Thank you John Bradshaw (1933-2016)

(Originally posted on May 12, 2016)

A few days ago we lost a great man who through his love, wit and professionalism has impacted and inspired many of us to live healthier and saner lives.

I’m sad that we’ll not have the opportunity to see John in person, but I have gratitude that the body of work he created will forever remain available to benefit humanity.

I had the opportunity to see John with Dr. Pat Carnes in Houston last August (2015), then a month later when he presented at a conference in Dallas (see my notes below about his session). In those sessions, John demonstrated such a warmth and connection with the audience, as his heart and mind creatively, humorously and insightfully nudged us to contemplate and integrate truisms that would help our practices and our lives.

As I consider those meetings last year and the profound books that he has written through the years (Healing the Shame that Binds You, Bradshaw on the Family) and his video series (Bradshaw on Homecoming), I know he has made an indelible impression in my life, in my practice (I quoted him just last week) and I just have gratitude for living in the same time period that he lived.

Thank you John for touching me and peace be with you and your family –

Ken M

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(John Bradshaw, Tami VerHelst and Dr. Patrick Carnes)

What follows are my notes from a previous post about a conference where John presented. The conference was 21 Annual Counseling Skills Conference, Sept. 23, 2016, in Dallas, TX:

Plenary Session #1: Post-Romantic Stress Disorder by John Bradshaw, MA. John Bradshaw has been called “America’s leading personal growth expert.” This New York Times bestselling author has created and hosted four nationally broadcast PBS television series based on his bestselling books. His latest book is Post-Romantic Stress Disorder (HCI Books).

For the past four decades, John Bradshaw has combined his exceptional skills as the role of counselor, author, management consultant, theologian, philosopher, and public speaker, becoming one of the leading figures in the fields of addiction/recovery, family systems, relationships, spiritual and emotional growth, and management training. John brought the phrases “dysfunctional families” and “inner child” into mainstream society. His dynamic training and therapies are practiced all over the world. A much sought out speaker, John has truly touched and transformed the lives of millions. He was elected by a group of his peers as ‘one of the most influential writers on emotional health in the 20th Century.

John gave a very good and humorous introduction to what seems to be a very good book, Post Romantic Stress Disorder: What to do when the honeymoon is over and new discoveries about lust, love and saving your marriage before it is too late. John spoke about the two major parts of his book:

Part I: Mother Nature’s Old Black Magic: During this phase John mentioned Mother Nature’s job is to get people to meet, mate and procreate. John referenced the work of Helen Fisher, by stating that during the first 18 months of a romantic relationship, the “PEA Cocktail” of Phenylethylamine, Dopamine and Norepinephrine work to create a frenzied euphoric experience that provides energy, well-being and contentment, not to mention elevated levels of testosterone, which governs the sex drive. In addition, the combination of the neurochemicals also decrease serotonin levels, which could trigger obsessive thinking about the other person. John stated that “when people are in-love, their testosterone levels rise to atypical heights, only to return to their normal levels when the in-love ‘spell’ wears off.” John states this phase is marked more so by Lust than by Love, and that Lust seen in this manner is a “complete brain program” that ensures that we give Mother Nature the babies she needs to carry on our lineage to ward off extinction.

John pointed out that during this stage people are not prone to leave their partner. However, when the romance wears off and children “create a breach” into the primary relationship, and the other-worldly sex diminishes causing one to think he/she have “fallen out of love,” and if you have not established a solid sense of self to give to the other, what do you do? John stated this is when couples tend to experience post-romantic stress and may label their marriage as unhappy, with some couples”throwing away a good enough” marriage because they feel stuck and think they are incompatible with each other. John mentioned this is when other neurochemicals like Oxytocin and Vasopressin, neurochemicals that promote attachment and bonding, need to be facilitated and experienced, which helps the couple to do the necessary work of creating a strong relationship, which he spoke about in Part II of his book.

Part II: The “Work of Abiding Love: Building Your Attachment Program: John stated there are multiple tasks for the couple to address as they work toward building a strong relationship and marriage.

First, the couple needs to work on “growing up,” which includes “exorcizing your ‘hauntings’ by repairing your wounded inner child’s developmental dependency need deficits.” Among other tasks, during this stage the couple needs to learn how to argue effectively, which John said the Awareness Wheel (page 17) is really key to helping a couple to move past this part of their relationship “blockade.”

A second task for the couple is to “Transition to Independence,” which among other things means the couple will need to “work on their repair mechanism in general, while also focusing on enriching and/or salvaging their sex life in particular.” John states this is partially accomplished by implementing these behaviors (and others discussed extensively in the book) to repair a relationship:

  1. Use “I” messages and avoid “you” messages.
  2. Listen empathetically.
  3. Focus on one thing at a time.
  4. Edit yourself and omit nasty overtones.
  5. Tell your partner what you can and want to do rather than what you can’t and won’t do.
  6. Offer positive appreciation when possible.
  7. Practice easy to do “cherishing” behaviors.
  8. Call a “stop action” if emotional flooding is imminent.

Finally, as a way to enrich their sex life, John suggests that a couple talk in specific, concrete and in most cases, graphic detail regarding what arouses them during their lovemaking. Doing so helps to create an erotic love map where the chances of enjoying reciprocal pleasure are increased. He stated “think of it like having an itchy spot on your back. If you wanted them to scratch your itch, you would tell them what needed scratching and have them experiment until they found the exact spot.”

As mentioned earlier, there are many other rich and meaningful books that John has authored, and you could find them on his author page on Amazon, Health Communications Books (HCI) or at The Meadows bookstore, where John held a Senior Fellow position.


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