That Beautiful Face

That Beautiful Face
by Thomas J. Auflick, MA, LMHCA

Our attraction to one another is not predisposed to some uncontrollable genetic factor. Apparently, an unconscious space of experience determines what we find visually appealing in the face of another. Through a study of identical twins’ facial preference we know that they are not attracted to other identical twins, they have different tastes in facial preference. That explains why my identical twin cousins married one blonde and the other a brunette. But the study informs us that our attraction comes from an experiential development. From that standpoint, do we even know what we like or are we sold and processed by social conditioning and media brainwashing? 

The whole subject brings to me the question of our individuality in the face of our genetic identity. Last week my daughter and I heard a story on the radio about a company that will clone your pet. You can now bring back a copy of your long lost beloved pet or make an extra copy of the one you already have. My daughter’s first reaction was “Dad, we’ve got a ton of Kit’s hair still lying around the house. Let’s have him cloned.” The story on the radio had testimonies from satisfied pet owners who stated they liked having the same breed with the same temperament—just falling short of saying something about a resurrection. I had to explain to my daughter that we would not be bringing our old dog, Kit, back to life. Our cloned dog, Kit, would come to us as a puppy, not the last memory of our full grown adult friend.

In my own mind I was reliving my life with Kit—how much I loved and missed him, and at the same time—how difficult the end was and the challenges I faced with him as an old dog with his physical ailments and horrible separation anxiety. If you make an exact genetic replica of a dog or human, you are not going to reconnect with that same soul you once knew. You will have something different.

In a simple way of defining our individuality, we recognize in ourselves what is unique by connecting deeper to what is beyond explanation from a physical standpoint. My friends in science could begin a lovely rationalization that could quantify what defines us beyond our genetic code through our individual responses to our experiences defining our being. I keep my emotional and spiritual side in check by allowing their logic to balance me on that high wire while I grasp for the psychological security of the concept of a soul. 

So back to this whole notion of attraction and why we prefer one face to another. I believe social conditioning has a big part to play in the matter. Your experience and conditioning from what you know and is familiar brings forth a level of comfort that can allow for tolerance and build rapport to what is attractive. In this society, the faces of the ideal beauty comes flying at us in multiple forms of media. We are conditioned unconsciously by the overwhelming amount of imagery that tells us what to believe is beautiful. My cultural identity entrusted in the power structure of the white media stimulated my consciousness in the late sixties.

I found beauty in the face of the iconic Caucasian blond bombshells’ symmetrical faces and blue eyes. As I grew older and became aware of my conditioning, my attraction to faces evolved from understanding my own discrimination. I realized that I was missing out on the truth and beauty of humanity through illusionary effects of defined social standards. In fact the idea of perception of facial beauty, my own preference, would change over time through points of perspective. The ideal image of a face could drastically change with greater awareness of the individual and familiarity of their being. Perception of attraction could grow stronger or weaker over time as the cloud of physical illusion dissipated and the clarity of the person’s individuality came to light.

I think about those first faces of attraction that captured my attention. At the age of three I remember my first recognition of beauty: her blue eyes, spry little nose, light brown complexion, and yes, her blonde hair. My heart fills with excitement for that neighborhood teenage girl who would babysit me. How much life experience determined my taste in facial preference at that point? I found beauty in her face, but what determined my taste at the age of three? What I know initiated my interest and likeability came from her kindness, jovial temper, and interest as she doted and played with me.

Almost 50 years later I still remember her face and my heart fills with love and excitement. I feel that I was attracted to more than a face. I made a real connection to the uniqueness and specialness of her. With so many years passed I wonder would I still be attracted to her face now? I want to think so, like my attraction to the face of my wife, even with maturation over time, I still find her beautiful. Because her face connects me to something beyond her physical features. I have become linked to her soul, and there is no greater realm of attraction. I see clearly her beautiful face now and forever.  

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This is a commentary on the Psy Post article "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Based on your own individual life and experiences, your ideal "face preferences" are shaped." You can read the full article: http://www.psypost.org/2015/10/is-beauty-really-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder-yes-and-heres-why-38108

The Skeptical Psychotherapist

The Skeptical Psychotherapist
by Thomas J. Auflick


I think people are not only skeptical about therapy, they’re doubtful. According to Dr. Gary Trosclair, skepticism of psychotherapy is normal and healthy. In Dr. Trosclair’s book, I’m Working On It In Therapy: How To Get The Most Out Of Psychotherapy, he provides potential clients a leg up in the process. Before I became a therapist I was more than skeptical about the benefits of therapy. My personal experiences in therapy were disappointing and not beneficial. I will admit that I was ignorant on how the process actually worked and fearful of putting my mind in the hands of another. How could anyone allow another person to navigate his or her internal world? But according to Dr. Trasclair, this kind of thinking is a part of the process. 

I didn’t believe therapy could work for me, but I knew it had worked for others. In order for me to become a psychotherapist, I had to engage in counseling. Fortunately, my student training provided a positive experience. Through the process, I became aware of myself as a whole person. I gained insight into my personality, dealt with hidden traumas, began to examine my purpose and life’s meaning, but most of all, I realized that therapy could help me evolve as a person. Health and wellness took on greater meaning when my eyes became open to the true reality of my being.

Completing training as a therapist brought me into the world as a practitioner and a client, and the work I did as a client progressed to allow me to realize immediate results. I am a better client because of my knowledge and understanding of the process. In this regard, I have a direct path toward my personal goals by accepting the commitment and work needed to succeed. At times in my therapeutic journey, I sought out different therapists. Here in lies my continued skepticism about the reliability of the process in the right hands of a particular therapist. I do believe different therapists provide unique individuality and understanding. The decision to find the right therapist might be as simple as desiring the perspective of a specific culture, gender or theoretical approach. 

No matter how much research we do on therapy or analysis of therapeutic interventions to derive validity of its process, we will always be subjected to a human art of healing. At the very base of talk therapy, we know that the most important aspect of the process derives from the relationship between client and therapist. This is where Dr. Trosclair’s idea that skepticism is appropriate and healthy. We should all have a healthy skeptical nature when it comes to building a relationship. Relationships are built through trust. Trust is a foundation within healthy relationships and will ensue over time. 

Often the therapeutic process gains momentum over time to get to a place where a person can relax and feel safe enough to divulge his or her greatest fears, fantasies or imperfections. Therapy is a human process and may not always resolve or fix immediately what ails us, but the initiative to reach out and ask for help from a therapist is a step toward healing. Not only can therapy help us to relieve symptoms from mental health disturbances, it can take us to greater levels of personal satisfaction, meaning and purpose in life.

Connection to each other is fundamental for human life. Through connection, we build our lives and find meaning. This is most important and relevant for success in therapy. Before we find security in unlocking the greatest secrets to the meaning of our individuality, it is good to be a little cautious and perhaps even skeptical of whom we choose to help us embark upon our journey toward better health and well-being. Our skepticism may lead us to a real foundation of trust and a healthy therapeutic relationship where healing and growth can happen.

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This is a commentary on the Huffington Post article "If You're Skeptical about Psychotherapy" by Dr Gary Trosclair. You can read the full article at
 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-trosclair-lcsw/if-youre-skeptical-about-psychotherapy_b_8100642.html?utm_hp_ref=stronger-together

Nature vs. Nurture: Emotional Differences in Men and Women

Nature or Nurture: Neurobiological Links May Also Contribute to Emotional Differences Between Men and Women
By Patti. F Boyle

Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders than men, which is usually attributed to the way women are socialized; females are reared to show emotion whereas men are taught to remain stoic. But, a new study at the University of Montreal (2015), has found there are neurobiological factors contributing to the differences in women’s and men’s emotionality, and these include brain processes and hormones. 

For the study, forty-six individuals, 25 women and 21 men, were asked to view negative, positive and neutral images during an fMRI session. Prior to the beginning of the study, blood was also taken from participants to determine hormonal levels such as testosterone and estrogen, and feminine and masculine traits were also measured. 

Study results showed ratings of negative emotional images were higher in women than in men, and higher emotional sensitivity was linked to lower testosterone levels, whereas higher testosterone levels were linked to lower emotional sensitivity. Additionally, higher measures of feminine traits (regardless of gender) were also linked to higher emotional sensitivity.  In other words, the more testosterone and masculine traits, the less emotional sensitivity. 

As for brain processes, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for processes involving social connection and action planning, and the amygdale, which is our “threat detector”,  were activated in both men and women at the time of viewing the negative images. Yet, the connection between the threat detector and the social and action planning parts of the brain was stronger in men than in women, and the more these two sections interacted,  the less sensitive a person was to negative images.  “This last point is the most significant observation and the most original of our study,” said Stéphane Potvin, a researcher and co-author of the study.

Potvin also suggested that the stronger connectivity in men between the two brain regions may suggest that men are neurobiologically more analytical than emotional when approaching and dealing with negative emotions, and that women tend to focus more on feelings. This could mean that both neurobiological and cultural factors influence our sensitivity to emotional situations. 

The differences in brain processing and hormones between men and women may help to explain why women are more prone to depression and anxiety, and further studies will be conducted to discover how the brains of women and men react depending on the type of negative emotion encountered, such as fear, sadness and anger. 


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This is a commentary on the Library of Alexandria article  “Do women experience negative emotions differently than men?”. You can read the full article at: http://lofalexandria.com/2015/09/do-women-experience-negative-emotions-differently-than-men/

A Different Kind of Dose

A Different Kind of Dose
By Patti F. Boyle

In 1972, Jerry Garcia told Charles Reich and Jann Wenner in a Rolling Stone interview that "To get really high is to forget yourself. And to forget yourself is to see everything else. And to see everything else is to become an understanding molecule in evolution, a conscious tool of the universe..." 

In mid-September, The Huffington Post published an article by Carolyn Gregoire entitled “Psychedelics Could Trigger a ‘Paradigm Shift’ in Mental Health Care”. The article reflects the current interest in hallucinogenic drug therapy for anxiety and depression, and a brief interview with a behavioral pharmacologist, Dr. Matthew Johnson, at John Hopkins University.  The “paradigm shift” would bring hallucinogenic drugs to psychotherapy sessions, whereby a patient would either orally ingest or be injected with psilocybin, the compound found in magic mushrooms,and hallucinate while in the company of a trained clinician.  

According to recent studies using fMRI brain scans, psilocybin slows down the interconnectivity between various brain hubs, two of which are of interest in psychological studies.  One of these brain hubs is thought to be responsible for filtering out unnecessary sensory information so that we are not overwhelmed by our perceptions. The other is associated with our sense of self, or how we sense our “selves” as the focal point of existence.  With our brain slowed down by psilocybin, and various filters switched off, we are allowed to perceive any possible perception or thought impulse, and our sense of self and personal vantage point dissolves.  Apparently, the hallucinogenic experience helps patients by creating a sense of connection with the universe, and by forgetting the self and personal worries.  

More research with hallucinogens has been conducted outside the U.S., but one research study in the U.S. as conducted during the years between 2004 and 2006 at UCLA.  Psilocybin-assisted therapy was given to terminally ill cancer patients reportedly suffering acute death-anxiety. The patients responded to psychological testing for depression and anxiety before and after the study, were explained the procedure, and participated with the guidance of a trained clinician.

Although the psilocybin study was small, 12 patients, the patients reported improvement in feelings of depression and anxiety after the completion of treatment. After two weeks, patients continued to report feeling improvement in levels of anxiety and depression, and after 6 months, feelings of depression remained improved. Additionally, patients reported feeling more empathy for the people in their lives, primarily family members and friends.

Recently, NYU completed a phase II study with 30 cancer patients, and the Heffter Research Institute is planning to launch a phase III study with 300 participants.  The outcomes of these studies, as well as other studies conducted in settings outside the U.S., have created momentum for the use of psilocybin-assisted therapy for depression and anxiety, as well as for addictions.

Although less talked about in scientific circles, there is a drug-free practice that has been shown to affect the same brain hubs and achieve the same outcome as psilocybin-assisted therapy, and that is the practice of meditation.  Although meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, drug therapy for mental health continues to surge in the modern world, and 95 percent of U.S. federal dollars designated for mental health research are spent on researching drugs. 

Ironically, the research, development and outcomes of modern antidepressant drugs do not show definitive results, and, in fact, these drugs are no more effective than placebo in many studies, or good old- fashion psychotherapy.  Still, in 2011, 35.7 million people used Zoloft, to name only one antidepressant medication, and 11 billion dollars was spent on antidepressants in 2010. 

If recent history is any indication, hallucinogenic-assisted drug therapy just may trigger a “paradigm shift” in mental health care. After all, the profits to pharmaceutical companies and associated industries would be enormous, and researchers like Dr. Johnson would continue to have a job.

But what if we resisted the persuasion of the media and advertising, perhaps find ourselves a good therapist or commit to learning and practicing meditation? What if we naturally found ourselves becoming an “understanding molecule in evolution, a conscious tool of the universe...”?  Wow. Wouldn’t that be a trip.


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Resources:
http://healthland.time.com/2012/01/24/magic-mushrooms-expand-the-mind-by-dampening-brain-activity/
http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=210962
http://www.ascopost.com/issues/may-10,-2015/researchers-discuss-pilot-study-on-hallucinogenic-therapies-for-cancer-anxiety.aspx
www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201507/psychotherapy-vs-medications-the-verdict-is-in
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4156137/pdf/nihms-623724.pdf
http://www.drugwatch.com/manufacturer/
http://ultraculture.org/blog/2014/06/30/magic-mushrooms-work-areas-brain-meditation/

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This is a commentary on the Huffington Post article  “Psychedelics Could Trigger A 'Paradigm Shift' In Mental Health Care”. You can read the full article at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/psychedelics-mental-health-care_55f2e754e4b077ca094eb4f0?utm_hp_ref=stronger-together