Tag Archives: human nature

Open your Heart

A dear friend sent me a link to an interesting TED talk on love and relationships given by Mandy Len Catron. The theme of love and relationships had already been playing on my mind.

After watching the clip, I confessed to my friend that I long to share intimacy and affection with someone of the male variety. I quickly added that I’m just feeling impatient and that I should simply be present.

My friend replied: “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a special connection with a man. What you mustn’t do is ever make yourself feel bad because that want is there. It’s human nature.” It was nice to read her words.

Mandy Len Catron’s TED talk came about because Mandy, in the midst of a breakup, turned to science to better understand love. While researching the workings of the heart, Mandy discovered a study undertaken by psychologist Arthur Aron 20 years ago.

The study involved having two strangers ask and answer a series of 36 questions designed to make the participants fall in love. Six months later, the participants were married.

One evening, Mandy described Arthur Aron’s study to a university acquaintance. He proposed that they put the questions to the test. And they promptly fell in love!

Mandy went on to write an article about her experience for The New York Times. Since then, she has received endless calls and emails from people who all want to know one thing: Are Mandy and her university acquaintance still together? And the answer is that they are.

This may seem like the happy ending that we’re all hoping for. But what Mandy learned from this incredible experience is that there is no happy ending. There is no ending.

Falling in love is the easy part. The challenge lies in the decision to continue loving each other through the good and the difficult times. The hard part is to allow yourself be vulnerable and to give your heart to someone who may or may not choose to love you back.

These are the parts of love that many single people forget about when we crave a relationship. We want the smiles and the glances, the cuddles and the kisses, the electricity of attraction and the rush of romance.

However, closeness with a partner can really trigger you and bring all your issues to the surface. The choice then is to succumb to the temptation to close your heart and retreat (or defend) or you can deal with these issues and expand, both as a human being and as a couple.

It’s exciting and scary to open your heart to another human being. Being loved can make you feel blissful and secure one moment and out of control the next.

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Today, I told another friend about all of this. She excitedly suggested that we ask one another the 36 questions. “Imagine if we fell in love,” she laughed.

My friend and I answered all 36 of Arthur Aron’s questions. The questions encouraged us to share our life stories, embarrassing incidents, favourite memories, fears, problems and dreams. We were also invited to tell each other what we liked about one another.

Did we fall in love? I can honestly say that my heart was bursting by the end of the exercise. In truth, my friend and I already love one another.

However, this exercise highlighted how much we have in common and how much we value our friendship. Being let into my friend’s life in this way deepened my love for her. Answering these questions also reminded me of how far I’ve come, how great my life is and how wonderful I am.

How do a series of questions make people fall in love? I believe that these questions inspire you to share yourself with another human being openly and honestly. This vulnerability allows someone to get to know the real you. And this can greatly speed up the falling in love process.

I’d definitely recommend completing this exercise, preferably with someone dishy. It may just make you fall in love – with your friend, your partner, or an attractive stranger. It may also make you fall in love with your journey, with your life, and with you, the real you.

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I Am

I get angry and irritable. I criticise myself and others. I complain. I get depressed and cynical. I lose hope. I cry. I have unkind thoughts. Fear blocks me. I envy others their good fortune. I gossip. I need. I desire. I try to control. I resist what is.

I love. I share. I feel empathy and compassion. I give. I help. I donate. I listen and understand. I open my heart. I feel joy. I appreciate beauty. I am affectionate. I meditate. I laugh. I am present.

Which list is nicer? Should I feel pride about one and shame over the other? Is one list worse or better than the other? Is one good and the other bad? Is either list more or less human? Does any of it define who I am?

Do I dislike myself when I dip into the ingredients of the first list? Is there such a thing as a negative emotion? And should I attempt to dismiss it as soon as it arises? Or do I allow? Welcome? Embrace?

It is what it is. And I am everything. Good and bad. Darkness and light. Ugly and beautiful. Tears and smiles.

It all moves through me. I unhook, detach and observe. I peel off the layers and labels and I see that I am human and more than that. I am indescribable. I cannot be named.

I feel and experience. I judge and then I remember not to judge. And it ebbs and flows and ebbs once again.

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From black and white to technicolour

Good fucken fuqballs, I’m writing at 5am again! I blame Jeannette Walls’ gripping account of her exciting, albeit difficult, childhood in The Glass Castle. Only moments earlier, I had to hold the book away for a good five minutes as I sobbed.

Walls’ honest depiction of life as the resilient daughter of an irresponsible but irresistible drunkard, and a refreshingly free-spirited but inexcusably selfish artist, is as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking.

This captivating memoir teaches us that we mustn’t view things, or people, in black and white. Jeannette paints her unique story, mixing muted shades of sepia and charcoal with delightful streaks of vibrant colour.

Everybody is doing the best they can with what they’ve got. We are all simply trying to survive. Even the most despicable of villains have another (better, softer, more vulnerable) side. Lord Voldemort lived a loveless childhood and suffered a pathological fear of death. The Joker was grieving the loss of his wife and unborn child. In 102 Dalmations, Cruella de Vil dedicates her life to saving animals. And Simon Cowell still goes to bed with his blankie. (Poetic license here, folks. Work with me.)

So, the next time you want to curse (or plot the untimely demise of) your unreasonable boss or critical co-worker, take a deep breath. Recognise that they wouldn’t be behaving this way if they were content with their lot.

On his days off, that bad-tempered librarian volunteers to help children with special needs. The self-centred ladies’ man cries himself to sleep each night. The rude motorist who cut in front of you this morning was preoccupied with meeting his new-born son for the first time. The irritable shop keeper doesn’t hate you. She hates her job. Or her husband. Or herself. The town drunk you cross the road to avoid tried to clean himself up several times before he lost his wife, his kids, and his battle with this unrelenting illness.

Insert gratuitous Leo pic here.

I’m not advocating that you accept bad behaviour. I just want to promote compassion and understanding. Everyone has their story, their baggage, their reasons. Everybody longs for happiness. For love. Everyone breathes the same breath of life and dreams of a better future.

Somewhere between the stormy blacks and calm whites of judgement and acceptance appears an uncontrollable rainbow of regret and determination, sorrow and hope, anger and forgiveness. Because that is what it is to be human.

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