All posts by Dr. Wendy Walsh

UNDER THE ICE, A MEMOIR

a.COVER_undertheice_draft1[Under the Ice is a creative memoir that excavates the science of love through multi-generational psychological sleuthing. It is parts historical literature and parts memoir. I welcome feedback from readers and book groups. Additional chapters coming soon.]

 

PROLOGUE

Daughters are destined to finish the emotional work of their mothers and even that of their grandmothers. If there is silence around trauma, buried pain always gives rise to unspoken instructions. Like robots programmed with the code of an earlier machine, girls walk through an emotional life unknowingly mapped out for them. In their relationships they go back to the scene of the crime, visiting ghosts in new suits that tormented the women before them. But if a girl is lucky. If a girl uses her head. If a girl is brave enough to visit the past and shine a bright light on the darkness, then the code can be broken. This is what happened to me when I discovered my mothers secret. But first I did some psychological sleuthing.

It began when I became a mother myself. There is only one time in our life span, other than during our early life brain development, that the spectacular organ called a brain is poised to grow. After giving birth. A postpartum female brain can expand and acquire new information like toddlers learning three languages. And, at the age of 36, following the birth of my first child, I rode my new brain like a flashy new car. At the end of each new-mother day, numbed by repetitive hits from Barney and The Wiggles, I practically ran out the door to study psychology every evening when my kids Dad came home. At the time, I hadnt heard about the research about postpartum brains?that they are miracles of neuroplasticity?but by the time my first daughter, Carrington, was four years old, my evening and weekend escapes had earned me a masters degree in psychology. Then I had another baby and unknowingly took advantage of another boost in brain growth to obtain a Ph.D. I may not have been learning three languages, but I was learning the language of human connection, and it spurred a life mission that I never expected.

While I sat in one-armed desks, the perfect front-row student, I found myself stunned and amazed with each new psychological fact?that our unconscious early life events act as drivers in our adult relationships, or that even traumas from our grandparents, sprout vine-like in our own personalities?my mind kept pounding out an internal mantra. Every woman should know this! Every woman should know this! The fact that this helpful information is kept secret by psychologists and doled out in snippets for $150 per fifty-minute hour made me sad. I wanted everyone to understand how they are being manipulated by inter-generational psychology?and perhaps more importantly, what we can do to change the path of destiny is this lifetime. It was during graduate school that I wrote my first two books for women, The Boyfriend Test, How to Evaluate His Potential Before You Lose Your Heart, and The Girlfriend Test, How to be a Better Date and a Better Mate. But the real science of love was still stewing inside me. The more I learned, the more I began to understand the choices and situations I had found myself up against in the course of my love-life, and the more I wanted to educate other women so disastrous cycles could be broken and healthy choices and habits could take over.

I began to research my dissertation where I looked at romantic attachment style and a womans ability to breastfeed. You might think these topics are unrelated until you realize that the breastfeeding relationship is probably the most intimate relationship of a womans lifetime. Its complete with eye-gazing, skin-to-skin contact, a non-sexual arousal that comes with suckling, all for, like, seven hours a day! I dont know of any other love relationship with that much interface. What I learned is that if a woman has an avoidant attachment style, that is, she fears intimacy, she will be far more likely to fall victim to the booby traps in our culture that prevent women from engaging in mother natures perfect union, the breastfeeding relationship.

During my research, I began to read deeper into the work of John Bowlby, the founder of attachment theory along with other great thinkers, Mary Ainsworth and Mary Main. That led me to the area of ethology, animal imprinting. From there I turned to evolutionary psychology and the great works of evolutionary psychologist David Buss and anthropologist, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, (spelled correctly, I swear) whose research shows us that most human mating behaviors are the same around the world and are ingrained in our DNA. Our cavewoman wisdom is still available to us today, if we only learn how to use it.

Long after my dissertation was defended, I couldnt keep myself focused on psychology alone. There are just too many influences on relationships. Take, for instance, sociology. Ones romantic attachment style, whether it leans anxious or avoidant, might play out differently in Manhattan in 2014 in a dating pool with an over-supply of successful women versus California during the gold rush of 1848, where women were scarce. Mating success is partly a numbers game. Biology holds clues to romantic bonding, too. For example, people with wide mood swings associated with serotonin uptake in the brain tend to have more divorces if they marry someone with the same brain chemistry. And partners with disparate immune systems tend to have better sex.

Each piece of emerging research in the new science of intimate relationships led me to more writing, more blogging, more thinking, more reading and a greater desire to put this into some logical equation. I was desperate to cast a big, bright spotlight on the science of love. After all, my own genes were at stake. I had been blessed with giving birth to two daughters. I feel it is my job to prepare them for life, and in my mind, the most important skill needed to survive is the skill to produce emotionally healthy offspring who have secure attachment styles themselves. Humans have evolved to bond. But when trauma throws a wrench into the delicate cogs of the wheel of Mother Natures perfect plan, a family risks falling out of evolutions chain. Yikes! I became hell-bent on not letting that happen to my daughters descendants because of what had happened to their previous generations.

This is why I wrote UNDER THE ICE, a creative memoir about emotionally transmitted diseases that travel the female line. I hope you enjoy the book. – Dr. Wendy Walsh

FOR COUPLES: Can Divorce Make You Crazy?

ConflictNo doubt about it, divorce hurts. And news research shows that some people — particularly men ? actually get some real mental health problems following divorce. But not everyone.

A divorce can be an emotional obstacle for all parties involved, but new research shows that a divorce may not doom all to depression. Many cases of depression that occur post-divorce are attributed to the separation of a family or marriage that occurs. Past research by Augustine J. Kposowa, of the University of California, Riverside department of sociology, found that after a divorce, men are at a higher risk of suicide than women. The increased risk of suicide may be due to a lack of social interaction after divorce, or stress leading to mental health issues, such as depression. However, new research brings new light to the situation.

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Researchers from the University of Arizona published a study in the journal Clinical Psychological Science clarifying individuals who face depression, or mental health issues, before a divorce are more likely to struggle after the divorce. Lead investigator on the study, David Sbarra, Ph.D. commented on the correlations of post-divorce depression. He explained that the emotional distress of a divorce can make depression, or depressive symptoms, resurface for individuals who already struggled with this mental health disease, particularly at the clinical level. He also noted that divorce is not random, certain people are more inclined to be divorced, like individuals who are dealing with mental health issues.

In conducting their study, the researchers analyzed information from the national Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) study, a longitudinal study with data collected over multiple assessments. They compared participants who were separated or divorced to those who remained married. This allowed them to see attributes of people who would get divorced based on factors they identified earlier in the study. Investigators also found that 60 percent of adult participants who had a bout with depression before their divorce or separation had a post-divorce episode of depression. ?In contrast, only 10 percent of adults without a history of depression encountered an episode of depression after their divorce or separation. They did not demonstrate the same increased risk of depression.

The study concluded that divorce itself does not make people depressed, most people who suffer from depression prior to a divorce do not possess the same coping skills for these stressful situations, which may lead to a relapse. Divorce and separation are emotionally difficult, however, this research sends a powerful message that human beings are far more resilient than we might think.

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FOR COUPLES: Three Ways to Turn an Argument Into a Love Fest

temperREX_468x559Let’s face it, conflict is the worst part of committed love. But the road to security is paved with ruptures followed by repairs. It is in the repair process where we see each other’s tender spots, seek forgiveness, remind our partner they are loved, and sometimes even have great make up sex. Ruptures can be the building blocks of deep love. But some arguments are more than ruptures along the road to intimacy. They are fights that can cause major relationship damage and sting for years. Here’s how to avoid world-war-we and have a growth enhancing conflict:

1. Begin every complaint with a compliment. Remind your love why you are in the relationship and plan to stay before you issue a criticism. “Honey, one of the things I love about you is that you always remember all the holidays. It’s fun to celebrate with you. But we need to watch our budget this year.”

2. Be specific about your feelings and how you are hoping your partner can make a small change. “When you do (a behavior) it makes me feel like (ignored, sad, nervous, frustrated etc.) It would help me if you were able to do (new behavior.)”

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3. Never attack, name call or generalize your partner’s bad behaviors. A damaging argument might include words like, “You always do…” or “You’re a cheap jerk” or “Why can’t you be a better?” Limit your complaints to one specific thing and if, during the course of the argument, emotions cause a flood onto other issues, suggest that that the new complaints get tabled for another time.

Picture Ad - 10 Secrets to Mindfulness ReationshipsGet the love life you deserve in my new online workshop, 10 Secrets of Mindful Relationships! Im excited to share the steps you need to incorporate mindfulness in your current or future relationships. Sign up now on popexpert.com:http://bit.ly/1GOwq3v

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Tear Your Family in Half
Couple Back to back with problemsA recent report showed that since the recession, the divorce rate in America is the lowest it’s been in 30 years. Divorce is an expensive business and maintaining two households can get steep. So instead, couples are taking a closer look at their relationship flaws and asking themselves if their marriage is “good enough” to stay. If you are in that situation, here are five questions to ask yourself before you tear your family in half.

1. Am I leaving because of boredom or excitement about meeting someone new?

You should know your notions about marriage are up against a media that spins fantasies about youth, beauty, money and sex. If you believe in the family life created by TV and movies, all partners stay fit, youthful, happy and rich. Unfortunately in real life many partners grow chubby, bald, fall into depressions, and lose money in a recession. Sexual energy gets diverted to nesting energy and the excitement of your youthful love affair morphs into a the drudgery of married life. If you answered “yes” to this question, the answer isn’t a new partner, it’s a new system. And you have the power to charge your “good” relationship.

Continue reading Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Neil Strauss, Author of “The Game,” Finally Writes “The Truth”

y450-293If you’re a dude, you’ve probably heard of the book, THE GAME, Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick up Artists (2005). The non-fiction book follows author, Neil Strauss on a personal transformation from self-described, “average frustrated chump” to “pick up artist” to eventually reaching the top of the heap, “pick up guru.” It’s the age-old game where the average man, evolved to want sex more than the average woman, learns to extract sex from women using a few psychological tricks, all laid out neatly by the pros. Basically, it’s the boy bible. (If you happen to be a one-woman man looking?to meet and connect with just one woman, the advice can easily be adapted and you can win the girl.) The book shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

Fast forward a decade and Strauss, the guru of genital poaching is entering sex addiction treatment because his girlfriend just walked out on him for cheating. Thus begins THE TRUTH, An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships, the fascinating, brutally honest saga of one man’s search for answers about love and commitment. And, like a good journalist, Strauss finds the right way to love by first experiencing every wrong way — Paris sex clubs, hippy free-sex communes, his own harem, and even trying to negotiate making a baby without love or a relationship. Eventually he brings the reader to a serious study of his own mommy issues that were the route of his relationship woes in the first place. Only after healing himself can he track down the love of his life and begin the work of real intimacy. The book is my favorite kind of read: sexy chapters peppered with the science of relationships. Trust me, THE TRUTH, will set you free.

Listen to my interview with Neil Strauss here:

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Want to learn the science of relationships that Neil Strauss learned? Take my online workshop, THE PSYCHOLOGY OF HUMAN MATING.