Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Science Behind Falling in LOVE: Can CHEMISTRY be Dangerous?

Helen Fisher of Rutgers University proposed 3 stages of love - lust, attraction and attachment. Each stage might be driven by different hormones and chemicals.

 I will be discussing these stages below and elaborating on how and why people become stuck in repetitive dysfunctional relationship patterns. Also, I will be sharing some MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUES to help you stay centered and grounded should you feel the CHEMISTRY is clouding your judgement.

People experience sex hormones in the first stage of love. Men experience an increase in testosterone and women experience an increase in estrogen

SECOND STAGE: Attraction
Often times in this stage people can not focus on anything else. They are stuck in the HONEYMOON stage usually infatuated with one another. The three NEUROTRANSMITTERS that are involved in this stage are dopamine, serotonin, and adrenalin.

When people fall in love it activates the stress response in your body and increases your blood levels and the stress hormone cortisol. People start to sweat, your heart beats faster and your mouth goes dry.

Scientist have examined the brains of couples who are in love and discovered they have high levels of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter that stimulates desire and reward. When this is triggered people experience an intense rush of pleasure. This has the same effect on the brain as COCAINE.

As a result of an increase in dopamine levels people experience an increase in energy, less need for sleep or food, and focused attention.

THIRD STAGE: Attachment
Attachment is the bond that keeps couples together. There are two hormones involved with attachment they are oxytocin and vasopressin.

Oxytocin is a bonding hormone which is released during sexual pleasure and child birth.

Vesopressin is another important hormone in long term committed relationship which scientist found is released after having sex.

People refer to the above science of falling in love as having“CHEMISTRY”. It is a scientifically proven chemical reaction we find ourselves experiencing when we are attracted to someone. Not everyone is attracted to the same person so you may find it odd that your friend may be head over heels for someone you have absolutely no attraction too.

LOVE ADDICTS are people who try and chase the chemical high in relationships. People end up becoming very addicted to the intensity of these kinds of relationships and when it starts to ware off they realize the person they were so in love with is not who they thought they were. Some people see a different side to their personality which becomes a big turn off for them leading to the demise of the relationship.

As mentioned above the DOPAMINE SURGE when you fall in love is as addictive as COCAINE. Often times people chase the high of this intense LOVE relationship going from one relationship to the next, never satisfied often feeling lonely, and not fully understanding why they can’t keep a relationship going. 

MOST IMPORTANTLY do not be fooled by the intensity of  this kind of "LOVE ADDICTED" relationship as a way to measure a healthy relationship. People believe they have to experience an intense high in order to be truly in love.  Those intense relationships end up not working in the long run because the HIGH can't last forever.

Freud talked about the REPETITION COMPULSION which is a repetitive pattern of dysfunctional relationships.  Once the person becomes mindful of the characteristics and behavior patterns they are falling in love with and are attracted to, they are better able to identify why they keep falling into this same dysfunctional relationship patterns. People can adapt healthier ways to cope with an awareness and understanding of the problem.   

Remember you can take control of this by stepping back from the situation. Do not let it overpower you as much as it may feel good. LOVE addicts get the same help as substance abusers. YOU can break the pattern and live a happier more fulfilling life for yourself.

Below are two MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUES to help you stay centered and grounded should you feel swept up in a LOVE addicted relationship.

Be Aware of Your Breath:
I am breathing in and I am breathing out.

In order to recognize your in breath as in breath, you have to bring your mind back to your breath.

Be aware of your out breath. I am breathing out

Follow you entire breath as you breathe in until the breath stops naturally and as you breathe out until the breath stops naturally. Do not force the breath. Relax as you follow the natural rhythm of your entire breath.

Being conscious of the breath so when the mind wonders off you can bring it back to the breath again.

Mindfulness means being conscious and aware of something. When you drink your tea mindfully, it’s called the mindfulness of drinking. When you walk mindfully, it’s called the mindfulness of walking. And when you breathe mindfully, that is the mindfulness of breathing.

Mindfulness of The Body: 
Breathing in, I am aware of my body. (Repeat)

Breathing out, I am aware of my body. (Repeat)

Body Scan is a way to bring the mind back to the body. Mind and body become one reality. When your mind is in your body, you are well-established in the here and the now. You are fully alive. 

Focussing one's attention on the present moment while calmly accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations can help in the recovery process when dealing with serious addiction or mental health problems.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Warrior I Yoga Pose: Increases Self Esteem, Self Discipline, Self confidence, and Self Worth

Why is the Warrior I pose called Virabhadrasana I?
The Warrior pose was created by the Hindu God Shiva to avenge his wife’s death. They say the demon, also known as Virabhadra, rose up from the ground with a sword raised up over head striking the very first Warrior I Pose.

Using Virabhadrasana I can help increase your self-esteem, self-discipline, personal power, and self-confidence. This pose opens up the Third Chakra also known as the SOLAR PLEXUS CHAKRA.

SOLAR PLEXUS CHAKRA which is the color yellow is located directly under the sternum has to do with personal power and helps with boundaries. There are energy draining entities out there ready to suck our energy leaving us feeling depleted. Placing your hand over this center can help protect against this happening.

Lessons in this Chakra are related to:


So many children and adolescence are bullied in school or in their neighborhoods. A child being bullied is a perfect example of someone robbed of their personal power with low self-esteem and a low sense of self-worth being the result. Children and adolescence who lack personal power are often too scared to stand up for themselves.


Many adults feel a lack of personal power as well. They often walk around feeling badly about themselves and have no sense of self-worth or self-confidence.

In order to help you increase your self-worth, self-discipline, self-confidence, and self-esteem, I have listed 10 steps to help you use the Warrior I pose to accomplish these goals.  Practicing this pose will help you restore a healthy sense of personal power within yourself.


Stand at the front of your mat with your feet hip width apart and your weight evenly distributed between them, your spine erect, and your arms at your sides.

Spread your legs three to four feet apart so that you are standing in a straddle pose with your hands at your thighs.

Turn your feet to the right so that the right foot turns to face directly toward the right side of the mat and the left foot turns 45 degrees toward the right side of mat.

Rotate your torso to the right, and try to square your hips toward the right side.

Bend your right knee at a 90 degree angle so your shin is perpendicular to the ground and centered over your foot.

With your palms together, reach your arms up, lifting your ribcage up from your pelvis as you lengthen your lower back. Keep your shoulder relaxed.

Look up at your thumbs or straight forward.

Hold the pose for 30 seconds or so as you breath deeply and smoothly, keeping your torso and hips turned facing the right leg.

Release the pose by pressing your left heel into the mat and straightening your right knee, then rotate your torso back to the center and drop your arms.

Repeat pose on left side, holding it for the same amount of time.

Warrior I is such a powerful pose. It helps in HEALING, CLEARING, and BALANCING your personal power center bringing an increase in self-esteem, self-discipline, self-confidence, and self-worth.



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

10 Steps in the Healing Process

10 Steps I use in My Practice to Help Assist Patients in Healing their Mind, Body, and Spirit.

1. Living in the Truth

2. Trust and have Faith in the process

3. Learn Mindfulness Techniques

4. Positive Thinking Strategies/ Affirmations

5. Identify what your needs, wants, and desires are

6. Learn how to communicate your thoughts and feelings effectively to significant others

7.Learn how to use Meditation Techniques and Prayer for deeper Healing

8.Eating whole foods and maintaining a balanced diet

9. Physical exercise

10. Yoga (Learn to do gentle yoga exercises not just for physical health but to enhance a feeling of peace, calm, joy, and happiness in the mind)

So much more detail goes into each step which I will not be discussing here. This is a good framework to start from when evaluating your level of health.  Remember that each person is different and some steps will be more challenging for some than others.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Stress Reaction and Mindfulness

Stress Reaction and Mindfulness

Understanding how a stressed out nervous system can effect your mind, body, and spirit.

When we perceive something to be a threat either actual or perceived the hypothalamus and pituitary glands send an ALARM to the adrenal glands.

The biological basis to this system starts in the HYPOTHALAMUS and the PITUITARY GLANDS. 
These two things try to maintain homeostasis in the body. 
Some things they help regulate are:
blood pressure
heart rate

The adrenal glands play a part in keeping the body in homeostasis as well. However, this is the part of the body that can set off the ALARM system so we can fight or flight in a situation that is too threatening.  This process activates the SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM. Many of us live in a very sympathetic nervous system state. 

What happens to our bodies when we live here is that our bodies start to break down. Too much external stress leads to internal dis ease in the body.
nervous system
immune system

This then can lead to MALADAPTIVE coping. A lot of people end up trying to cope with all this stress by engaging in destructive behaviors:

Then what happens is the body starts breaking down even more and people may start to feel:
physical and psychological exhaustion
Loss of Drive
Heart Attack
Genetic Predisposition

Practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, exercise, eating healthy whole foods can help to relieve the body of all this stress. By practicing this you are activating the PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM which naturally works at calming the body down. When the body is under too much stress it can not do this very natural thing. 

By changing your thoughts and practicing mindfulness, meditation, as well as yoga, you activate the healing chemicals in your body. These chemicals not only heal your body and mind, they also heal the very ESSENCE of you. They heal the very SPIRIT and SOUL that lives within in you.
You can HEAL your mind, body, and spirit by the thoughts you choose to think.

"Be HAPPY everyday
Saturate your mind in 
and you will
~Melissa Samartano

Dr. Melissa Samartano, PhD.,LMHC
Holistic Counseling Center
Raynham, MA 02767
Cell# 401-263-1599
Office# 508-819-0441

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What is the difference between a PSYCHOPATH and a SOCIOPATH?

So many people use these words interchangeably when talking about people who commit heinous crimes. The question always comes up in conversation: What is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath? 

They are  both under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorder in the DSM 5. The distinct difference is that sociopaths can have attachments to people and CAN (not always) feel guilty after they have committed heinous crimes.  Psychopaths feel little to no  guilt or remorse and feel no attachment to others. 

Differences between psychopathy and sociopathy, aside from origin, have been cited. The capacity to feel attachment and empathy towards another and to feel guilt and shame after doing something wrong is not associated with psychopathy; however it is suggested that sociopaths can emotionally attach to others, and feel badly when they hurt those individuals that they are attached to. The sociopath will still lack empathy and attachment toward the greater society and will not feel guilt in harming a stranger, or rebelling against laws, but does not lack empathy entirely, as is typical with the psychopath.
Therefore, both psychopaths and sociopaths are capable of committing heinous crimes; however, the psychopath would commit crimes against family members or “friends” (as well as strangers) and feel little to no remorse.
The last main difference between psychopathy and sociopathy is in the presentation. The psychopath is callous, yet charming. He or she will con and manipulate others with charisma and intimidation and can effectively mimic feelings to present as “normal” to society. The psychopath is organized in their criminal thinking and behavior, and can maintain good emotional and physical control, displaying little to no emotional or autonomic arousal, even under situations that most would find threatening or horrifying.  The psychopath is keenly aware that what he or she is doing is wrong, but does not care.
Conversely, the sociopath is less organized in his or her demeanor; he or she might be nervous, easily agitated, and quick to display anger. A sociopath is more likely to spontaneously act out in inappropriate ways without thinking through the consequences. Compared to the psychopath, the sociopath will not be able to move through society committing callous crimes as easily, as they can form attachments and often have “normal temperaments.” The sociopath will lie, manipulate and hurt others, just as the psychopath would, but will often avoid doing so to the select few people they care about, and will likely feel guilty should they end up hurting someone they care about.
So, while these two terms seem interchangeable on the surface because they share many of the same characteristics, they are more like two sides of the same coin. Looking at the differences may seem futile; however, looking at psychopathy and sociopathy as different constructs may prove to be helpful in understanding the etiology of these disorders, and in the development of effective treatment methods.
Hare, R.D. (1993). Without conscience: The disturbing world of psychopaths among us. New York: Pocket Books.
Stout, M. (2005). The sociopath next door: The ruthless versus the rest of us. New York: Broadway Books.
Walsh, A., & Wu, H.H. (2008). Differentiating antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy, and sociopathy: Evolutionary, genetic, neurological, and sociological considerations. Criminal Justice Studies, 2, 135-152.

Dr. Melissa Samartano, PhD.,LMHC
Cell# 401-263-1599
Office# 508-819-0441

Friday, March 27, 2015


APRIL 20th - JUNE 15
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, involves meditative exercises to increase awareness in the present.  By increasing mindful attention, we are able to exert greater self-control and lessen the impact of stress in our lives.  This course includes guided meditation, group discussion, readings, gentle yoga and stretching, in addition to some individualized support sessions.  Assignments, weekly readings, class participation, and daily home practice are required. 
 The course consists of a mandatory orientation and weekly two-hour classes for eight weeks. 

Please contact Melissa if you are interested

Dr. Melissa Samartano, PhD.,LMHC
Holistic Counseling Center
Raynham, MA 02767
Cell# 401-263-1599
Office# 508-819-0441

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

SEATED SPINAL TWIST: An effective way to relax the mind, body, & spirit


This asana pose is very effective when working with children, adolescents, and adults who suffer from panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. It is also useful when working with people who suffer from PTSD. It helps calm down the central nervous system by activating the parasympathetic nervous system which helps the body calm down and feel more relaxed.

1. This pose is very rejuvenating because we are twisting and messaging the internal organs in the abdominal area.

2. It helps improve our digestive system

3. It helps relieve stress in the belly and hip area.

4. It helps relieve back pain and neck pain. 


1. Sit in a comfortable seated position (Indian style is fine) you may want to sit on a blanket or pillow so your knees can relax.

2. Shoulders should be down and away from ears.

3. Crown of head lifts to the sky

4. Muscles should be engaged in the stomach so back is nice and flat.

5. Sink glutes down into mat and raise head up to sky.


6. So many of us breath from our chest which is not good because we are never getting a full breath which helps the body relax. A full belly breath helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system so the body can feel calm and relaxed.

7. What I would like you to do is start flowing in and out of the twist from side to side which is a great warm up and then we can transition into the pose.

8. Inhale staying centered and then as we exhale turn. On the twist you want to put your right hand and place it on the outside of the opposite knee. So bring your right hand across to the outside of left knee. 

9. Then turn the torso to the side and left hand can rest on the floor right below the shoulder. You can use you fingertips if your hand does not feel comfortable flat on the floor. 

10. Then continue and inhale center and exhale on the twist. 

11. If you would like to deepen the stretch you can turn all the way around placing your hand behind your tailbone looking behind you trying to get your chin over your shoulder. Do NOT force your body into the twist more than it wants to go. Hold for 3-5 breath and repeat on the other side. 

12. On your last exhale close your eyes and come back to center noticing the work you have done on both sides of your body.