Tag Archives: Attachment. Romantic Attachment

Taylor Swift’s Blank Space. An Attachment Disorder?

imgresRecently a woman wrote me to ask my opinion of the “empowering” lyrics of Taylor Swift’s new single BLANK SPACE. She hoped it indicated that women as sexual aggressors demonstrates some sort of positive advancement in the current high supply sexual economy (the one that’s hurting women.) I was intrigued.

So I read the lyrics carefully. I read them three times. Then I watched the music video and my heart sunk.

The only thing female empowering about Taylor Swift’s Blank Space is the economic superiority she holds over her playboy. Otherwise she’s losing the mating game. Big time.

Blank Space is the story of a roller coaster love affair with a player. And it says more about attachment style than anything else. The song and video chronicle the abrupt female switch from infatuation to hate that comes when someone with an anxious attachment style meets someone with an avoidant attachment style.  In the video, Miss. Swift plays a gorgeous sex kitten living alone in an impossibly large English country manor. In drives her latest par amour, a young hot man whom she is smitten with and lyrically prophesizes “Look at that face. You look like my next mistake.” Then the two embark on a fantasy union — no courtship. Just cut to lust. But her stomach knows the truth as she repeats the chorus:

It’ll leave you breathless
Or with a nasty scar
Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane

The end is predictable. She sees another woman’s text on his iPhone (did Apple sponsor the video?) and goes into a female rage of rampage and destruction, the likes of which many, many women have fantasized about. She even attacks his car with a golf club in a not so subtle reference to Tiger Woods infidelities. Finally, Taylor kicks him out of her castle, only to see him coming back for more and the roller coaster begins again.

But this is no story of female empowerment. This is how an anxious attachment style plays out in relationships. Those who are prone to fear and pre-occupation in love relationships idealize love. They are, sadly, usually attracted to people who can’t give love back. In an effort to “make him love me,” they move way too quickly toward intimacy as a way to fuse the attachment. But it is all one big fantasy. Before long, real life steps in, (partly because the anxious attachers are vigilantly looking for threats of abandonment, checking iPhones texts, smelling shirts, etc.) With poor ego strength and an inability to tolerate thoughts of rejection, next comes the emotional flip. The partner who was all loving becomes the partner who is all hating. At that point, she can’t even see the good in him. She can’t tolerate holding the duplicity of her man, that all humans are good and bad. We all have strengths and faults.

The saddest message in the lyrics of Taylor Swift’s Blank Space, is that low self esteem is inevitable with repeated toxic relationships. Our traumatized heroine actually believes she is insane. In actually, she is a victim of some early life attachment injuries and replicating them in her adult life.

Bottom line: attachment injuries can be healed. Read more about how to heal attachment disorders here.


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And, someone please tell that sweet angel Taylor Swift she should watch my video: WHY WE LOVE BAD BOYS:


Is a Cell Phone Addiction Real?

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Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 9.21.47 AMRecently on an episode of Nicole Richie’s hilarious VH1 reality show, Candidly Nicole, I moderated a group therapy session for people addicted to their iPhones. While the scene (watch it below) was a humorous look at all the ways that cell phone use can become dysfunctional — users admitting to using while in church, at funerals, while riding bikes, and while having sex — there is a dark truth in the comedy.

We know that cell phones and the internet are hurting our relationships. Digital communication has replaced talking and internet dating sites, with their buffet of romantic choices, have created a kind of Love A.D.D. But, aside from our intimate relationships, our iPhones have created a new kind of anxiety, one that bubbles up when our phones are powered down and our human desire for attachment distorts us into thinking a cell phone is a secure attachment figure. There’s even a pop culture term for this anxiety: FOMO — fear of missing out.

But if we are to psychologically survive as humans, we must program or be programmed. And, like our cravings for salt, sugar, fat, and even sex, the fittest will survive. And being fit means having an ability to self regulate. To control ourselves. Is a cell phone addiction real? Well, it isn’t a fully identified diagnosis…yet. But if your cell phone use has even one of the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for substance abuse, then, yes, you are addicted to tech. Check the list below. I changed the word “substance” to “technology.”

1. Failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, home such as repeated absences or poor work performance related to technology use; technology-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household

2. Frequent use of technology in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when using technology)

3. Frequent legal problems (e.g. arrests, disorderly conduct) for substance technology use.

4. Continued use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of technology use)


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FOR COUPLES: Expressing the “F” word: Feelings

Communication problemsWhile some people seem to express emotions easily, most people have to learn. Having emotional language skills is crucial to not only the relationships we have with others, but also the relationship we have with ourself. If we can’t name our feelings and share them, we are a long way off from being able to process them and use them in a healthful way. Having an honest emotional vocabulary is crucial to emotional intimacy, though this communication art is easier for some of us than others.

There’s a joke I make about men. I like to say that most of them act like they’re afraid to say the “F” word — FEELINGS. And  I’m not totally off base here. Men and boys are socialized to express less emotional communication and I think the are also biologically wired to have less emotional awareness than women. There’s even a diagnosis is the therapist’s bible of mental disorders, the DSM, called Alexithymia, which basically means an inability to connect feelings with words. In recent years a Harvard professor, Dr. Ron Levant came up with the phrase “normative male alexithymia” to describe how American males are culturally conditioned  to repress their vulnerable and caring emotions, causing them to become underdeveloped in emotional expressiveness.

But a fear of talking about feelings is an equal opportunity affliction. Since feminism gave way to the no-rules relationship revolution, an age where emotions are less and less risked, many women have followed the example of men. I would venture to say that women’s greatest assets — an awareness of emotions and verbal skills — have been abandoned by too many of our gender.

The solution? To delve into the the squeamish sea of honest communication that focusses on personal feelings rather than points fingers at others.  One of the reasons this is a challenge for some is that this important skill was neither taught nor modeled by our parents. Parents of the 1960’s more often practiced critical parenting rather than emotionally intimate parenting. Critical parenting sounds like this: Johnny you are a messy boy! Look at that disgusting room. No TV for you, bad boy! Emotionally Intimate parenting sounds like this: Johnny, I feel angry when I have to clean up your mess and I want you to feel proud of your room, so I’m going to help you become neater by saying a clean room means a reward of TV. See the focus on feelings, in this case anger and pride, with a positive reward instead of shame as the behavior shaper.

So, assuming that you were parented in the more common, critical way, here’s a crash course in how to use emotional language to grow intimacy in all your relationships. First of all, in every communication, try to identify your own feelings and express them as a reaction to someone’s behavior rather than an assault on their behavior. People get less defensive when they hear the words, “I feel” than when they hear “You are.”

Having trouble labeling that uneasy feeling in your stomach? Here’s Dr. Walsh’s handy dictionary of the most common feelings people express. I like to call them the twenty power words of emotional intimacy. Next time you tell a story to someone, add your emotional experience by saying “I feel,” followed by one of these words: Nervous, Happy, Sad, Angry, Disappointed, Hopeful, Ignored, Embarrassed, Envious, Jealous, Lonely, Excited, Surprised, Proud, Scared, Guilty, Aroused, Uncomfortable, Rejected, Loved.

This kind of language will open the door to the most tender parts of your psyche and help you become more accessible and ultimately more lovable. It will also model skills for others, including your kids. Yes, even your sons. Using emotional language is a bit terrifying at first, but trust me, it can enrich all your relationships. “I feel” quite confident about this.

Watch my youtube video on:

How to Communicate and Be Heard

FOR MEN: Real Men Hate the Word Love

love-limit-road-sign-trim-black-partsHave you ever noticed that I talk about relationships all day long and I only rarely mention love? And when I do, it is usually to caution that it is a delusion intertwined with sexual attraction. Or, I remind you that love is a verb, not a noun. An action word. Not a state of being. Long term love is an intellectual commitment, I say.

Could I sound any more unromantic?

Hey, and speaking of romance, I normally dismiss flowers, chocolate, fine wine, and high heels simple accoutrements to delusion. I should also tell you that my “brainy” ideas about love have garnered me a group of male readers who say, “finally a woman who gets it.” Men do love to make rational sense of things that are so irrational. And men love to hate the word love. It feels weak to think feelings for a woman might disempower them.

But do I really get it?

I certainly have some textbook notions about how biology and psychology get all tangled up and sometimes make people do things they shouldn’t be doing. Running off with a paramour when a perfectly good spouse is right in front of you. Staying with an abusive spouse because of love. Jumping into bed with a Casanova because you will be the one to change him. Thinking that a loss of sexual energy is a loss of love. And, my favorite transgression of love’s delusion: Dragging children through our delusions.

Could love really be that dangerous? Must it always involve some form of heartbreak, dysfunction, boredom, loss, or even violence? And if that is the case, why do we march right back into the fire when we should know better?

I have some of the answers. But only some.

Psychologists would say that love is a seeking out of early womb experiences and infantile bliss. A baby’s play and cuddling becomes an adult sex life. Parts of our brain consider a lover a kind of mother, a nurturer, a protector, even an executor of boundaries. We feel safe and cared for in a love relationship.

We do it, that is, fall in love because it is the single best chemical high in our lifespan. At least, the best high that both genders can experience. Women also get to do childbirth, which is pretty darn close to experiencing heaven and hell at the same time. But love is different. It is shared with an adult.

Both genders can experience love together. Love. An unconscious handshake between too souls who agree there is more to this world than work, play, and food. It is an exchange of mutual projections that when executed well, is better than any Academy Award winning movie. Love may be a delusion but it is one of the best ones we have. And sometimes it’s all we have. With so many people losing faith in old religions, I wonder if love is becoming our new religion. And what is faith after all? Merely a belief in something that we have little scientific proof of. I would venture to say that we have far more proof of love’s power than many religions do in their folklore. The selfless acts of love that happen every day are real, observable, and can bring us to our knees in awe of the God-like powers within humans.

Now I will really go out on a limb and say that Love (look, I’m using a cap now!) can feel like a spiritual experience. All we can hope for, is that each new love relationship will bring us different challenges. We hope that as we grow we will not become trapped in familiar, unhealthy patterns that get us stuck. Delusion or not, love is something we should all sign up for. It’s an antidote to fear, horrific TV news, sickness, and other suffering. Love is the answer. And when life gets us down, when we feel, shame, loneliness, victimized, pressured, indecisive, or angry, love is the only choice that will work every single time. It won’t always have an instant result and it won’t always come back directly to us with the precision of a ping pong ball, but a loving act will change our biology and change the world. One selfless act at a time. Don’t fear love, nor waste it thoughtlessly. It is the biggest gift you will ever receive. Ya listening guys?

Watch my youtube on:

Is Rational Love Replacing Romantic Love?

FOR COUPLES: Could Your Problem Be Your DNA?

couplesProblemDNAIt’s no secret that some married couples struggle with sexual incompatibility and fertility problems. And now there’s a science that can tell you with a quick cheek swap test, if you are a good genetic match. InstantChemistry.com is the invention of a brainy young group of neuroscientists and geneticists in Toronto who are set to change the game of love. Their simple DNA test can help predict is a dating couple with have mad hot sex, a long relationship, better fertility and even healthier children.

The magic genes identified by the Instant Chemistry test are the same ones that power our immune systems, and under normal dating conditions, women’s bodies are uniquely designed to pick up the scent and taste of a man who may be a good genetic match. They do this through close contact and kissing. It’s no wonder that women like to kiss more than men and couples who kiss a lot — presumingly because it is pleasurable — are linked to longer, more secure relationships.

But today’s dating world is far from a “normal condition.” First of all, most women are on the birth control pill, creating hormonal changes that gum up the ability to detect compatible immune systems in men. Secondly, since we modern humans practice such amazing hygiene and mask our smells with products, important pheromones are hidden. Finally, since we are exposed to a wide range of potential partners in crowded groups, it makes it harder to distinguish fit mates from not-so-great mates.

Would you like a DNA test with your partner? Go to InstantChemistry.com to find out more.