The Science of Optimal Love
Tal Ben-Shahar is an author and lecturer at Harvard University. He currently teaches the largest course at Harvard on "Positive Psychology" and the third largest on "The Psychology of Leadership"--with a total of over 1,400 students.
Tal consults and lectures around the world to executives in multi-national corporation, the general public, and at-risk populations. Topics include happiness, self-esteem, resilience, goal setting, mindfulness, and leadership.
An avid sportsman, Tal won the U.S. Intercollegiate and Israeli National squash championships. He obtained his PhD in Organizational Behavior and BA in Philosophy and Psychology from Harvard.
Question: What is optimal love?
Tal Ben-Shahar: Optimal love is about continuous growth within the relationship. It's about the partners becoming more intimate. It's about the partners finding more and more meaning in their relationship. It's about developing. It's about ups and downs, with the general trajectory being upward.
Question: What are the most common illusions about love?
Tal Ben-Shahar: One of the major illusions is that healthy love, a healthy relationship, is devoid of conflict, whereas in fact what we see when we study the best relationships is that conflict is part and parcel of a healthy relationship. In fact, when there is no conflict, it's a sign that the partners are suppressing, that they're ignoring things. And it's usually a prescription for failure. At the same time, when we only have conflict, or primarily conflict, that's also a bad sign. What we want to see in relationships is a positive ratio between positive experiences and negative experiences, so to have more love, more joy, more celebration, and at the same time a little bit of fighting and bickering can only help.
Question: How can people endure moments of conflict in relationships?
Tal Ben-Shahar: The psychologist David Schnarch talks about gridlocks within relationships. Gridlocks are points that we get to, and every long-lasting relationship gets to, where we're stuck, where we disagree about certain things that are fundamental to the relationship. And many people view these gridlocks as signaling the end, the necessary end, of a relationship, whereas in fact, as David Schnarch points out, these can very often be the genesis of growth, the beginning of a deeper relationship. So it's important to remind ourselves that very often -- not always, but very often -- gridlocks, fights, conflicts are points for potential growth if we work through them, if we honestly and opening grow through them.
Recorded on: September 23, 2009
Happiness expert Tal Ben Shahar has dedicated ample time to his research on how romantic relationships can promote—and prevent—happiness. He tells Big Think what makes a winning relationship.
Suffering can buffer us, and make us more polished versions of ourselves — if we have the right attitude.
- When you're going through a moment that tests your patience, even causes you to psychologically suffer, sometimes you have to step back and say, "Yes, thank you."
- Suffering is like sandpaper, and, if we choose, it can buffer us and make us better versions of ourselves.
- Also, it's critical to find a quiet place within where just the fundamental fact that you are participating in reality imbues you with enough value and dignity to draw upon at any moment. Regardless of exterior sentiments about you.
A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.
- Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
- The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
- According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
When adults are challenged to behave like adults, by a child, they can go in one of two directions.