When we speak about love, we think of relationships and couples and when we know that 50% of all marriages end up in divorce, many of us start reflecting upon the nature of relationships.

According to international research, the number of unions was roughly the same in 2004 than it was in 1970. The difference resides in the type of unions. We do see less conventional marriage but we also see an increase in gay marriages, “free unions”, partners living separately, up to the ultimate “non-commitment” of the “friends with benefit” type relationship.

We can argue that since a couple of generations, women have played a huge role in redefining roles and expectations in relationship. Also, multiple relationships and financial factors have played a crucial role in being “creative” in relationship preferences.

It remains obvious that relationship is still in high demand. Many of us, despite bad experiences, want a new go at it and although young adults start their relationship a little later than their parents, they are still wanting “in”. We want to share, we want to be loved and appreciated and we do not want to be alone.

What is new though is the desire for freedom and autonomy in the relationship. It is almost as if we are getting more attached to the type of relationship we want rather than the person we are in relationship with.

It has become part of the norm to have had several long-term relationships, marriage forever a sort of fantasy. Social media has opened a tremendous playing field for individuals looking for their “perfect” match. However, the issues in a relationship remain the same: money, sex, children education, boundaries and loyalty as well as all the personal issues that we bring in the couple from the start.

So how do we navigate between autonomy and love, freedom and relationship, stability and excitement? What do you think? Where have you been successful? In my next post, I will talk about differentiation and the concept of true connection.

Happy love year!

Sleep Deprivation

As I mentioned in a prior post, emotional balance can be enhanced by three basic behaviors that are often disregarded or sabotaged in our busy life. We are so focused on doing more in less time. I am referring to these essential needs of eating, sleeping and exercising.

We always pay, sometimes dearly, for our shortcuts. We pay out of our pockets billions of dollars to the diet industry, more billions to the exercise industry and again more to the medical and pharmaceutical industry for sleep deprivation. We also pay, in the long run, with health issues that lead too many of us to a premature death. We lose our quality of life, our family life, we lose!

Of course, the question that remains is about what comes first: the need to have more and to do more or the emotional imbalance. For instance, when I tell myself that I must have the latest iphone otherwise I will feel distraught and depressed, I drive myself to work more. However, I could also tell myself that I feel distraught and depressed because I work too much therefore, in compensation, I will buy the latest iPhone.

The consequence is always the same: overworked and depressed. No time to eat properly, no time to exercise and certainly less time to sleep. Stress is the cause of most anxiety and depression disorders and the first cause of stress is due to the lack of sleep. The numbers are staggering with 30 percent of adult Americans sleeping less than six hours a night.

Emotional symptoms of sleeplessness or insomnia include irritability, sloppiness, lack of focus, heightened emotionality, loss of motivation and general fatigue. I certainly fit the format, at times…What about you? I also like to understand why I feel like that, simple curiosity, because, regardless, I am still responsible to modify my lifestyle.

According to a recent study, author Talma Hendler of Tel Aviv University in Israel found that the amygdala, a brain region associated with emotion, was responsible for emotional dysfunction in presence of sleep deprivation. The amygdala is no longer able to “prioritize”. Every emotional stimulus takes equal importance. It explains the emotional chaos we experience when facing intense fatigue.

Her team of researchers also found unusual activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region believed to regulate the amygdala. These parts of the brain usually “fire together,” but without adequate rest, these brain regions fire out of sync. As a result, it is harder to control our emotional responses.

So there… we must get as close as possible to 8 hours of sleep every night…one time, no cheating! Sleeping in blocks of time induces a reduction of 30 percent of positive mood whereas sleeping less but in one session only decreases our positive moods by 12 percent according to Johns Hopkins’ researchers.  The more we sleep and the better we sleep play a vital role in maintaining a positive emotional balance in our daily lives. Sleeping is not a luxury, it is necessary!

Hendler T, et al. Losing Neutrality: The Neural Basis of Impaired Emotional Control without Sleep. Journal of Neuroscience. 2015.

In my psychology practice, I deal with many different topics and issues from personal growth to major personality disorders. My clients cover a broad spectrum of cognitive and emotional maturity and they belong to a multiracial and multi-socio-economical background thus demanding a wide array of therapeutic goals. However, regardless of these disparities, I have learnt over the years to always include in my intake interview three basic tenets of emotional balance: sleep, eat, and exercise.

Today, I will write about sleeping. This is a large topic that cannot be covered in one short post. So I will start with the number of hours we are supposed to need. Most adults need between 7 ½ and 8 ½ hours of sleep. Most adults actually sleep between 6 and 7 hours a night. Children, teenagers and older adults need more than 8 hours of sleep daily. Many people do not have their sleeping quota daily and many people develop emotional and behavioral issues due to this lack of sleep.

Several reasons interfere with our sleeping needs: our environment, our mental stress, and our biological cycles. Environmental issues include noises such sharp sounds and white noises, alarms, television, music, etc. It also includes lack of privacy or comfort, lights, smells, pains, heavy digestion, etc. Mental stress creates the overstimulation of the brain, anxieties, nightmares, and as a result the fear of sleeping. Finally, our sleeping needs get impacted when our sleeping cycle is not respected.

Our sleeping cycle or circadian rhythm is our internal clock based on the full cycle of the day of 24 hours which corresponds to the rotation of the earth. It is not related to the day light as many of us believe and use as a rationalization to our own personal sleeping pattern. Early morning raisers and night owls follow different circadian rhythms. When individual’ rhythms are not respected, sleeping needs get disturbed. It is important to recognize our personal pattern and to respect it.

Lack of sleep needs to be addressed diligently. It affects our moods and induces depression and anxiety, our work efficiency, our motivation, focus, and our memory. It also affects our health: stress related pains and disease. These include digestive issues, skin issues, lower back and neck/shoulder tightness, asthma, migraines, and cancer, just to name a few. Listen to your body, reduce the “must do” and give your overall health a chance to work in your favor. Sleeping is one of your most significant ally.

Back again to this extraordinarily difficult concept that seems to elude us every time we need to rely upon it.

The challenge is not necessarily to understand it but rather to be willing to enact it. The challenge is to enroll our emotions to the service of our rationality. The challenge is to allow our emotion to disengage in order to give room to the present moment to exist.

We know that to stop negative recurrent thoughts, toxic relationships, self-destructive habits and other happiness poisoning behaviors, we must move on. However, the very rationale of enacting these behaviors stems from our emotions: high expectations, needs, poor self-esteem, helplessness, codependency, fears of separation and abandonment, anxieties, etc.

These emotions create correlating maladaptive behaviors. In return, these behaviors allow us to endure, to keep going, to maintain some sense of balance and purpose. We establish patterns of behavior that are hurtful most of the time and make us numb. However, they become familiar over time. We feel to somewhat control them and we hold on to them as our safety buoy. What we forget in the deal is that they do not increase our “feeling good” potential, they are just a trick, a mask. We hold on to them because we prefer knowing where it is going to hurt rather then to choose an unknown route.

So, we live from the past (our negative emotions) to the future (our hurting behaviors) bypassing the present, the now, the place where we create those moments that eventually fill up our happiness bag and our future. And that is the magic! Letting go means to forget expectations, what we “deserve”, our due, projects, control, even our need for results. Not wanting anything emotionally is to become open, available and alive. It allows the unknown to take over. It starts right where we are, at this precise moment.  It is a wonderful adventure!


We are in October and Thanksgiving is around the corner, Christmas not that far away. Whether we are making invitations or we are hoping (or not) to be invited, we are bound to be aware of the feeling of solitude. Let’s take a look at loneliness triggers.
We are sure not to forget old uncle Bob who is alone now after loosing his wife to a long drawn disease. We include our new found friend who just happen to be single and a little shy. Holiday vacations seem to awaken in us, at times, social awkwardness, loneliness, despair and depression.
It happens to all of us, even to those who do not live alone! Talking about it makes us feel a little less lonely. However, a good way to deal with it constructively is to first accept the feeling and then to evaluate it. Is it really that bad? Are we making generalizations? Is there anything positive to enjoy?
It is important to understand what precipitates our depressed moods. Finding the triggers to our feelings of loneliness help us often to de-dramatize. Once our galloping emotions are a bit more under control, we must remember to focus on the enjoyable: food, music, people to go toward and talk to or smile to. Yes, smiling can go a long way and boost our emotions. Just try it! See me below.. boosting my emotions.. just with a simple smile!

Today, I will follow-up on my last post about solitude. It is an important topic. Much too often, because it’s taboo to talk about our isolation and depression, we end up rejecting it and internalize it and thus increasing the self-destructive effect of our solitude.

Just as for about any other emotion or character traits, solitude has its negative impact and its positive effects. The positive effect of solitude is that when we accept it and embrace it, we can use it to practice a deep introspection that facilitates self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is the essential step toward the ability to validate ourselves through achievements, the ability to explore our limits and also to open ourselves up to the people and to the world around us.

Introspection can be practiced at home of course but also at work, on the beach, or in any other situation where it is possible to isolate yourself for 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes is all it takes to regenerate yourself in the busy life you’re trying to maintain whoever you are and whatever you do. Fifteen minutes of internal peace will allow you to tackle the remaining of the day with efficiency and energy.

So here you are, no guilt involved, relax your muscles, fingers and toes included, deep breathe with your belly, let your thoughts coming through you and let them leave you. Visualize your favorite peaceful image and use your five senses to be in that image and re-evaluate, re-center. It is not about escaping but rather making choices among your priorities. When you’re ready, give yourself few minutes before jumping back into action, contract your muscles, open your eyes and re-visit the tasks that you have planned to accomplish for the day.

Remember the teachings of Socrates;” know yourself”. He was a Greek philosopher but overall he deeply understood human nature! Enjoy your daily introspective adventures…

In our world today, the number of people in a situation of solitude is seriously increasing. We are connected to the world, we have hundreds of cyber friends, yet, more and more of us experience these feelings of loneliness, isolation, perceived rejection, and eventually depression.

Solitude is everywhere, in large cities, in group situation and in family. It is in the older population and also now among the teens and the young adults. Solitude is rampant in all socioeconomic groups. The theme is a favorite in literature, art and music, a trigger for mental illness, and a cause of major crimes.

However, we do not really talk about it. In our society, it is shameful because it is associated with weakness. When we would like to be understood and helped, let alone being listen to, we take refuge in…anything that will mask this feeling of intense doubt and despair. We watch TV, we lose ourselves on internet and social medias, we cultivate false interest and false friends. Worse yet, we use alcohol, drugs, antidepressant, and porn…anything not to face ourselves.

How could we face ourselves and our distress? We are constantly confronted to these impossible beautiful people (who spend their lives sculpting themselves to feed their narcissistic personality). We witness these fast and somewhat miraculous professional successes (when we are painfully working our way toward a hypothetical retirement). We cannot seem to stay in long term relationship because we were fed with absolute, meaning unconditional, love that only exist in the thousands of movies we have watched instead of trying to have a meaningful relationship with the people around us.

Of course we feel insignificant and unworthy so we try to boost ourselves up, a selfie here and there on facebook, but at the end of the day, we are still alone in our heart. We do not want to admit it so we live our solitude as a misery, an enemy, a weakness, something to hide. This kind of solitude is insidious, it creeps on us while we text our friends, while we watch TV, while we prefer to stay glued to our facebook in the middle of a party or worse at a dinner table.

-There are several categories of solitude:

– The solitude that we suffer from, experienced as a taboo

– The solitude that helps us to work on a challenge such a sport achievement

– The solitude as a result of isolation and abandonment (the worst)

– The solitude as a choice

We were born alone and we will die alone. Solitude is an integral part of our life. It is also an essential tool to a healthy personal development. We need solitude to have the ability to reflect upon ourselves, to learn who we really are, to accept our strengths as well as our weaknesses, to decide maybe to make some changes and to create a sense of purpose. It obviously comes with some anxieties but once we welcome them and face who we really are, we also get better prepared to go toward others and create meaningful ties. It is only when we understand ourselves better that we can truly give and obtain this sense of wellbeing that is also called happiness.

Solitude used as a positive force will teach us peace and love for ourselves. In turn, solitude will give us what we thought it was taking away from us: LOVE

She made me slap her…he forced me to lie…like if she actually took his hand and slammed it on her face. Funny when we think of it, but kind of scary when we think about the lack of accountability, responsibility for one’s action, the blaming game. It is also saying that we do not have control over our actions. Of course actions can be the consequences  of our emotions and our emotions are sometimes slipping away from our control. However, should we  live our life expecting that we do not have choices? Should we stand for no individual freedom?

Because we are talking about freedom here! Freedom is not necessarily about doing what we want

when we want regardless of consequences. Freedom is about choices. It is about happiness! I suggest a good read with Barry Schwartz the “Paradox of Choice.”

Do you want to share your opinion?

Do I believe that environment, education and personal experiences shape the behavior of human beings?
-Yes, I do
Do I believe, however, that some physiological and neurobiological factors also affect our brain?
– Of course, I do.
The literature is abundant on this topic and it would take a far too long expose to get to the heart of it. It is important, however, to understand our hormonal system in order to deal with men’s behavior versus women’s behavior.
For instance, we often hear: “Men are all the same…” Well yes, men behave similarly because they have a similar hormonal system with testosterone as the predominant hormone. Testosterone has many soldiers that together configure men’s brain and their behavior. The mix is, of course, mitigated by each man’s life experience but also by his hormonal level. To give you an idea, men’s general range of hormonal influenced behavior includes: goal oriented, dominant, sex oriented and bear like when angry (Testosterone), protective (Vasopressin), exploratory, masculine (Mullerian Inhibiting Substance or MIS), sensitive to affection and attention (Oxytocine), dad’s behavior (Prolactin), aggressive (Cortisol), seducer (Androstenedione), excitable (Dopamine) and at times cuddling (Estrogen, in a small percentage, yet pretty powerful behind the scene).
Dr. Louann Brizendine, M.D. in her book “The Male Brain”, named testosterone Zeus or the King of Male Hormones, vasopressin the White Knight, MIS or Hercules, oxytocin the Lion tamer, prolactin or Mr. Mom, cortisol the Gladiator, androstenedione or Romeo (my favorite), dopamine the Energizer and estrogen the Queen. Cute and appropriate!
And thus, men’s propensity to be the protector, the warrior, the bread winner, the solution seeker and also the destroyer, the aggressor and the never ending high libido seducer becomes a bit more understandable.
Of course we know that men and women are not necessarily from “the same planet”. We can, then, safely presume that women’s hormonal system could pretty much be on the opposite side thus explaining general issues in relationships.
I will let you ingest this first part and get back to you in a week with female hormones. At the mean time, maybe, you could help me out and bring in your knowledge about it!


Sex is a very important part of our adult life. Sex is a natural function of our body. However, sex is
often taboo because of its association with vice, dirtiness, emotional and psychological issues.
Sex is a huge topic. Today, I want to address what a lot of women and men alike think about their
performance. Many women enter their adult life with some knowledge about sex. Their knowledge
comes from their mother, their friends, readings, movies, also their experience. But many women have never talked (read) to professionals, those with the accurate answers.

The result is a lot of misconceived ideas leading to outright poor self-esteem and fear. Since men
develop similar style of taboo or misconceptions, miscommunication or even lack thereof create issues in the bedroom. Too often, it ends up in a poor sexual life and unhappiness.

I stumbled, once, upon a site that I would like to share with you “A woman’s touch”. This site provides clinical articles, questions and answers with sexual counselors, references and much more about sex.

It is a first step for men and women to clear up their air, understand, share and eventually change outlook on sex if needed be.