Want A Clear Path To An Awakened Life?..

A root cause of “relationship distress” is the “re-opening of a primary childhood wound.” This wound is related to the doubt we have all carried around, since childhood, about our inherent “lovability”.  Although it is true, of course, that each of us has a different experience of being loved and cared for in childhood…. none of us ever gets that “perfect” love we long for.  When someone hurts us again in a  way we have been hurt before, we feel that hurt all over again.  Each of us has very specific “triggers” that function as entry points to our own particular version of the  “wound.”  Clinical psychologist Dr. John Welford believes that the search for a “love” partner in life is all about finding a way to heal our original childhood wound.  We are testing the strength of our “lovability” in the courtship process, as well as testing how well we can love our chosen partner. It is therefore a process of simultaneously giving and receiving as we risk “putting ourselves out there”

Dr. Welford also believes that, because our sense of being a complete and lovable self  is so dependent on how others perceive us, we have mixed feelings  about attaching ourselves to another too deeply. In our own minds there is always the possibility that we will be forced to change who we really are in order to be what we think our partners want us to be.  The fear of “giving up” our power in this way can lead to carrying around resentment about dependency in close relationships. Our task is how to navigate this delicate tightrope of needing something so badly at the same time resenting and/or fearing this need.  In addition to this, we may also be perpetually afraid that we won’t be able to hold onto what we have, once we have it. Is this not the very definition of vulnerability?  What kind of skills do we need to help us with this crucial navigation task? To put it in another way…what state of consciousness do we need to adopt in order to walk the “tightrope” with ease and grace?

First…Remember That The Love You Seek Is Already Yours 

At first glance, the concept of already having what you seek may seem counterintuitive. However, if you think of the concept of Love differently and see it as an absolute principle that operates in the world rather than a relative commodity that is traded back and forth and can be lost and found…. You will know that love is always there. You just have to see it and claim it. I knew a songwriter/philosopher once who wrote lyrics about absolute love that sum up what I mean beautifully.  Tad’s words were as follows: “In the colors of the morning sky, in the face of just one passerby, a gift, a song, a way to be…. Love is waiting patiently.  The message of this song, for me, is about the Omniscience of love.  As Tad so poignantly states in his song, Love is everywhere!..It is waiting patiently for you to claim it for yourself. He also talks about the importance of “letting the love in” to your wounded heart.  This speaks to the importance of cultivating an “open” heart and allowing love to heal what ails you.

Next…Consider The Possibility That Relationship Is The Path To Healing Your Original Childhood Wound 

If you are starting from the place of knowing that you already have love in your life, then all of your important relationships are about sharing that love with another, and reminding each other of its existence. This would apply, I think, weather we are talking about your “life partner”, your child, or your best friend. Awareness of Love’s Omniscience is a consciousness shift, I think. That said, it is of course important to be cautious and protective of yourself in the beginning of a relationship. The love between you and this person needs to be solid and trustworthy, before you open yourself up too completely.  Inevitably, though, because you are transparently revealing yourself to another, you will experience hurt. Something may be said that reminds you of an earlier experience in your child hood, your “guard” is down, and that old childhood cluster of wounds is “triggered”.  At this point, according to Dr. Welford, you have a choice.  Do you “act out” against the person who has inadvertently “pushed a button”?  Do you become angry and defensive and try to hurt that person back?  Or, do you choose to understand this “trigger point” as an important key to understanding yourself. If you chose the later option, you have given yourself and your partner a precious gift.  Together you can investigate what “just happened”, and draw from that deep pool of absolute love to understand both yourself and your partner at a whole new level.  The trick is to keep blame and criticism out of the conversation, which is of course the difficult part in a culture, which is so often so judgmental. Intimacy is, in my view, the antithesis of judgment and blame. It is about opening up your own narrow view of the world to incorporate the world view of another. This is why I see creating “heart centered” intimacy as a clear path to an awakened life.   Without the judgment and blame of either yourself or others, You  awaken to to who you and your” beloved” really are.

By Leslie Kays MFT


Co-Creating A Lasting Relationship…..Five Essential Keys

In The Shelter Of Each Other

In The Shelter Of Each Other

Gay and Katie Hendrix have been married for over thirty years.  Throughout their marriage and their professional careers as couple psychotherapists, they have sought the answer to an important question in modern American life.  That question is: “Why don’t relationships seem to last these days?” It’s a good question, I think.  The divorce rate in the United States is creeping towards 60%, which is a staggering statistic…especially when you consider that it doesn’t even include what we think of as “common law” marriages.  What is going on here?

After many years of research, and, they will tell you, painstaking experimentation with their own marriage, the Hendrix’s have come up with some important keys to creating a “lasting” and “fulfilling” relationship.

1:  In All Communications With Your Partner, Strive Toward Complete Honesty, Transparency, and Authenticity

The Hendrix’s speak of this idea that intimacy is created when both partners in the couple learn to tell the “microscopic” truth to each other.  By this they mean, I think, that each partner learn to actually describe to the other what is going on for them from the “inside out”…. including thoughts, feelings, and even bodily sensations.  For example, if you are describing for your partner an experience that caused you to be extremely fearful or anxious, you might say: “My heart was beating fast and my palms were sweaty.”  You might think that such a visceral “blow by blow” account would be “off putting”, and you would be seen as weak and vulnerable.  In fact quite the opposite is the case. When hearing about the emotional pain of a loved one… the “mirror” neurons of empathy are activated  in the central nervous system of the other person.  This is a true “bonding” experience.

As a corollary to the “microscopic” truth, the Hendrix’s also talk about the importance of having a “no secrets” policy in a committed relationship.  In this instance, they are talking about secrets large and small.  A small secret might be, “I overdrew the checking account”.  A big secret would be: “Oh, I forgot to mention, I’ve got a child from a previous relationship.”

An important distinction needs to be made, I think, between what is a “secret” and what is “private”.  A “secret” is information you are deliberately withholding because you know that the disclosure of it will create some kind of “waves” in your relationship.  You want to avoid that, but the constant “avoidance” of the truth will always come back on you tenfold in the long run and lead to erosion of trust. Privacy has more to do with the careful guarding of your own inner life in a protective way. You may or may not reveal information to select and trusted others in the fullness of time.

2. Each Partner Has The Responsibility To Shake Up The Relationship On A Regular Basis

We are creatures of habit, and although overall this creates a feeling of security and predictability, its important to note that we also crave novelty and variety.  “Shaking it up” can be as simple as trying a new restaurant, sleeping on the other side of the bed, or vacationing in a new spot.  How far to move your partner out of his/her comfort zone is an important skill, however.  You don’t want to have the unrealistic expectation that your partner will do something so far out of their comfort zone that they are truly uncomfortable. (And then blame them for it!)

3. Practice Giving Your Partner 10 to 12 compliments a day, and include with this practice plenty of “touching” “hugging” and “eye contact”

Does this sound “New age” and trite?  Ok…but be aware that verbalizations and gestures of love and affection sprinkled throughout the day are actually found to be extremely highly correlated with successful long term “pair bonding” in much of the animal kingdom, including humans.  This is sound neuroscience which is founded on brain imaging that shows areas of the brain to “light up” when the “pleasure centers” are stimulated. The “pleasure centers” are stimulated through words and gestures of love.  Furthermore, “love memory” exists wherein we can see the pleasure centers light up even in the anticipation of being reunited with a loved one. This can be seen in our closest evolutionary relatives, the great apes, but is perfected to a very sophisticated degree in humans. In addition to this, the hormone oxytocin is released with physical contact, or even the anticipation of physical contact. It’s quite amazing really.The important thing to remember though, is that stores of oxytocin must be constantly replenished, or the well can run dry.

 4. Strive To Eliminate Blame And Criticism From Your Relationship

This is perhaps the hardest “key” of all.  Do we not all become irritated and upset with our partners? Also, if there is honesty and transparency in a relationship, surely some of this “honesty” is going to be of the negative variety?  Here is what the Hendrix’s think about this: It is the their contention that it is a given that much of what we see and don’t like in the “other”, particularly our most significant other, is actually a reflection or an indication  of  something we cannot allow in ourselves. 

In psychological terms this is known as “Projection”, and it is thought to run pretty rampantly, albeit unconsciously, in couples.

The trick is to tease out what the projection actually is…that is.. what is really bugging you underneath the surface issue?

In other words, what  is triggering you?  The example given in the case of the Hendrix marriage was that Gay Hendrix would always get really angry if his wife Katie came home later than promised.  In his own “self” examination he was able to remember his mother leaving him at home after school.  Katie was therefore “triggering” abandonment issues in her husband  and causing him to feel unsafe and vulnerable every time she was late. In Gays case, “vulnerability” was not a very acceptable “manly” way to feel, so he converted this unacceptable feeling to anger and projected it onto Katie. It wasn’t actually about Katie at all.

In my view, totally eliminating blame and criticism from any close relationship is a tall order.  However, it makes sense to examine your own feelings every time you are intensely triggered by your partner…. every time you see red, or feel that your world is falling apart.  When confronting your partner about the feelings that have arisen in you, you can offer the microscopic disclosure that I mentioned earlier on. Just naming the feeling and having the attitude of curiosity and discovery about where that feeling might come from will go a long way toward dissipating the intensity of the feeling. Ideally, “blame” will fall away, and your partner will be happy to do whatever he/she can to heal the “wound” that has been uncovered.

5. As A Capstone to all the other Keys, Commitment and Intention to Co-Create the best possible Relationship for Both Of You Is Essential

It almost goes without saying, but bears repeating, that none of the other relationship skills are worth anything without the commitment to make it all work.  Equally shared responsibility and somehow having the unspoken agreement that you will not, either of you, lightly let this relationship go…feel like the true “Art of Relationship”. Its almost impossible to define…but clear to you both when you have landed in this consciously loving and sacred place. You won’t ever want to leave.

By Leslie Kays MFT




The Modern “Dance Of Intimacy” Oxytocin vs Testosterone

The Modern "Dance" Of Intimacy

The Modern “Dance” Of Intimacy

Twenty-two years ago the book “Men Are From Mars, Women are from Venus” hit the “Relationship Help” section of many bookstores. In this book author John Grey created controversy with his bold assertion that, in fact men and women were very different.  The differences showed up, according to Dr. Grey, in very fundamental ways…. such as how communication happens, how needs are met, and how a feeling of “safety, security and stress reduction is achieved.  In a recent interview, Dr. Grey elaborated on the differences between men and women in terms of stress reduction. He now claims female/male differences are due to the fact that men predominately reduce stress and feel secure by having optimal levels of the hormone “testosterone” available in their nervous system. In contrast to this, women achieve feelings of safety, security, and low stress when they have plenty of the hormone “oxytocin” on board. So, how does this work, and how does he know it is so?  It makes sense, actually, when you think about it from an anthropological/sociological perspective 

Testosterone and Oxytocin and how they function adaptively as hormones 

Testosterone is a hormone produced in men and women, but it is generally produced in larger quantities in men.  Testosterone is responsible for sex drive and aggression. It has been found to “flood” the endocrine system, particularly in men, when these men are involved in competitive and/or very “driven” and “goal oriented” activities.  Too much testosterone can be a bad thing, obviously, and can lead to violent and “out of control” behavior. Testosterone is associated with anger and destruction.  On the “plus” side, it has been postulated that evolutionarily speaking, optimal levels of testosterone in men are correlated with success on the “hunt” in “Hunter/ Gatherer” societies.  In earlier days, successful hunting was essential for survival of the species. It could be argued that the men who were doing the hunting felt good, satisfied, and content, after a successful hunt, thus creating the desire to hunt again.

Oxytocin, in contrast to testosterone, is known as the “love” hormone or the bonding hormone. Women produce it in their bodies in order to facilitate bonding with newborn babies,. It is also released in other skin-to-skin contact situations. One can imagine, again in Hunter Gatherer societies, that the women spent a lot of time together in tribes where they found safety in numbers and hung out with other females to take care of the young. There is no doubt that oxytocin release feels goodWe are, after all, social animals.

The Oxytocin/Testosterone Dance 

It must be said, of course, that both men and women produce oxytocin and testosterone, and also that people vary widely as to how much of these hormones they produce.  There are individual differences.  John Grey simply suggests that men on the whole tend to “lead” with testosterone, while women are more prone to “lead” with oxytocin. It’s important to note though “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” was first published in 1992.  In the book, Dr. Grey outlines the “dance” between men and women as a paradigm where the woman is at home with young children, soaking up the “oxytocin” with her children, but also becoming exhausted with childcare, and wanting to “bond” with her husband when he gets home. She needs the same feeling with him she was able to get with her children…but probably needs a more “adult” version than she can get from young children.  When her husband gets home, she pursues him, in Greys Scenario, and begs him to cuddle and bond with her and the children.  She wants to enfold her husband with the family oxytocin…and talk through feelings, ECT…. in order to feel more “connected” and secure


“Hubby,” on the other hand, according to Dr. Grey, has just had a full, and probably competitive day at work.  He may be feeling low levels of testosterone because he has not been successful in his projects or maybe he has been criticized or “put down”.  He may feel insecure and incompetent.  It is at this point, suggests Dr. Grey, that “Hubby” may need to temporarily “retreat”…to what has been jokingly called his “man cave”…to replenish his testosterone.  He might, for example need to work on projects or hobbies. The argument is, that he needs to have this replenishment time, before he can be available to soak up the oxytocin and bond with wife and family.

 The problem is, of course that this testosterone/oxytocin dance belongs to 1992…or even before that. (I would argue)

What About The Intimacy Oxytocin/Testosterone Dance In 2014? 

Ok…. so I think we can all agree that the world of work and family life is much different now. Family Life/work/ balance is a matter of how to more evenly share work and family responsibilities between both partners, even in “same sex” couples.  Generally, everyone wants things to feel “fair”. If not, anger and resentment can quickly build.  The reality is that the majority of adults in households with or without children actually do work in our modern society. (Statistics would bear this out) The “dance” therefore needs to be reworked with a new set of assumptions, new steps, and more careful communication than ever before. It seems to me that the essential question that needs to be asked of each “partner” in the modern “Intimacy dance” is:  “What is your particular “internal” balance in terms of how much Oxytocin you need to feel bonded, and secure with an intimate partner? When do you need this “skin to skin” and “eye to eye contact? “  What are your most vulnerable times of the day, for example?

Second Question:  “What are your testosterone needs? Do you, (regardless of your sexual identity or orientation) need to work on projects at or away from home that make you feel competent and successful before you can cuddle?  Here’s another example:  “Do you need your partner to admire your ability to “fix” things around the house, (or anywhere else for that matter) so that you can feel that satisfying surge of testosterone?

  Self-knowledge/Communication Is The Key 

I like to think of creating and building sustained intimate relationships as an on going co-creative process between any two people who actually have a desire for such a relationship.  I don’t think it matters in the least if we are talking about heterosexual or “same sex” couples. The responsibility is equally shared, I think, and entails the ability to know and communicate who you are and what you need…even as you understand deeply the different perspective and needs of your partnerYou will not be exactly the same as your “partner”, nor will you or your “partner “remain exactly the same over time.  Furthermore, your particular “partnership” mix of oxytocin/testosterone will not be the same as the one you see in any other partnership. We are all beautifully unique that way.

 So….Enjoy The Dance!!! 

What is left to say except…. do not be afraid to explore and participate in the dance! Be alert to the subtle changes in yourself and your partner that mean you need to change the steps, learn new steps, or change the “leader/follower” paradigm.   The ability to make the necessary changes is what will keep your relationship alive and vital.  It’s the Art of The Dance…. and the key to lasting joy and satisfaction.