Human Hate Continued: Knit Ourselves Together or Tear Ourselves Apart?

”Only through solidarity and cooperation within one’s own group was it possible to raise children and survive when competing against unknown and rivaling groups for scarce resources in pre-civilized times…”*

There it is, folks. This could be what we are up against when we wonder why, why, why, after all this time, in this day and age, inter-group hatred still rears its ugly head. Some would say, like it or not, we are hardwired to huddle with our own against the ones we think are not us. Us versus Them. That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news. Two things:

  • The human brain (aka the “social brain”) got bigger and smarter over time due to living in – and allowing us to live in – larger and larger communities. The social brain is now considered flexible and therefore shaped, not just by our genes, but by the environment in which it lives as well.
  • New research suggests that xenophobia, (or fear/disgust of people who are different), can be reduced and altruism increased by oxytocin and social pressure.

So it’s not hopeless. And we are not helpless. We can change. And it appears that oxytocin + social pressure can help us to do just that. Social interaction increases Oxytocin, which then brings pleasure and trust to that interaction. Cause and Effect. So let’s just hang out – with more and more people different from the ones our primitive brain picks out for us. And let’s be sure to do it out and about to create the social pressure that interaction with people who do not look exactly like us is how it is and how it is going to be more and more over time. Period.

But I am talking to and about adults here. Because infants don’t need to be told that we are all one. As per Obama’s tweet of Mandela’s quote: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Maybe love is not even more natural than hate. But it is natural enough, and every single one of us can do something to help knit us together, one stitch at a time.

As only one example, one client,** a black man, told me he fought back the urge to pick someone who looked more like him to work with, and picked me instead because I am white. We have worked boldly on racial identity issues together, in ways he tells me would have been less possible and less fruitful for him had we both been black. Each and every one of us can catch it and counter it, just as he did, to choose someone different instead of too often someone who is same, for the sake of same and same alone. If this is your tendency…try something different. Try someone different. You might like it. And the world will thank you for it. Practice, Practice, Practice…and See What Happens.

For help with this or something else, or to let me know what you think, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* Universität Bonn. “Oxytocin and social norms reduce xenophobia.” ScienceDaily, 14 August 2017, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170814162334.htm>.https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170814162334.htm

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

In Love: Play Together, Stay Together

  “Play refreshes a long-term adult relationship. In a healthy relationship it is like oxygen: pervasive and mostly unnoticed, but essential to intimacy. It refreshes by promoting humor, the enjoyment of novelty, the capacity to share a lighthearted sense of the world’s ironies, the enjoyment of mutual storytelling, the capacity to openly divulge imagination and fantasies….these playful communications and interactions produce a climate for easy connection and deepening, more rewarding relationship – true intimacy.

Take play out of the mix and, like a climb up the oxygen-poor ‘death zone’ of Mount Everest, the relationship becomes a survival endurance contest. Without play skills, the repertoire to deal with inevitable stresses is narrowed. Even if loyalty, responsibility, duty, and steadfastness remain, without playfulness there will be insufficient vitality left over to keep the relationship buoyant and satisfying.”*

Someone I know** once said that couples do all this vacation, theater, movies stuff because they are bored out of their minds with each other. If people are really into each other, she said, they don’t need all that. And if they’re not into each other without all that, they shouldn’t be together. She makes adult play sound lame. Researchers on play make it sound not only normal and natural, but really, really smart. Here’s why.

In American anthropologist, human behavior researcher, and self-help author Helen Fisher’s Why We Love, we learn about phases of love:

“Lust, the craving for sexual gratification, emerged to motivate our ancestors to seek sexual union with almost any partner. Romantic love, the elation and obsession of “being in love,” enabled them to focus their courtship attentions on a single individual at a time, thereby conserving precious mating time and energy. And male-female attachment, the feeling of calm, peace, and security one often has for a long-term mate, evolved to motivate our ancestors to love this partner long enough to rear their young.”

As you may know, there is a bit of a trade off over time. Rather like wine pairing for multi-course meals, different wines for different phases of the meal, Fisher tells us about the different hormones accompanying different phases of love. So the crazy, wonderful, roller coaster buzz we feel at the beginning, left to mother nature, over time not so much. She has other things, like the long-term stability of our nest, in mind for us. Hence the calm, peace, and security that can morph into boredom if we are not mindful of the potential for just that. Boredom.

Fortunately, a lot of people know this. They know what to do, and they do it. All manner of adult play together, including, according to Bloggers Brett and Kate McKay: Body play (dancing), Object play (golf), Social play (dining with friends), Pretend play (role play), Narrative play (sharing stories), Creative play (trip planning), Attunement play (viewing together TV, sports, movies, theater, the Grand Canyon…). Whatever feels to the two of you like play, meaning that even if there is some point to it (like sex for procreation), if the delight of it outweighs the point of it, it can qualify as play.

To repeat: “…these playful communications and interactions produce a climate for easy connection and deepening, more rewarding relationship – true intimacy. Take play out of the mix and, like a climb up the oxygen-poor ‘death zone’ of Mount Everest, the relationship becomes a survival endurance contest.”*

Okay, so in truth, just because there is no apparent point to the play other than for the fun of it, there really is a point to it. That’s a good thing. Play is a good thing, although theories abound on what the fundamental and enduring point of play is. Studies have shown playfulness in adults to be positively associated with academic performance, work performance, stress management, sense of well-being, physical health, social bonding, and problem solving abilities, to name a few. Nice outcomes. They go on to posit that the positive emotions associated with these outcomes may explain at least in part why men and women rank playful, fun loving, and sense of humor so highly when asked what they are looking for in a mate. That is, playfulness would be seen as good for the relationship, the well-being of each individual partner, and their long term excitement and affection for each other – to help us to pair bond and reproduce in ways that helped us to survive and to thrive as a species, no less.

But alas, not only do too many couples get buried in the daily grind of everyday life, as in, Who has time for play?, but researchers have mentioned as well that it is hard to get funding for research on play – precisely because it’s all so positive in the face of a hardwiring for negativity, known as the “negativity bias.” Here’s how that goes: In what we call the environment of evolutionary adaptation, millions of years ago when our modern brains were forming, if something great happened (like a mating opportunity) and we missed it, oh well, too bad, but there will be another. If, on the other hand, something terrible was coming down the pike and we missed it, no oh well, too bad’s about it; we just became somebody’s lunch. So it makes sense we’d be more vigilant about the negative than the positive as a survival rule. Trouble is we’re no longer in that environment and, though it may feel at times that we are about to become someone’s lunch, we’re not, not really. There are, therefore, much happier, healthier, more productive ways to spend our energy and our time than in the default of this normal, natural negativity mode.

Some of us live more in the negativity mode than others. Someone has to keep an eye out for danger and, if your partner has taken on that role more than you have, it would be nice if you expressed your gratitude (Thank you for your service) and took some of it on yourself some of the time. Just to be nice. And nicer still, would be if, as a team, you acknowledged that the normal hormonal shifts over time in relationships, coupled with the negativity bias in humans in general, are significant forces to contend with, together. Then, you two can, on purpose, plant play into your lives, as a habit forming staple from the start and for the long haul. Then you two can be and stay happy in love.

So how are you as an individual and as a couple going to Play today just to Play? Start today? Why not? Play Together. Stay together. For a happier, healthier, more productive Love. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

For help with this or something else, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202 617-0821

* Brown, Stuart, M.D., Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. New York: Penguin, 2010, p..166

**Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.