Looking to the Past

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In today’s culture, with technology constantly evolving, and where every day is more rushed than the last, looking towards tomorrow is considered normal and essential. The flipside to this is that looking back to the past is considered a waste of time, or a maladaptive behavior.

But the truth is that there is a difference between wanting to live in the past, which, by the way, is very unhealthy, and just taking a look at it. Remembering the past can be an effective way to deal with tough times in the present.

First, we need to realize that without the past, there would be no present or future. For example, imagine a person who finally graduated from college and obtained their degree. Getting a diploma is an exciting moment for any student, but, the diploma wouldn’t have the same meaning if it wasn’t a result of many late nights studying for tests, exhausting work, and stress, would it? The moment is special because of the events of the past. When things are going well, or when something good happens, we can look back and see how past events we perceived as negative actually were beneficial in shaping the present. Also, remembering our past achievements can remind us that bad times in the present will pass, just as bad times in the past have come and gone.

Nostalgia also reinforces our social ties and helps to regulate our mood. We remember all the people from our past: our father, mother, teachers, friends, and co-workers; who, for better or for worse, all played a part in helping us become who we are today. Research shows that in difficult times, nostalgic people deal with their problems by finding the support of others and not being afraid to release their emotions. Furthermore, in events that are out of our control, nostalgic people are more capable of both seeing the good side of the situation, and learning from the experience

Visiting the past can teach us many things and give us the motivation we need to face today’s problems; contrary to what many people think. Making a trip in time can be a productive experience, as long as you don’t forget to come back and live in the present.

Paula Monteiro
Psychologist
psicologapaulamonteiro@gmail.com
+55 21 99742-7750

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Tempted to cheat? Stop and reconsider

I’m not here to judge anybody. We all know that cheating isn’t the best decision in the world. My previous post inspired me to focus on an issue that I see repeatedly in my clients: Cheating and why you’re not only fooling your partner, but also yourself.

In my last post, I talked about passion within an official relationship; specifically that it diminishes over time, that this decrease in passion is totally natural, and the many factors that can cause this to happen. I also mentioned that it’s precisely when passion starts to decline that the risk of cheating goes up. However, the cheating parties in a relationship aren’t always truly aware of what is going on, and don’t realize that their desire for passion is blinding them.

Let’s go one step at a time:

The majority of people who cheat don’t really love the person they’re having an affair with. I wrote about the mystery a new person can bring in my last post, and also about how the rush that comes with forbidden “love” releases neurotransmitters (dopamine). And also, I wrote about how we idealize people we either don’t (or can’t) have, or don’t know completely. Indeed, all these things fit. What I often see, is that people aren’t passionate for the actual person they’re having an affair with, rather they are passionate about the idealized version of that person that lives in their head. Every new person awakens strong feelings within us that make us feel like they’re the love of our life. In time, some people jump from one affair to another once they realize it wasn’t what they were searching for, only to find themselves in another affair that releases new strong sensations, at least until those get old… and the cycle continues on and on.

Beyond idealization, there is also a strong chance that the other person is feeding your “ego”: if they also idealize you, all the extra attention makes you feel special. The majority of people who are in an extramarital relationship feel special (after all, why have an affair with someone who makes you feel worse about yourself?), and they feel like they’re receiving more attention.

What I’m trying to say with all of this is that the majority of people who are in an extramarital relationship aren’t in love with another person, but with how the other person makes them feel. Many times it’s a question of validation and self-esteem. Therefore, before you give in to temptation, or if you already are in an extramarital relationship, consider individual or couples therapy to try and repair your marriage.

Paula Monteiro
Psychologist
psicologapaulamonteiro@gmail.com
+55 21 99742-7750

Love, Passion and Romance

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Love, Passion, and Romance

I’ve already written about how relationships and the people in them change with time, and how the small things start to seem less and less important. However, I would like to dive deeper into this topic, and explore the differences between love, passion, and romance.

When we fall in love with someone, it’s common to hear it described as “love at first sight.” It’s far more likely to have been passion at first sight; something that, with luck, can develop into love.

The ecstasy of falling in love is a feeling that we believe will last forever with the right person. However, this just isn’t true. This ecstasy doesn’t come from feelings of love, but from strong passion, the kind that comes in huge waves and can knock someone down. As amazing as the wave feels though, it will inevitably diminish. It won’t break and suddenly disappear, but it won’t stay strong forever.

Now you’re asking me: But why? Why does romance always have to diminish with time? REQUITED romance always diminishes with time, because the thrill and passion comes from the uncertainty of whether or not the romance will last, and from the relative mystery still surrounding your potential partner. Curiously, the simplest way to keep a romance eternally strong is with unrequited love, be it an idol/celebrity, or the person right next to you.

“If only the strength of the love that people feel when it’s reciprocated could be as intense and obsessive as the love that we feel when it’s not, then marriages would be truly made in heaven” – Ben Elton

Unfortunately, once we really get to know our partner, and know our love is reciprocated, the ecstasy begins to leave. We stop seeing our partner as someone to idolize or as the embodiment of perfection, and instead just see… a person. When the “hunt” ceases, and the relationship stabilizes, everything changes, even our hormones. The “wave” of dopamine falls, and opens space for oxytocin. Yes, the love hormone. The love becomes a reality instead of an idealization. Burning passion becomes a safe and comfortable place (when the relationship is healthy, of course)… but unfortunately not everyone is able to see this change as something positive, and for obvious reasons: Not only because the ecstasy of a new love is a feeling people don’t want to lose, but also because the media constantly depicts love as passion.

Let’s go back a little in time: In romanticism, how was “love” depicted? The woman was a distant, idealized object. Think of Romeo and Juliet; their relationship was adolescent love, with many barriers and no chance to truly live as a couple. Without a doubt, the story would be much different if they had married and the story had followed their marriage for ten more years.

And in today’s films and TV series? What kind of “love” do we see? Generally, it starts with a chance encounter between two people, they get to know each other, and then the films end on what? On marriage: the conclusion of this period of ecstasy, of mysteries and surprises, of insecurity, and of idealization. This leaves room for confusion about what love actually is. Instead, it instills a belief that ecstasy will endure forever, and that this ecstasy (the famous butterflies in the stomach) is a major sign of love.

So, how does this unrealistic depiction of love impact real relationships? When the ecstasy of passion dies down and true love is established and solidified, many people mistakenly believe that this means the relationship is dying, or that their partner is losing interest. It’s in this moment that the danger of cheating appears. A new person always brings more excitement (again, temporary) than an established partner, simply because they bring a new air of mystery, and create an environment of forbidden love (adultery).

In future posts, I will talk about how to bring the surprise factor back to a relationship. But even doing this isn’t a cure for the idealization of love, it’s only a guide on how to shake up the daily “routine”. The only cure is to learn how to see that romance and passion can be marvelous but ephemeral, while, with the right person, true love is just as incredible, and long lasting.

Paula Monteiro, Psychologist
psicologapaulamonteiro @ gmail.com
(21) 99742-7750