references removed.

Our Bodies

The most common descriptor of orgasm, from a physiological perspective, is the rhythmic contractions of the Pubococcygeus (PC) Muscle.  Most men and women describe a building and pleasurable intensity that often begins at the clitoris for women (although different types of orgasms occur in different areas of the genitalia—which we’ll …touch on later) and can spread throughout the pelvic area, abdomen, inner thighs, anal sphincter, rectum and perineum, primarily.  For women, contractions of the uterus and outer third of the vagina occur as well.  A woman’s clitoris and labia will swell during sexual excitement and the inner walls of the vagina will begin to lubricate.  For men, orgasms generally begin as a deep sensation of warmth and pressure in the genitalia, leading to a sharper, intensely pleasurable feeling in the genitals, rectum, anal sphincter and perineum.  And for men, the ejaculatory ducts and the muscles around the penis simultaneously contract.

A common characteristic of orgasm is also a pelvic throbbing or pulsing sensation, rhythmic muscular contractions—especially powerful for men during ejaculatory inevitability, which is the point when ejaculation is unavoidable—not that most men would want to avoid it!   (However, on this point, there are some sexual and spiritual practices that call for just that—another topic that we’ll discuss later).  Finally, for men, a warm rushing of fluid sometimes described as a “shooting” sensation occurs when semen travels through the urethra during ejaculation.  Of course it’s important to note that orgasm and ejaculation are not one in the same—while they most often occur together, a man can have an orgasm without ejaculating.  There are women who also experience a warm rush of fluid—some, even to the point of ejaculating.

Together, these physiological responses constitute the “reflex of orgasm.”  Contractions are the most intense initially, at the point we call “climax,” and occur at about 0.8-second intervals, and then lessen in both intensity and frequency of intervals as orgasm subsides.  While orgasms can differ depending on the person describing them and their unique experiences, these are the most common characteristics.

And Our Minds

For both men and women, orgasm brings forth descriptive words like warmth, blissful, intense, tingly, pleasurable, electric; feelings of suspension followed by intense or even violent pleasure, and then ultimately leading to deep relaxation and release. These words are used not only for feelings in the genitals but throughout at least some portion of the whole body.  And they correlate, as well, with emotional feelings of euphoria, of “losing oneself,” and often a sense of connectedness with a partner—or with oneself, depending on the circumstances of the particular experience.

Multi-Orgasmic Magic

As many of us—men and women—are well aware, it’s far more common for women to be multi-orgasmic, meaning ….well, that we’re really lucky, for one!  It also means that we don’t necessarily go into the phase of orgasm called the “refractory period,” upon climaxing, which men generally do—however, not all men and not every time.  The refractory period is a recovery phase and during that time, further ejaculation is physiologically impossible.  Some men have learned to have orgasms without ejaculating, however, and can therefore become multi-orgasmic.

A Woman’s Orgasm

Now, there is a downside for women as well.  Some surveys have concluded that only 25% of women have orgasms every time they have sex with a partner, as compared to 90% of men having sex.  Seems a little imbalanced, I’d say!  And sadly, about 10% of women have never had an orgasm at all—either via masturbation or sex.  Now this is an issue that needs addressing, in my opinion!

The idea that women are different than men in how, how often, and how quickly we orgasm has set us up for some struggles in the area of feeling empowered sexually, and has set men up for a load of confusion about women’s bodies.  And we are equally responsible for the state of things.

For much of our history, women didn’t speak to their own need for sexual satisfaction—or how that might occur.  The patriarchal society that is at our foundation set men’s sexual needs on a pedestal and essentially left women out in the cold, at times even providing the medical diagnosis of Hysteria—historically a common name given to women who were clearly just sexually frustrated!  And a common cure…?  Genital massage from a doctor until the woman reached “hysterical paroxysm” (Orgasms).  Duh!  (Either that or she was sent to an asylum!)

Currently, women have cum into our own, so to speak.  (These are getting fun!)  Many women are completely comfortable speaking to how we orgasm, what turns us on, what doesn’t; and showing men—or other women (because every woman is different), step by step, our own journey to our bodies deepest treasures.  Yet we’re still not quite there, are we?

I speak to women all the time who are scared to show their partners—mostly men—how to help them reach orgasm, some who simply don’t know how to relax enough with a man to allow their bodies to climax, and some who simply don’t know how to even bring themselves to orgasm.  When women confess to struggling with orgasm with their partners, I’ll ask, “Do you masturbate in front of him?”  The return I often get is one of shock and sometimes statements like, “I wouldn’t even know what to do!”  And that’s when I get concerned.

Many of us were not taught practices of self-love, let alone practices of self-satisfaction!  In fact, many of us were taught that our bodies were not to be touched, “down there.”  And so we grew to feel shame connected to the very beauty of our bodies delicious sexual natures—because our curiosity made others uncomfortable.  So we need to re-teach ourselves.  And for our health—individually, relationally, collectively—it’s time to own our orgasms!

This is Part One of the delicious discussion of Orgasms.  And depending on the questions, comments, and sharing that may ensue; we’ll see how many more “Parts” it will take to dig into the juicy dialogue of all that we can learn about this wonderful, powerful phenomenon! 

 

Thanks for reading!

 

The Architecture of Infidelity

What woman hasn’t looked at herself in the mirror, at least for a day or so during the worst months, and become horribly critical of at least some part of her body—Sometimes even blaming some relationship woe on a “not-quite-right” physical attribute—at least subconsciously.  “If only my ass was…(fill in the blank), maybe he wouldn’t have cheated, lied, left, become a porn addict, been such a jerk…”

I cannot think of any body part—any physical attribute at all that I’ve not heard women “wishing” were different.  I was even condemning my own damn TOES the other day (short, stubby toes that would’ve been great if my Dad had ever allowed me to pursue my dream of becoming a ballerina!)  As if my damn toes have some impact on whether I can keep a man.  I swear to God that my mother used to tell me if I didn’t put lotion on my elbows (which she felt were too rough…  when I was 11) I would never find a husband!  (That, and if I never learned how to make an apple pie).  Sorry…  tangent.

Women talk about and think about their bodies—a lot.  I’m guessing women may talk and think about their bodies even more than men talk and think about women’s bodies.  However, rarely do I hear women make any positive acknowledgments of their own (or other women’s) bodies, unless it’s, “I wish I had arms, an ass, a waist (or…?) like ‘her.’”  What I hear (and have said) are negative floods of disparaging and unsympathetic remarks about legs, boobs, butts, cellulite, ears, tummies, stretch marks, vaginas, skin, noses, lines, wrinkles, back-fat, feet, hair, jiggling, wiggling, stretched out, aging, too big, too flat, too WRONG body parts!

Standing In My Skin

I work with women–and honestly speaking, I’ve BEEN a woman–with core beliefs that the way they look has a profound impact on whether or not they can “get” or “keep” a guy–that their external body is more powerful than their energetic presence.

And yet, I know women who have “that ass,” and “that skin” who are not only critical of themselves, either in that or other ways, but say the same exact things about THEIR bodies!  And get this:  Many of “them” have even been cheated on, lied to, and left; and are not any happier with their life circumstances than the woman with the sagging boobs!

So, what’s the deal?  Clearly it’s not about the ass.  Because there are women who are esthetically stunning beyond belief—who have it all put together “just right”—at least from the outside and as far as our cultural interpretation of beauty—and they seem to be dealing with the same personal and relational issues as the rest of us.   And then there are those women who have the extra few pounds, the extra jiggle, the Roman (or Greek) nose, etc… and they adore their own unique bodies, style, self.  So what gives?  “If it’s not about my physical body, what’s so wrong with me that he would choose to go elsewhere?

Cheating Hearts

Relationship dysfunction—the guy who leaves, cheats, feels distant, etc…  it’s not about the details, then, is it?  It’s not about the cellulite on my ass.  Could it have anything, however, to do with how I TALK ABOUT THE CELLULITE ON MY ASS?  Could it be that my not liking myself—not engaging with my guy from a place of appreciating my own uniqueness in a way that ignites aliveness in my expression toward and with him—could have something to do with his waning interest?  Hell yes, girls!

How interesting and exciting is it to be in relationship with someone who doesn’t like the way they look?  Who is constantly putting their bodies down, wanting them to be different?  It is each of us who provide the template for how others learn to treat us.  It is the positive acknowledgment that I authentically allow myself to feel internally, that gives others the freedom to acknowledge and appreciate me just the way I am.  And how incredibly interesting to be with a woman who, for example, makes statements about adoring her imperfect body, the stories it can tell, the life it has lived… owning and using every curve and jiggle?  Yes, now that’s attractive!

Now, here I go making it seem like when a guy strays, it’s still the responsibility of his feminine partner.  Wrong!  My solitary point in sharing the challenge above is to acknowledge that we (meaning each and every man and woman in relationship) has a responsibility for maintaining aliveness–LIFE!–within our intimate partnerships.  No, it’s not your fault if he or she cheats–And, you play a powerful role, part of that being how you show up in your own skin.

Filling the Gap

Most often, my guy’s wandering eye… or, other wandering extremity, is really not about “me” at all—it’s about him.  It’s some gaping hole in his own psyche that doesn’t have the foundational strength to step into the masculine role of either asking for what he wants or owning who he is that drives him toward someone with whom he can at least pretend to own those strengths–and who will recognize and adore the characteristics in him with which his partner has lost touch.  He’s seeking aliveness!  He craves adventure; awakened, spirited connection, enticing him to engage.  

In the vein of David Deida, the masculine seeks a feminine partner who completely trusts in him—his strength and directionality, his nature.  He craves a woman (and let’s allow our minds to be somewhat flexible when I use “he” and “she” in general terms–gender roles might be completely different than the hetero- scenario I’m painting) … who trusts who he has grown himself to be and trusts his intentions.  Whether or not he completely believes in himself, even, to be trusted by the feminine can be the inspiration the masculine needs to step fully into powerful ownership of his own life.  The masculine thrives with a feminine partner who can openly express being unabashedly taken by him.

The opposite is true as well—when she cheats, when she’s not able to be present to her amazing guy, it’s not because he doesn’t have a big enough cock!  I can assure you.  It’s not about how much money he doesn’t make, or the hair on his back, or that he snores or doesn’t pick his underwear up off the floor (even if she says it is).  It’s something in HER—that place in her that craves acknowledgment from someone who sees beyond the daily grind of what life leaves behind as she crawls into bed in her baggy sweats…  she wants someone to seek out the sexy, sultry; the core of her beautiful self and she’s terrified to act out her own fantasy, most often for fear of not being noticed—not really being “taken in,” or maybe fear of losing the comfort, at least, of the pattern she knows.

A woman’s reach outside her partnership is often about her aching for a depth in connection that she doesn’t know how to request, and may not even fully grasp as a valid or decipherable need.  Some part of her does not feel recognized and she may place blame on her partner rather than owning her inability to acknowledge this deep incongruence in her nature.  And so she finds someone with whom she can play out that part of her character–someone who will lavish her with adoration as she explores the forbidden territory of her sexual awakening; the pleasure centers of her body, soul, and femininity that are aching to be known. 

The feminine thrives in the presence of eyes and touch and words that ground her in her own sensuality—that see her and remind her that her body knows just how to express every thought and emotion within her, for which she has no words.  The feminine comes alive with masculine essence breathing her in.

The Body In Integrity

Rather than risk our most intimate relationships to the authentic exploration of self and other, we sometimes choose to either shut down, dismiss those parts of ourselves that don’t fit with the “proper” portrayal of who we think we’re supposed to be; or we’ll find secret, and therefore more exciting, places and people with whom to share.  Ironically, it’s risk that is often needed for us to, once again, get curious about our current partners and open to the possibility of seeing something new.  

With a new interest–someone with whom we’ve not shared any limits to emotional or sexual expression–there’s little risk, since we’re not sharing our hearts but just one facet of our many faceted character.  Here’s one downfall, however, of when we justify our straying:  Our bodies—not just our minds—have what we might call a “moral code.”  Crazy as it sounds, “right” and “wrong” aren’t simply closed-minded, right wing, black and white ideas.  There’s actually a cross-cultural, time-honored neurochemical that let’s us know, pretty immediately, when we have made well by our choices and, over time, our bodies and minds take a toll when we consistently act out of integrity with our natural, unique truths.

Of course the chemical, in this case a hormone, is Oxytocin.  That oh-so-wonderful bonding hormone that gets us feeling empathic and generous and wanting to lavish love on our objects of affection.   This chemical elixir, most well known as being connected to things like childbirth and breastfeeding, is at the foundation of our ability to trust, to be trustworthy; to feel connected and loving toward our intimate partners, our children, and our friends.

Hard Wiring and Hormones

There’s a man by the name of Dr. Paul J. Zak, who’s written a book called The Moral Molecule:  The source of love and prosperity, about this one little chemical that plays a huge role in our trustworthiness, generosity, and connect-ability.  The questions in his theoretical pocket were about the disparity between men and women and their generosity, between men and other men about their faithfulness, and so on.  Why are some of us more trustworthy?  More generous?  More faithful?

What Zak found in his research is that, pretty much across the board, human beings have a built-in meter; measuring those behaviors, interactions, even thoughts that are in or out of line with our original design of trust-ability.  This means that, once again, our ability to trust and be trustworthy are directly linked to our earliest experiences–those initial moments that allowed us to believe that our environment was safe, that we would be held, loved, cherished, etc., or not.  From the first moment of our neural map-making, our relational paths were laid out for us.

Not to pretend that further experiences along the journey don’t matter—they absolutely do!  They either affirm or cause us to question our core constructs.  But those core constructs are indelibly carved into our bodyminds like the tree carvings of carpenter ants.

The Body On Lying

You think “The Brain on Drugs” is scary?  The body on lying is equally horrific.  When we lie, our body releases catecholamines, or stress hormones, leading to increases in heart rate, breathing, and muscle and nerve hypersensitivity; simultaneously slowing digestion and systemic responses geared toward keeping us calm and present.  Over time, these responses–especially if they become patterns–can lead to things like coronary artery disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.  The consistent stress of lying can also lead to issues like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

According to the results of a November 2010 study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition by the Department of Psychology at Belgium’s Ghent University, “Frequent truth telling made lying more difficult, and frequent lying made lying easier.”  Want to begin rewiring those early constructs of integrity in the body?  Develop a practice of truth-telling.

Zak, in his research, did find discrepancies as well, however.  He found that some people are almost never generous, never honest or faithful.  In these folks, it became clear through their blood analysis that the receptor sites for oxytocin were malfunctioning or weren’t available.

When a person is less available—or seemingly not available at all—for building trusting relationships, or has an internal construct of justifying consistent untrustworthy behavior, it is a strong sign that early experiences for this man or woman didn’t lend well to building trust.  It’s a sign that he or she wasn’t “held safely” in an environment that modeled integrity and authenticity.  Sadly, that can be true even for people from wonderful families and loving parents!  What neuroscience, in particular, is beginning to teach us is that an undeveloped capacity for trust can be due to incredibly subtle events and/or relationship “mis-attunements.”

If our goal is to heal emotional wounds and even possibly generational patterns of un-trustworthiness, it requires first, objectivity–the ability to self-soothe while we look at the underlying architecture of one’s emotional body.  We need to develop our ability to hold onto ourselves and our partners without making a behavior into a person.  Then, and only then, do we have the opportunity to do the necessary work to repair that early wiring, that will allow us to re-pattern those constructs that should have had loving support in our earliest relationships.

It’s All In Our Genes

Clearly, no chemicals in the body work in isolation, so Oxytocin is not a sole culprit when it comes to a person’s (un-) trustworthiness.  In regard to monogamy, there’s another well-known hormone called Vasopressin that’s been linked to promiscuous behavior in men (of both prairie voles AND humans!)  There are longer and shorter versions of this gene and the findings have lead scientists to theorize that men with the longer version have more potential toward monogamy.  Not that many of us will be having our guys undergo genetic testing to measure their Vasopressin gene but it’s an interesting little tidbit of information!

Beyond these more organic explanations, other contributing factors related to monogamy vs. promiscuity are early environments and relationships, as mentioned before.  There’s some interesting research related to females in regard to our seeking behaviors—(Once again, we’re looking at small rodents but apparently we’re somewhat closely related in our developmental strategies!)—For example, if an infant girl has adequate bonding experiences with her mother, she develops more slowly than her more isolated counterpart. She’s also more discerning when it comes to choosing intimate partners and will be more apt to make choices that serve her long-time mating goals.  On the other hand, girls who didn’t bond well with Mama?  Those are usually the girls that will have a few more….  booty calls, you might say!

Bottom Up VS. Top Down

So ultimately, why do human beings cheat?  We can justify with “seeking something more fulfilling” based in the reality of our unhappiness, when what is truly more fulfilling can be discovered primarily from within.  When has someone you’ve known ever cheated and looked back on it and said, “Yea, man… that was a great choice!  Totally worth it!  Lost my family and life but damn, did I tap that ass!”

Not a common response, right?

Our need for creating a more fulfilling union begins with first recognizing what it is we’re actually trying to fill!  It’s taking not only a “look” but “feeling into” the chasm in both our capacity for and willingness to connect, deeply with another human being who is not our child–because that’s a different journey altogether.  We need to first become intimate with what has been empty from our earliest moments and learn to nourish that space–that aching–within ourselves, rather than simply “fill it up”–the gap, that is.

Often, we want to cure the symptom–just like the AMA doc would want to treat my son’s hives, for example, rather than exploring the systemic cause (often a food allergy), as maybe an Oriental or alternative doctor might, (please forgive my blunt generalizations).  Similarly, if I’m feeling isolated and empty, I might believe that finding the “right guy” or at least a “right-now-guy” is going to bring a sense of fulfillment–I’m seeking someone–something external to myself.  And yet sitting with my emptiness…  acknowledging that sense of isolation, getting curious about it, exploring it, maybe even “making friends” with it; might be the path to actually working toward authentic fulfillment.   It’s the quick fix vs. actual repair work.  One of them is damn hard work.  But work has it’s value in the process–not only the result.

Repairing Brokenness

And, when we have been “cheated on”…?  Let’s be gentle–with both ourselves and the ones who’ve just taken the fast track, hopefully, to transforming their relational paths, no matter how the current one may bade.

Remember to take a good look at YOU–at all that you are.  And know that you most definitely deserve honesty and integrity, no matter your own emotional constructs that could use some rewiring.  And then, when you’ve had some time to mourn, to process the heartache, to vent your anger; get objective.  Take some time to get clear on the relational system that you helped to create with a partner who who didn’t feel the openness to share whatever he or she needed prior to drifting off to the fantasy of someone else.

The research of Dr. John Gottman has given pretty clear indications that we choose people who, while our “issues” may manifest differently, have about the same capacity for “showing up” in intimate relationships.  We choose those who are equally conscious, equally available, and equally equipped.  We like to see the endings–or betrayals–in relationships as “good guy/bad guy” issues when, in reality, we develop systems together that fit some core construct of how we tend to work, what’s subconsciously “comfortable” for us.

The beauty here is that tendencies are just that… they are hardwired inclinations.  And they can be changed.  In fact, a whole lot of things–behaviors, beliefs, yes, even people, can move through profound transformations.  And we have the power to create those powerful changes in our next relationships or, hearts willing, even in the current ones that simply need to be held, healed, and restructured.