Archive | April, 2013

Hooked – The Science of Sex

11 Apr

Yes, another Brain Book – but this one is about SEX!  Hooked, New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children. 

If you have kids under the age of 20 this book is a must read (I seldom recommend the actual book!)  Even if you don’t have kids the book report is definitely worth 20 minutes of your time.

Hooked does an excellent job of explaining why so many youth, and adults, get into troubling sexual situations AND why so many adults don’t seem to be able to stay connected to their partner.

From a brain perspective, sex is optimized when you have one partner for life. In fact the authors, both MD’s and researches, would go so far as to say the only healthy sex there is (according to your brain), is within the confines of marriage.  Your brain chemistry and neurotransmitters want you to bond for life.  Having multiple sexual partners literally damages the emotional bonding mechanics build into our systems. (Does that mean you’re doomed if you’ve gone beyond one partner – of course not, but it has, or will have, an impact.)

When it comes to thinking, decision-making and affecting your brain, sex often starts waaayyy before intercourse and doesn’t even require it for the brain to be impacted.  Brain studies define sexual activity as any intimate contact between two people that involves arousal, stimulation and/or a response by at least one of the people.  Arousal is the point at which chemicals start to be released and emotional bonding begins!

The author’s main purpose in writing Hooked is to inform parents about the inner workings of the adolescent mind and body with regard to sex. There is an awful lot of unconscious science going on that can dramatically impact behavior and decisions.  Yes, of course, there are hormones raging around, but it’s also about the chemical make up of how our brains and body’s do sex as well as general brain development. With that said, research shows that the home environment has a greater influence on behavior than hormone levels with regard to risky sexual behavior in puberty.  Parents, this is where you come in.  The authors are quite passionate about helping you avoid the impact ignorance can play on your child’s long-term ability to do relationships well.

For those that have already passes the youth decision making point, this book can offer insights and possible focus for restorative options.

There are a slew of interesting statistics:

  • Approximately 75% of graduating high school seniors have had sexual intercourse (I wonder how many non-graduating students had sex?)
  • Approximately 70% of college students have had sex with at least one partner in the last year (remember, multiple partners in a life time damages your bonding mechanics.)
  • 80% of unwed fathers don’t marry the teen mother of their baby.
  • 80% of unwed teen mothers eventually receive welfare.
  • Individuals who have sex before marriage are less likely to experience marital happiness.
  • In the 1960’s there were only two sexually transmitted infections – gonorrhea and syphilis, both treatable.  Today there are more than 25 sexually transmitted infections, most of which are viral and cannot be cured.

This book is a surprisingly easy read.  The writing style and format is well suited for its intended audience.

Your primary choice today is about information!  Check out the book report to decide if you might need the whole book!



Think About What You Are Thinking About

4 Apr

Let’s start with a juicy topic.  If you think about God, what do you think about?  Is your perception of God authoritarian or benevolent?

Research shows that those who embrace an authoritarian God tend to favor the death penalty, want to spend more money on the military, want to give the government more power to fight terrorism, and insist that prayer should be allowed in public schools.  Envisioning an authoritarian God will activate the limbic (emotional) brain that generates fear and anger. Thus, the brain is primed to fight.

Those who perceive a benevolent God activate a part of their brain that can envision love, compassionate images, faces or thoughts. When stimulated, it suppresses the impulse to get angry or frightened.  It also helps generate feelings of empathy towards other who are suffering or hurt.  This part of the brain is called the anterior cingulated and sits between the emotional brain and the thinking brain.

As far as the brain is concerned, if you give an experience a label (God) and saturate it with meaning (authoritarian or benevolent), you will perceive your experience as something that actually exists in the world. The personality you assign to God has direct neural patterns that correlate with your own emotional style of behavior.

Basically, we all have two brains – one selfish and suspicious, another that is open-minded and can be kind.  If you’re wondering which brain will win? It’s the one you feed!!  What you think about creates your reality.  Needless to say this extends beyond God, it plays into your perception of other people, situations, activities, beliefs and values.

You can change your perception of other people, situations or God by choosing what part of your brain you feed.

Based on research, you can rather easily develop neural circuits geared towards compassion and open-mindedness.  (Easy, as in, it doesn’t require a lot of training or resources, however, it does require consistency and intentionality!)  Here’s what you do, absorb yourself in thoughts associated with the feelings of kindness and love as you breath deeply and relax. Do this for at least 12 minutes per day for 6-8 weeks.  You will begin to build and strengthen new neural circuits of compassion.

In addition, if you consciously interrupt pessimistic thoughts and feelings with optimistic beliefs – even if they are based on fantasies rather than reality – you will stimulate your brain to create new circuits that decrease fear, anxiety, and irritability and increase your sense of peacefulness.

FYI, if you obsess on doubts and worries, your emotional brain will slow down your thinking brain which decreases your ability to be empathetic and feel pleasure.

When love goes up – fear goes down.  When anger goes up – compassion goes down.  If you focus on a benevolent God, the authoritarian God recedes. You can control non-conscious circuits in your brain when you choose what you think about. The choice is entirely yours!