Happy Together James O. Pawelski Suzann Pileggi Pawelski

Are You In Love or Are You Lovesick?

Positive Psychology Experts and Husband-and-Wife Team Suzann and James Pawelski Explore Healthy Passion Versus Obsession.I can't liveIf living is without you(Mariah Carey, "Without You")Many people equate these desperate and yearning lyrics from Mariah Carey's emotional hit ballad with an ideal form of romantic passion. And not surprisingly! From Billboard music charts to blockbuster films, popular culture perpetuates this notion of healthy passion as an uncontrollable, "swept away" feeling.However, while an unbridled passion may be every girl’s (and guy’s!) dream, it can be harmful to our well-being and relationships according to Robert Vallerand, past president of the International Positive Psychology Association. He found that an all-consuming or "obsessive passion" is more damaging to a relationship than having no passion at all. In fact, women in relationships with men who were obsessively passionate towards them reported being less sexually satisfied.Obsessive passion is associated with distrusting one's partner. People who are obsessively passionate toward their lovers are insecure and are preoccupied with protecting their ego rather than being attuned to their partner, says Vallerand. Additionally, they tend to be controlling, defensive and need to win all the time.           So does this mean that if we are consumed with our partner in the early stages of a romance –perhaps experiencing butterflies in our stomach at the mere mention of our lover’s name – and can’t focus on our work, friends and hobbies that we are in an obsessively passionate relationship? Of course not. We should cherish these glorious moments and pleasant feelings of a budding relationship.However, if months and years into the relationship, we still seem to be distracted at work and have abandoned our friendships and interests, these may be signs of an obsession, rather than a healthy love. Our relationship will likely fall apart, according to research, since it’s stuck at this stage and can’t develop.The good news is that passion can strengthen our relationship but it has to be the right kind. In a “harmoniously” passionate relationship we are in control of the passion rather than being controlled by our romantic desires. A healthy passion leads to a more sustainable and mature relationship.  We maintain a strong overall identity and balanced lifestyle and we experience a deeper connection with our partner.Fortunately, harmonious passion isn’t an innate quality but rather something we can cultivate resulting in greater intimacy and a more satisfying relationship.

Healthy Habits to Build a Harmonious Passion

Maintain your sense of identity:

Thing back to before your relationship. How did you spend your time? What were those activities that made you feel like you? And who did you enjoy doing them with?  Take up some of those activities again and nurture those friendships so you don't lose a sense of yourself.

Listen to close friends:

Seriously consider any concerns from friends saying they no longer recognize you after becoming involved in a relationship because you changed so much. Research finds they often see red flags of obsession before we do.

Reflect upon your interests and those of your partner:

Identify something you and your partner both enjoy and do it together since engaging in novel activities boosts attraction. Remember to avoid serious competition, which may damage the relationship. The idea is to have fun connecting, not competing. So if you’re a chess master and your partner can’t distinguish between a pawn and a bishop, choose another activity.

Schedule “Strengths Dates”:

Identify your top five character strengths, commonly referred to as your “signature strengths” by taking the free Via Survey. Invite your partner to do so as well. Choose a strength of yours (e.g. zest) and one of your partner’s (e.g. love of learning) and plan a strengths date, or outing, that allows each of you to exercise your particular strength. For example, a Segway historical tour of your city will satisfy one partner’s sense of adventure and the other’s intellectual thirst. When we exercise our strengths we experience greater well-being.

Carve out daily time to savor together:

Practice sharing with your partner secrets or something good that you experienced personally to build trust and a stronger, healthier bond.Healthy habits like these will help you build a harmonious passion which is associated with satisfying relationships and will increase your chances of being happy together over the long haul.*********This article was adapted from Suzie and James’s Psychology Today “Happy Together” blogHappy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts, written by positive psychology experts and husband-and-wife team Suzann Pileggi Pawelski and James Pawelski, is the first book on using the principles of positive psychology to create thriving romantic relationships.James O. Pawelski, PhD, is Professor of Practice and Director of Education in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.Suzann (“Suzie”) Pileggi Pawelski has a Master of Applied Positive Psychology degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a freelance writer and well-being consultant specializing in the science of happiness and its effects on health and relationships.

What Makes Some People More Successful Than Others?

What makes some people more successful than others? Top network scientists have an answer. They found that half of the difference in career success is due to one variable.Journalist Michael Simmons explains:

The bottom line? According to multiple, peer-reviewed studies, simply being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success.

How do we define an open network? To understand the power of open networks, it’s important to understand their opposite. Most people spend their careers in closed networks; networks of people who already know each other. People often stay in the same industry, the same religion, and the same political party. In a closed network, it’s easier to get things done because you’ve built up trust, and you know all the shorthand terms and unspoken rules. It’s comfortable because the group converges on the same ways of seeing the world that confirm your own.In other words, a closed network is full of like-minded types who agree with one another. Although a closed network may be comfortable, the downside is that it limits exposure to new ways of thinking and seeing the world.In comparison, people in open networks are constantly exposed to new people, experiences and ideas. This may be challenging but there are clear advantages of assimilating different and conflicting perspectives.Simmons outlines four benefits of an open network:

1. A more accurate view of the world:

It provides people with the ability to pull information from diverse clusters so errors cancel themselves out. Research shows that people in open networks are better forecasters of future trends than people in closed networks

2. Ability to control the timing of information sharing:

While open networkers may not be the first to hear information, they are usually the first to introduce information to another cluster. As a result, they can leverage the first move advantage

3. Ability to serve as a translator / connector between groups:

People in open networks create value by serving as intermediaries and connecting people and organizations that can help each other

4. More breakthrough ideas:

People in open networks are more likely to create atypical combinations. For example, research shows that the top performing academic studies have references from outside their primary field.In open networks, people, ideas, experiences and disciplines intersect and cross-pollinate. The diversity of experience provides perspective and insight. It’s about connecting the dots in unexpected ways. It takes courage and curiosity to bust out of the comfort zone of a closed network but the rewards are worth it.Steve Jobs describes it best:

A lot of people…haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.

I would say it makes for a more interesting life too. 

Throw Money At It

“There just isn’t enough time in the day,” explained Jennifer, a new patient.  Jennifer had initially come to see me because of a conflict with a co-worker but it had become increasingly clear to me that the conflict was amplified by Jennifer’s ongoing daily stress. In addition to having a full-time job, Jennifer felt bogged down by the many other responsibilities in her life. Because of the “time famine,” she felt she never had any time to spend with friends. The bottomless “to do” list was a major source of angst—doing her laundry, buying groceries, vacuuming, changing her sheets, and cleaning up her closet were ongoing demands and drains on her energy and time.  And those were just the “basics.” The list was always growing with more tasks—pick up a present for three year old nephew, drop off the sweater she borrowed from a friend, take computer to Apple store for repair, and on and on. The daily grind was taking a toll on Jennifer’s wellbeing and she is not alone. Many people I know and patients I meet feel pressed for time and overwhelmed by the thankless demands of daily life.  People with “time stress” have lower life satisfaction, more anxiety, poorer eating and exercise habits and more difficulty sleeping.  In a study entitled The Burden of Stress in America, running errands and doing household chores were not surprisingly among the top ten daily events that contribute to stress. Handling car problems, commuting to work, and handling household repairs are also high on the list. These mundane but necessary activities of everyday life hang over our heads and gobble up precious time.  If you feel overwhelmed by life’s daily demands, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers a suggestion: throw some money at the problem. The researchers found that people are happier when they spend their money in ways that help them save time. In a survey of over 6000 people who earned a variety of incomes, those who outsourced household time-sucking chores reported greater life satisfaction. To better understand why buying time boosts happiness, the researchers gave $40 to 60 adult participants to spend on two separate weekends. During one weekend, they were asked to use the cash for time-saving purchase, like hiring a housecleaning service or having groceries delivered. During the second weekend, the same people were give $40 to spend on a material purchase like clothes or games. Spending money on time-saving purchases put the participants in a better mood. Why? Because it provides a sense of control according to researcher and Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ashley V. Whillans:

“The more stressed you feel, the less control you feel over various components of your life.  And the less control you feel you have over your daily experience, the less happy you feel. Money is a tool that allows you to purchase that control.”

Given its benefits, why don’t more people spend their money on time-saving purchases? Feeling embarrassed about hiring someone to do something they could easily do or not wanting to be seen as lazy may explain why people don’t outsource more. Women, in particular, bear the burden.  After a full day of work, many feel obligated to take on a “second shift” and complete household tasks even when they can afford not to.You don’t have to do it all.  Ordering in dinner, calling a cleaning service, and hiring someone to run errands for you isn’t wasteful.  Nor should it ever make you feel guilty.  If it minimizes irritation and buys you time, it is worth every penny if you spend it wisely.Just ask Jennifer. Instead of spending a weekend painting her bedroom, she hired Task Rabbit. What did she do with the recovered time? She had a time feast with friends.
Nathan Kravis On The Couch

Nathan Kravis Reflects on the Enduring Nature of the Psychiatrists’ Couch

In 1991, the New York City subway was plastered with enormous couch posters, part of an ad campaign by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York. They bore the caption, “Some people find the same peace of mind sitting in a pew. Come home at Easter.” As a young psychiatrist and candidate in psychoanalytic training in Manhattan, I was taking the subway four times a week to my analyst’s office to lie on just such a couch. These ads were obviously not aimed at psychoanalytic trainees like me. Who then, I wondered, comprised the target audience? And why was the church so confident that subway riders would easily decode the image in front of them, and immediately understand the implied choice between couch and pew?Even as the popularity of psychoanalytic treatment wanes, the couch endures as a cultural icon, a symbol of self-reflection and healing, a shorthand for the therapist in cartoons and movies. We could say the couch is healthier than the field of psychoanalysis itself, and I would add that its iconic status in the general culture contrasts with it being held in increasing suspicion by some contemporary analysts, who display growing ambivalence about it, or even scoff at the tradition of the patient’s recumbence, seeing it as a relic of a more authoritarian era, a power play on the part of the analyst that unnecessarily regresses or infantilizes the patient and supposedly blocks the path to authentic emotional engagement. I find such a priori assertions problematic. They’re not based on any real knowledge. There’s no evidentiary basis either for mandating or disparaging use of the couch. The research simply hasn’t been done. We can’t know in advance which patients will find it liberating, and which will find it too discomfiting.Freud famously said that he got his patient to lie on a couch because he couldn’t stand being stared at all day, but he never explained why recumbent posture should be preferred to simply arranging the chairs so that analyst and patient don’t face each other. Freud’s couch, heavily decorated with rugs, pillows, and blankets and surrounded by his extensive collection of antiquities, has the look of a Turkish divan. It speaks volumes about its owner’s taste and interests. Most contemporary analysts have distanced themselves from Freud’s aesthetic, heavily inflected with the romantic and archeological motifs so popular in his day, preferring the sparer, more spartan couch usually seen in cartoons and illustrations today. But even among analysts who have forsaken the couch as part of their treatment technique, many retain one as part of their office décor.Pondering the disjuncture between the couch’s status and its apparently diminishing role in analytic technique led me to realize that the origins of its use in psychoanalysis have never been fully explored. The analytic literature is strangely silent on this topic. Following Freud, the couch became a fixture of analysts’ offices, but why?I decided that since analysts haven’t been able to articulate a compelling clinical rationale for recumbence, it would be better to delve into the social history of posture to find explanations for the couch’s cultural importance as a symbol of self-awareness. Starting with a look at the Greek and Roman customs of reclining while dining, I found that far from connoting passivity or submission to medical authority, recumbence in social settings has long served as an expression of freedom, pleasure, luxury, and intimacy. Evolving ideals of comfort and social intimacy reflected in furniture history, clothing history, manners, and the healing arts converged in the 19th Century such that it became thinkable to lie down in the presence of another person to talk. Even though some professionals today frown upon its use, the couch retains its significance in the public lexicon of symbols for interiority because it resonates so strongly with these cultural ideals.It’s true that no one can claim to know with any degree of certainty for whom or for what types of problem the use of the couch is best suited, and there is no substantial body of empirical research on posture, frequency of sessions, or duration of psychoanalytic treatment. I continue to recommend using the couch to most patients I treat. But I don’t insist on it, and I always try to ascertain the patient’s interest first. Ideally, both analyst and patient are better able to access deeper layers of thought and feeling once freed from having to attend to the usual social cues of face-to-face interaction, but only a trial of analysis on the couch will tell. Good analytic technique calls for flexibility and sensitivity, not for the doctrinaire insistence on one posture or another. At the same time, it seems fair to assert that reclining for the purpose of talking to someone is for many people a uniquely powerful experience that has no parallel anywhere else.Kravis is the author of On the Couch: A Repressed History on the Analytic Couch from Plato to Freud, and a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, an Associate Director of the DeWitt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry, and Training and Supervising Analyst at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research.

Q & A With Dr. Boardman: How To Dress the Part

Q: I once heard you should dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Does this really work in getting a promotion?

People make snap judgments about us based on our appearance, especially when it comes to what we are wearing. But what we wear has meaning beyond what others see; it also affects the way we perceive ourselves.The symbolic power of clothing became crystal clear to me when I put on a white coat for the first time in medical school. Like magic, I became a doctor before my own eyes. I stood taller, held my head higher, and felt more confident. Whenever impostor syndrome would rear its ugly head, the white coat was a reminder that I belonged.I learned that dressing the part can help us rise to the occasion. In fact, there is scientific evidence suggesting that clothing can influence your posture, body language, motivation, and even mood. When you wear something that makes you feel great, the effects may be subtle—the way you tilt your head, your facial expressions—but they matter.If you are looking for a promotion, wear clothes that make you feel strong. The right outfit may even enhance creativity, focus, and negotiation skills. Related research highlights how getting dressed up promotes abstract thinking and provides perspective. Yes, a power suit can be literally empowering. This may be particularly helpful when things aren’t going your way or you have a tough day ahead. When you look your best, it’s easier to see the big picture and not take criticism too personally. The right outfit can help you feel more confident when you need it most—it can serve as both armor and inspiration. Studies have found that people say they feel friendlier and more competent in business attire than in T-shirts and jeans. Of course, it depends on the work that needs to be done and on personal preferences. Whatever you do, choose clothes that bring out the best in you, that elevate you, and that make you feel strong and beautiful.This article originally appeared in Marie Claire. 

What Sacrifices Would You Make To Save Face?

Who cares about what other people think? Despite the contemporary mantra that it doesn’t matter, most of us care a great deal about how others see us. People will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their reputation. In fact, many are willing to sacrifice life and limb to save face. In a survey, 40 percent of respondents said they would choose a year in jail and a clean reputation over no jail time and a criminal reputation. In another, over half said they would rather die than have a lifetime reputation as a child molester. Seventy percent said they would rather lose a hand than be thought of as a Nazi sympathizer. Of note, these surveys were conducted online and were, by definition, hypothetical.Do the findings hold up in the real world? To find out, researchers asked volunteer college students to take a test that assesses racism. The researchers gave a number of the students falsely high scores and then presented them with a choice—either an email with the results of the racism test would be sent out to the campus at large or they could submerge their hand in a bucket filled with disgusting writhing worms. Thirty percent chose the worms (think Survivor). Over 60% held their hands in ice cold water to prevent the incriminating email from being sent out. As you can imagine, many of the students doubted the email threat, so it is likely that the number would have been much higher if the students truly believed their reputations were at risk. Why does reputation matter so much? The answer lies beyond the individual. If you have a reputation as a cheat, nobody wants to do business with you. If you have a reputation as a liar, nobody trusts you. Our very existence and survival depends on being accepted by the communities in which we live. No wonder blackmailers manage to extort exorbitant sums from their victims. Over time, a tarnished reputation may be repaired, but, as Joseph Hall observed, the damage is rarely forgotten:  

“A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was.”

For the most part, the desire to maintain a good reputation promotes moral behavior. But it’s a double-edged sword. The threat of exposure or losing one’s honor can take a dark turn and lead to immoral behavior.Even children are not immune to the pressure to maintain a certain reputation. As a recent study demonstrates, children who were praised for being smart ( i.e. “You are so smart!”) were more likely to cheat than children who were praised for their performance on a specific task (i.e. “You did very well this time.”).Professor Li Zhao of Hangzhou Normal University in China, explains that if children are told they are smart, they feel pressure to live up to these expectations and are willing to cheat in order to maintain a reputation for being smart. Instead of complementing your child’s brilliance, comment on the behavior instead. They are more likely to repeat it. It is important to point out that there is a different between reputation and character.  As Abraham Lincoln observed, “Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.”   Yes, character is the real thing.  Never sacrifice your character in an attempt to save your reputation.



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Colby Jordan

Colby Jordan is the founder of Minnie Muse, a website devoted to celebrating connections across creative fields and transcending the typical silos that limit imagination. Her perspective is insightful, inspiring, and mind-expanding.


Happy Together James O. Pawelski Suzann Pileggi Pawelski

Are You In Love or Are You Lovesick?

Positive Psychology Experts and Husband-and-Wife Team Suzann and James Pawelski Explore Healthy Passion Versus Obsession.I can't liveIf living is without you(Mariah Carey, "Without You")Many...

What Makes Some People More Successful Than Others?

What makes some people more successful than others? Top network scientists have an answer. They found that half of the difference in career success...

Throw Money At It

“There just isn’t enough time in the day,” explained Jennifer, a new patient.  Jennifer had initially come to see me because of a conflict...
Nathan Kravis On The Couch

Nathan Kravis Reflects on the Enduring Nature of the Psychiatrists’ Couch

In 1991, the New York City subway was plastered with enormous couch posters, part of an ad campaign by the Catholic Archdiocese of New...

Q & A With Dr. Boardman: How To Dress the Part

Q: I once heard you should dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Does this really work in getting a...

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