Posts tagged with "Love"

Mommy dearest: Your current relationship with your parent can distort memories of love

June 10, 2019

If “there is no love lost” between you and your mother today, your current relationship actually may distort your recollections of how affectionate she was while you were growing up.

Indeed, as we grow older and our memories fade, we rely on our current assessment of a person to remember how we felt about them in the past, based on findings of research conducted at the University of Southern Mississippi and published by Psych Central. This extends to some of the most central figures in our lives — our parents.

“Memories of the love we felt in childhood toward our parents are among the most precious aspects of autobiographical memory we could think of,” said lead author Dr. Lawrence Patihis, an assistant professor at the university and head of the Memory in Life, Practice, and Law Laboratory there. “Yet our findings suggest that these memories of love are malleable, which is not something we would want to be true.”

He added, “If you change your evaluation of someone, you will likely also change your memory of your emotions towards them and this is true of memory of love towards mothers in childhood.”.

For the study’s first experiment, Patihis and coauthors Cristobal S. Cruz and Mario E. Herrera recruited 301 online participants. Some wrote about recent examples of their mother’s positive attributes, such as showing warmth, generosity, competence and giving good guidance. Others wrote about recent examples of their mother’s lack of these attributes. Participants in one comparison group wrote about a teacher and participants in another comparison group received no writing prompt at all.

The participants then completed a questionnaire—the “Memory of Love Towards Parents Questionnaire”—assessing how they currently thought about their mother’s attributes, including her warmth and generosity.

The survey was geared to assess ten measures of love that the respondents could recall experiencing toward their mothers at different ages. Questions included “During the whole year when you were in first grade, how often on average did you feel love toward your mother?” and “During the whole year when you were in first grade, how strong on average was your love toward your mother?”

The MLPQ also measured participants’ current feelings of love for their mothers, according to the researchers. The participants completed the questionnaires again two weeks and four weeks after the initial session.

The results showed that the writing prompts influenced participants’ current feelings and their memories of love. Specifically, participants who were prompted to write about their mother’s positive attributes tended to recall stronger feelings of love for their mother in first, sixth, and ninth grade compared with participants who wrote about their mother’s lack of positive attributes.

The researchers plan to expand this research to explore whether the same effects emerge for other emotions and target individuals. They’re also exploring whether successes in life might similarly alter childhood memories of emotion. In addition, the researchers hope to discover whether these effects might influence later behavior.

“The significance of this research lies in the new knowledge that our current evaluations of people can be lowered if we choose to focus on the negative, and this can have a side effect: The diminishing of positive aspects of childhood memories,” Patihis said. “We wonder if wide-ranging reappraisals of parents, perhaps in life or in therapy, could lead to intergenerational heartache and estrangement. Understanding this subtle type of memory distortion is necessary if we want to prevent it.”

The study was published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Research contact: l.patithis@usm.edu

He loves me, he loves me not: Why on-off relationships might be toxic

February 13, 2019

It’s an innocent children’s game that serves as a precursor to the pleasure-pain cycle of some adult relationships. Picking the petals off a daisy, a little girl chants, “He loves me; he loves me not, ”until the final petal falls to the ground and the answer is clear.

On-off relationships create drama. A couple breaks up with grief and anger; and then reattaches with renewed sexual magnetism, feelings of love, and happiness. We’ve seen the process on small- screen sitcoms: Sam and Diane on “Cheers.” Ross and Rachel on “Friends.” Carrie and Mr. Big on “Sex and the City.”

While their relationship storylines kept viewers enthralled, Kale Monk, assistant professor of Human Development and Family Science,at the University of Missouri says that a persistent pattern of breaking up and getting back together can impact an individual’s mental health—and not for the better. He suggests people in these kinds of relationships should make informed decisions about stabilizing or safely terminating their relationships.

Prior research has estimated that more than 60% of adults have been involved in on-off relationships, and more than 33% of cohabitating couples reported breaking up and later reconciling at some point. Compared to relationships without this pattern, on-off relationships are associated with higher rates of abuse, poorer communication and lower levels of commitment.

“Breaking up and getting back together is not always a bad omen for a couple,” says Monk. “In fact, for some couples, breaking up can help partners realize the importance of their relationship, contributing to a healthier, more committed unions. On the other hand, partners who are routinely breaking up and getting back together could be negatively impacted by the pattern.”

Monk and co-authors Brian Ogolsky and Ramona Oswald from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, examined data from more than 500 individuals who said they were currently in relationships. They found that an increase in breaking up and reuniting was associated with more psychological distress symptoms such as depression and anxiety. They did not find meaningful differences between same-sex and heterosexual relationships in this pattern.

Partners break up and reunite for a number of reasons, including necessity or practicality. For example, a person might stay in a relationship for financial reasons or partners might stay together because they feel they have invested too much time into the relationship to leave. However, Monk advises that former partners should get back together based on dedication, not obligation.

“The findings suggest that people who find themselves regularly breaking up and getting back together with their partners need to ‘look under the hood’ of their relationships to determine what’s going on,” Monk said. “If partners are honest about the pattern, they can take the necessary steps to maintain their relationships or safely end them. This is vital for preserving their well-being.”

Monk offers the following tips for couples who might want to evaluate their relationships:

  • When considering rekindling a relationship that ended or avoiding future breakups, partners should think about the reasons they broke up to determine if there are consistent or persistent issues impacting the relationship.
  • Having explicit conversations about issues that have led to break ups can be helpful, especially if the issues will likely reoccur. If there was ever violence in the relationship, however, or if having a conversation about relationship issues can lead to safety concerns, consider seeking support-services when it is safe to do so.
  • Similar to thinking about the reasons the relationship ended, spend time thinking about the reasons why reconciliation might be an option. Is the reason rooted in commitment and positive feelings, or more about obligations and convenience? The latter reasons are more likely to lead down a path of continual distress.
  • Remember that it is okay to end a toxic relationship. For example, if your relationship is beyond repair, do not feel guilty leaving for your mental or physical well-being.
  • Couples therapy or relationship counseling is not just for partners on the brink of divorce. Even happy dating and married couples can benefit from ‘relationship check-ups’ in order to strengthen the connection between partners and have additional support in approaching relationship transitions.

“Coming out and getting back in: relationship cycling and distress in same-and-different-sex relationships,” recently was published in Family Relations, the interdisciplinary journal of applied family science.

Research contact: monkj@missouri.edu

Dreamscapes: Our nighttime head trips

May 25, 2018

Scientists think that we sleep so that we can retreat from the outside world and process the information that we have amassed during the day.

But what purposes do our dreams and nightmares serve? Although lucid dreaming is rare, we all can recall some recurring motifs and mental pictures that do not reflect what has happened on a specific day. What’s more, many of us have similar dreams, based on findings of a poll of 1,256 adult Americans conducted by Mattress Advisor earlier this year.

And men and women are likely to have dreams that are much the same as those experienced by others of the same sex. What’s that all about?

The survey was conducted using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an artificial intelligence application. Of the respondents, 57% were female and 43% male—and most were an average 57 years of age, although the total sample of participants ranged from 18 years of age to 81.

However, by far the most popular dream among both sexes relates to traveling to destinations far and wide. The subconscious of the American man is particularly fond of this dream Fully 37.9% percent of male respondents said they had explored a new place while fast asleep—like a sprawling city bathed in twinkling light or even a new planet.

Respondents described feelings during this dream to be anything from “terrifying” and “pure bliss” to “wonder” and “sadness and anxiety.” Frequent mentions of China and outer space led the visual of male dreams and provide context for the broad range of feelings evoked in participants, Mattress Advisor found.

Predictably enough, the second most popular dreams among males centered on sex; while among females, they were about falling in love.

Research shows “some women can tend to gain their self-esteem from relationships and some men can tend to gain their self-esteem from their performance within the world,” which may explain the reason behind this long-standing divide.

So what do women feel while their dreams of finding true love unfold? Words like “love,” “happiness,” “joy,” and “excitement” were common.

Finally, American men also reported dreaming of acquiring superpowers (8.7%) and money (8.4%); while women also dreamed of being able to fly.

When it came to nightmares, nearly 20% of men reported they had experienced horrible visions of falling—from airplanes, windows, roofs, whatever. Respondents used terms such as “stomach-turning,” “terror,” “helplessness,” and “fear” to describe their memories of taking a deep plunge.

Nightmares about being chased were not far behind, with 17% of American men saying they had seen themselves being hunted by people or animals and 20% of women saying the same.

The uncertainty of being chased is what makes this nightmare one of the most universally terrifying: What if the person pursuing me actually catches me? What would they do to me?

One explanation, Mattress Advisors believes, may be rooted in the way anxieties manifest: According to their data, large amounts of stress drove 49% of women’s dreams and 40% of men’s.

Finally, all three generational groups represented in the poll reported having problems getting a good night’s sleep. Boomers sleep best, with only 10.9% having problems, and Millennials are next at 14.6%. Gen Xers, get the worst sleep of anyone, with 16.9% of respondents reporting issues.

Research contact: @MattressAdvisor