Most of us in the purview of the Disney Studios or the Hefner/Guccione publishing realm have been taught that intimacy happens when the Fairy Godmother waves her magic wand, and then Prince Charming and Cinderella are off to the Caribbean for a vacation before they begin Happily Ever After.
Robert Epstein,Ph.D., would disagree. He has posed some provocative questions about growing intimacy and arranged marriages in India.
He is wondering how come those arranged marriages in India, where the participants may meet once prior to the marriage, manage to stay together 95% of the time, and grow in happiness, while our marriages in the US fail 50% of the time.
And divorce is an option in India. What do those folks do that we don't do?
Epstein suggests that those couples practice intimacy, and he has taken his ideas into his class rooms where students on the first day of class get to try an exercise called soul gazing, which involves pairing up with a class mate and looking deeply into the eyes of your new friend, trying to see their soul.
Participants report a stunning increase in a feeling of closeness after this two minute exercise.
Epstein suggests a number of relationship intimacy building exercises, including heart rate synchronization, which made me leap up a shout, because I have actually done something very similar with clients in my office using a computerized heart rate variability biofeedback program.
The computerized heart rate variability biofeedback training tool has grown out of research in another new field of inquiry called neurocardiology, or the study of the heart's own nervous system.
It turns out that the heart has a lot of neurons in it, enough neurons that we can say the heart has its own brain, which can learn and make decisions independently of any other brain I have, and that heart brain is affiliative and cooperative, so when I use the heart rate variability biofeedback program to train a coherent heart beat, which feels really good, then I can operate in relationship from an affiliative and cooperative physiology.
The alternative physiology is adrenalin and cortisol based which is designed to help me flee, fight, or run for my life, which does not help me build intimacy.
At any rate, heart rate variability biofeedback can be cued, if one's heart beat ever happens to get incoherent, on demand, so couples can learn how to do heart rate variability biofeedback individually and then actually cue a heart beat of the relationship, just as Professor Epstein suggests.
What I have done with the heart rate variability biofeedback program is to hook couples up to computers, which measure the time between heart beats, ask them to get coherent, and then hold hands.
What emerges on their computer screens is the Heart Beat of the relationship, and couples get a real time experience of how dynamic that heart beat is, and of course, that it exists, and needs to be attended to heart beat by heart beat.
That is possible folks, because if your heart stops beating, do you need to worry about intimacy in your relationship?
The Best of Both Worlds?
Can our Western model of science help us to bridge the gap between arranged marriages in the East, and our Disney model so that we have the best of both worlds?
Helen Fisher,Ph.D., has done some very interesting work on the early stages of love, what we call romantic love.
You know, where you are fixated on your lover, write bad poetry, and nothing you do is wrong, for up to three years.
This is the stage that folks in arranged marriages do not get to participate in usually, which could be a good thing, but Professor Fisher has been studying this phenomenon for some 30 years, and her research suggests that we humans fall roughly into four broad personality types, each governed by a different hormone/neurotransmitter combination, and that we have the best chance for chemistry and long term success if we find a compatible personality type to have that chemistry with.
Professor Fisher has provided a personality quiz for you, if you are ready to find out your type, go to the chemistry. Then if you are curious about meeting a steady stream of eligible and compatible folks, join up, but don't forget Professor Epstein's relationship intimacy exercises.
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Article Added on Monday, July 5, 2010
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