Dreams have been described as dress rehearsals for real life, opportunities to gratify wishes, and a form of nocturnal therapy. A new theory aims to make sense of it all.
Verified by Psychology Today
Intimacy and Desire
Posted May 27, 2011
I can mostly follow your theory, but this blog post could use some examples.
Can you discuss how the two approaches would work in the following situations that are all two common in the family:
a. a strong difference in opinion, creating emotional distance, between the two married partners re allowing their 11 year old son to get a Facebook account; a difference in opinion that has dominated the family dynamic at the dinner table for some weeks, now.
b. a strong difference in opinion, leading to emotional distance, over the degree of desire for sex between the two partners in how much sex should be one of the cornerstones of the couple. For one of the partners, it's something s/he wants every day, and masturbation doesn't cut it. For the other partner, once a week or every two weeks is really just fine, and that partner feels no gap.
Thanks for helping me do a better job of explaining these really important issues.
First off, you’re sizing up your situation in a conventional way, consistent with attachment-based therapy. In both situations, you’re thinking strong differences of opinion create “emotional distance,” meaning partners are “out of connection” and the solution is to get “closer together.” In actually, you and your partner are emotionally fused, locked into each other, feeling controlled by each other.
In both cases you’re describing what I call “emotional gridlock,” a natural and inevitable development in committed relationships: The position your partner takes blocks what you want to do, and vice versa. Gridlock most often occurs in areas of relationships which require forced-choice decisions. The four main areas of emotional gridlock are sex, money, parenting, and in-laws, because you can’t “agree to disagree.” That’s why it’s not surprising your questions involve two of them.
Now, you can’t have emotional gridlock and “emotional distance” at the same time. Yes, you and your partner feel emotionally alienated, angry at each other, rejected, unappreciated, and disrespected among other things. These are not signs of emotional distance, there signs of emotional FUSION—you and your partner’s feelings are interlocked. How you feel about yourselves strongly hinges on how you think your partner (and your son) sees you. Being right, not being one-down, and not giving in have become all important. When one of you feels like you’re getting what you want, the other feels unhappy. That wouldn’t happen if you and your partner were miles apart. These are signs you’ve become one fused emotional unit.
The Facebook issue has stopped being about what’s appropriate for your son. It’s really about who’s going to defer to who, who has final authority when you disagree, saving face in front of your son, etc. These issues involve both partners being dependent on getting a positive reflected sense of self from each other. You won’t productively decide about Facebook until you deal with these underlying issues directly.
Attachment-based therapy says the solution is you and your partner should soothe each other and make each other feel valued (“co-regulation”). In other words, if you make nice everything will be fine. This overlooks that fact that you and your partner are angry at each other, these are forced-choice decisions, and you feel like your self-worth and integrity are on the line.
Differentiation-based therapy says you need to become more emotionally autonomous. You need to soothe your ruffled feathers, get hold of your irritation, calm yourself down, and stop taking your partner’s behavior personally. This is an opportunity to get over your dependence on other people’s approval and acceptance. You need to validate yourself as a parent. This doesn’t mean you’re automatically right, or things should be done your way. It means if you know you’re a good parent and your points about Facebook are cogent, then you don’t have to be outraged when your partner won’t listen to you or says outrageous things. If the Facebook issue is ostensibly about you both being concerned parents, then be concerned about what your son sees at the dinner table: This is about the two of you and he’s getting lost in the shuffle.
Once you digest this, you’re more likely to stay focused on what’s really important, and stop over-reacting to your partner’s over-reactions. It would be nice if your partner did this too, but you can’t count on it. You have to do this unilaterally; otherwise you’re stuck (emotionally fused). If you do unhook from your partner and get yourself under control, you’ll feel better, your partner is more likely to come around, and there’s more room take each other’s perspective into account. Even though a Facebook page is a “yes-no” decision, you can put conditions on the use of it that take each other’s concerns into account.
This will allow you to feel closer together and warmer towards each other. If this happens, it will come about because you are less emotionally fused and more emotionally autonomous, getting control of your own feelings instead of needing your partner to “regulate” you by deferring to you (or vice versa). Parenting is a classic example of interdependence, and when the first order of business is parents getting the validation they need, parenting is ALWAYS a mess. When parents can regulate their own emotions, feelings, and sense of self, then parenting decisions can be based on what their kids need.
Sexual desire disparity conflicts fit all the above points. What you’ve described isn’t “sexual incompatibility” or “irreconcilable differences,” it’s a natural, normal, and potentially productive development that occurs in virtually all relationships. This isn’t about differences in “libido,” it’s caused by battles of differentiation: You want to be with the other, and you want to be your own person too. The issues are similar to Facebook, but far more intricate and require more sophisticated discussion than is possible here. This is what my book “Intimacy and Desire” is all about. It offers the first explanation why normal healthy people have sexual desire problems. It goes into great detail about sexual desire and differentiation, and offers an in-depth case example in each chapter. Part of what makes “Intimacy and Desire” so popular is what you’ll learn there about solving sexual desire problems will help you with parenting and virtually every aspect of your life.
You can read more about Intimacy and Desire here (http://www.amazon.com/Intimacy-Desire-Awaken-Passion-Relationship/dp/0825305675/ref=sr_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1306506165&sr=1-1).
Another helpful article, “Normal Healthy Couples Have Sexual Desire Problems” is posted here (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/intimacy-and-desire/201105/normal-healthy-couples-have-sexual-desire-problems).
Also, consider the Passionate Marriage Couples Enrichment Weekend, July 22-24, 2011 in Denver Colorado, which focuses on the kinds of issues you’re raising here. More details are available here (http://crucible4points.com/couples-enrichment-weekends-0).
Your response to those real life examples is extremely helpful. You wrote at great length and with great specificity. It took time. It's appreciated, and I'm sure not just by me.
I am still extremely appreciative of the time and energy you are putting of late into responses to your blog comments. Not every PT blogger does this; I wish they all would. It makes the blogs ever so much more interesting.
Having had a chance to think in depth about your response to my two examples, I can't help but wonder whether one is falling into the trap of the so-called Fundamental Attribution Error. Everyone's favorite conservative columnist, David Brooks in the NYT, wrote a bit about this a few weeks back. He summed up the FAT by saying that is the tendency to ascribe conduct to flaws in character, instead of to context or situation. Change the context, and the difficulty goes away.
Now, context/situation is more easily changed in some arenas than others.
In the Facebook example, for example, maybe the problem isn't that the couple isn't sufficiently differentiated. It's that neither has yet had the inspiration to see a solution both can live with. It feels to me like the problem isn't Facebook itself, it's the effect Facebook will have on the 11 year old's life. So sign a contract with the kid. Let's do Facebook as an experiment. Start slow: a half-hour every two days. Schoolwork must be kept up. Family life must be kept up, etc. Fall down on those things? Facebook stops til age 12, when we'll try again.
Voila. It's not a question of fusion, here. It's a question of situation and solution.
The sexual difficulty example is different, though I'm not at all convinced that a person's "character" is set and that Person "A" will have the same sexual frustrations at e.g. year eight of their marriage no matter whether she's married to Mr. B, Mr. C, or Mr. D. That is, the difficulties are all ascribable to a character that overfuses.
No doubt, your prescription makes sense in a certain way. Forgive the reductionism here, it does a disservice to your deep thinking and experience in the area, but it does feel like it boils down to this: You're not going to change your partner, so buck up and learn to self-soothe. Maybe if you learn to buck up and self-soothe, and your partner does the same, your sex lives will improve. If so, great. If not, you'll have grown as a person.
Then, you can decide -- if the sex still isn't working -- as a grown person whether it's worth staying in the marriage or not.
One more time: I hope every PT reader, and the PT editorial board, recognizes how truly fantastic it is that you're so engaged on your comments boards. Readers are profiting hugely. Keep up the amazing work!
Thank you for your message. There seems to be two distinct aspects to your post, the first is theoretical/conceptual and the other is personal/practical. I’ll respond in that order with two separate replies so it’s easier to read.
It’s interesting to watch you try out an alternative conceptualization for the Facebook problem: Fundamental Attribution Error, mistakenly ascribing conduct to character flaws instead of context or situation. Change the context and Viola, (supposedly) the difficulty goes away. I’ll comment directly on the Facebook problem in the second reply. Here let's focus on a problem all couples (and parents) face: how to decide on how best to see things. I wasn’t kidding when I spoke of a national health crisis caused by mistaken ideas.
So, for the moment, let’s say FAT is the best way to approach Facebook. Then you try to apply this to sex and you’re stuck. It doesn’t really work well for you. You’re correct, it doesn’t work for predicting what Person “A” will do sexually, and once you ascribe this to situation or character you’re done. Try telling Person "A" this is a FAT situational problem and she ought to start looking for Mr. C or D. On the other hand, try telling Person “A” the reason she doesn’t want to have sex with Mr. B (or C or D) is because she has a character flaw. Neither of these alternatives is really helpful. (Limited differentiation is not a character flaw, it’s a common lack of personal development.)
So if you go with FAT for Facebook, you need an additional approach for handling sexual issues. And, if you want any consist philosophy or principles in how you live your life, whatever this “approach to sex” is, it better line up with FAT. Then, look at all the concepts you’ve had to invoke to cope with your life: FAT, character flaws, context/situation, inspiration, plus the pantheon of presumptions involved in whatever the sexual magic bullet turns out to be.
Be sure to try on for size the attachment view of your situation—maybe the problem is that you and your partner have an insecure attachment. And if the two of you were more firmly and securely attached, more “safe and secure,” and you weren’t so worried about “fears of abandonment,” then you and your mate would be solving your Facebook problem lickity-split. And once you solved that, your sexual problems will be a breeze. Or maybe if you two were more securely attached, you’d lick the problem about frequency of licking, and your concern about Facebook’s effect on your 11 year old child will subside.
Let’s say this solves your sex problems (although I wouldn’t bet on it). The probability this also solves your Facebook problem is pretty slim. So let’s say you and your partner devote yourself to becoming more securely attached to fix your sex, and you use FAT to solve Facebook. Do these two things really fit together. Do they have compatible basic assumptions? Nope. FAT says the problem is the situation not the people—you should focus on changing the situation. Attachment-based therapy says that your situation may be stimulating attachment issues that both people carry, but the issue is the people and not the situation—you should focus on changing the people and their relationship.
Unfortunately, people often pull together a crazy-quilt hodge-podge of ill fitting ideas that may be interesting in themselves, but there is no consistency to problem solving or developing core principles by which to live one’s life. Aside from this encouraging no integrity (read: integration), and mutually-contradictory values or principles that interfere with a lasting solution, what happens when you try to equip your 11 year old with ideas and wisdom to guide his/her life? If he/she doesn’t see the contradictions in his/her parents’ teachings, your kid’s in trouble. And if he/she does see what you’re teaching doesn’t hang together, your child isn’t really that much better off.
Then consider the many different situations and problems in other posts in this thread. Try applying FAT to people whose parents beat them or pressured them to be childhood beauty queens (like Jon Bennett Ramsey) or piano prodigies, parents who pandered their children, stole their glory and sold them out. Maybe the problem was the situation: The kid was too pretty or too gifted at piano, the lime-light was too seductive, and these parents just couldn’t resist. If they had a less talented kid, they wouldn’t have prostituted their offspring. For others, maybe if the kid wasn’t as strong willed or as able to mind-map the parents, the parents wouldn’t have beaten them. Maybe if a daughter hadn’t been so buxom and the wife wasn’t so obese, the father wouldn’t have had sex with the daughter (This is so unpalatable it’s hard to write it. But I hear things like this from some clients.) FAT is awful when applied in these situations.
Try the attachment view: These parents did terrible things because they themselves came from terrible homes. Let’s say you research these parents’ backgrounds and, indeed, they came from bad parents. Did this cause them to do what they did? Even if it did, is this the best way to approach these parents? Or their children (who are participating in this thread)?
With this background, look at the power of a differentiation-based approach. The basic principle of science is parsimony: When faced with alternative explanations for phenomena, you accept the simplest explanation that accounts for the widest amount of data. The beauty of the differentiation approach is it works equally well with Facebook, sex, parental usury, parental abuse, and everything in this thread. All this has come from one rich and elegant statement, “People who can’t control themselves control the people around them.” There’s no discontinuity between using this in your dining room, bedroom, office, place of worship, and understanding your family of origin. A differentiation-based approach covers them all handily (in my experience).
Most of us like to think our problems are situational. Voila, change the situation and we don’t have to grow up. But your problem could still be FAT. I suggest you look at this scientifically: If you and your partner only lock horns over Facebook, you respect him, he respects you, you listen to each other and maintain a collaborative alliance on virtually all other things, THEN Facebook might well be a FAT situational problem. If so, sign the contract and your problem is solved. I’d suggest refining contact details with your partner to include editorial guidelines for your child, and an agreement between parents on page monitoring duties.
You also consider the idea that the Facebook problem isn't lack of differentiation, it's “neither [partner] has yet had the inspiration to see a solution both can live with.” (What follows is said softly and meant as thanks for your support.)
If this is indeed the problem, exactly as you state it, then I would say this is INDEED a lack of differentiation. Poorly differentiated people need to be “inspired” to do what’s right. Well-differentiated people do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do, because their integrity is on the line if they turn a “blind eye,” and because they maintain their collaborative alliance with their children (even when they want to poke their spouse in the eye).
Poorly differentiated parents think the issue is what THEY can live with. What about what their child is living with? I’m not pointing to repeated disappointing experiences, or being embarrassed by/for his parents, or being unable to be proud of them. The dinner table scene probably involves intense “moments of meeting” during which your child is anxious and mapping your and your partner’s minds. Experts in interpersonal neurobiology think these conditions heighten neural brain wiring, plus this is occurring at a time in your son’s life where his brain is wiring like mad. The (mis)wiring that may be occurring at these moments is not good.
This appreciation of negative brain-wiring experiences in everyday family life is sorely lacking. The brain wires through repetition, and these daily “small scenes” probably shape our children’s brains and minds more than a single block-buster traumatic event.
My mentioning this is not intended to “inspire” the part of you and your partner that needs “inspiration.” It would be a shame if you did the right thing for the wrong reason. I don’t want to beat the drum that you’re “damaging” your kid, because that doesn't get the best in you to stand up. The best in you wants to give your child a wonderful send-off into life. The best in you doesn’t wait until you’re damaging him “too much.” I don’t presume to know you, but your two posts suggest you are someone who’s got some “best” in her or him.
I couldn’t summarize my message better than you wrote it: “You're not going to change your partner, so buck up and learn to self-soothe. Maybe if you learn to buck up and self-soothe, and your partner does the same, your sex lives will improve. If so, great. If not, you'll have grown as a person. Then, you can decide -- if the sex still isn't working -- as a grown person whether it's worth staying in the marriage or not.” You get it.
I spend my days with couples who start off wanting to solve their problems with Viola. You don’t need Viola. You merit BRAVO! That was wonderful. I don’t think you’re just paraphrasing me. This sounds like important self-talk.
I would add something to your self-talk that tweaks the tone a little: This is your best option if things go great or if they don’t. But do it to be kind to yourself, give the best in you a chance to stand up. You have that “best,” your kid needs to see it, and your partner probably wants to make love to it. (I understand you may be withholding it.) Why not be good to all concerned?
Thank you for your initial and final efforts to capture the attention of PT readers and PT editorial board. I’d appreciate your (and other readers’) help in doing this effectively. This article and discussion thread appeared for a day in the coveted “Most Read” section on the PT front page right hand side. It briefly reached as high as #2. “Most Read” articles catch readers’ attention long after the article scrolls of the front page, and the easy-access Hot Topic is dead and gone.
Far less useful articles (in my humble opinion) replaced this one because “Most Read” calculations seem heavily driven by StumbleUpon, Facebook, and Twitter numbers, and not just views on PT. According to StumbleUpon, 70% of registered users are age 18 to 35, and this demographic apparently drives what readers see in “Most Read.” At the moment Most Read #1 is “Social and sexual scenarios with students: What would you do.” And #4 is “Marijuana, Sleep and Dreams.”
Your help keeping this in the public’s attention would be most gratefully appreciated. If you are a Stumbler, or have a Facebook page, or you Twitter, please “Like” or “Tweet” or “Stumble” or email from the bottom of the article’s main page (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/intimacy-and-desire/201105/people-who-cant-control-themselves-control-the-people-around-them--1)
It's sort of off-topic, but one of the reasons that many people won't "like" or "stumble" is that then Facebook et. al. can gather that information about you for their algorithm, and then feed you similar information in display ads, search results, etc. I think that those of us over 35 have a more private attitude about our online lives than our younger friends. Not better. Just more private. And that's a subject for another post, when you get bored with all this psychology stuff. :)
Thank you for this insight. I figured “over 35” were unlikely to like / tweet/ stumble from being unfamiliar with these things (like me). You note sophisticated ‘over 35’ who want privacy (as I do) are also less likely to participate. Taken together, it looks like “18 to 35” will control the face of PT as we know it.
This now becomes an interesting experiment. “People who can’t control themselves…” leads into a series of articles about how sexual relationships operate. Are “18 to 35” interested in sex in love relationships, or just sex, drugs, and rock and roll? We’ll find out.
Hope both my responses are helpful to you. All this psychology stuff is my life's work.
I agree completely with your approach and your advice. Before I went to therapy I was a very "co-regulating" person and my relationships always suffered. It is no wonder I was like that, because my parents (mom especially) was very dependent on my dad's feelings for her own security. She would do more and more for us and my father, and took such good care of us,I feel like her whole identity got swallowed up by her care. It sounds so ungrateful, but I wish she would have been a more independent person. She is so much better now, but she is almost 60, and has had her share of heartbreak. Anyway, my therapist worked on my insecure attachment issues with me, and my extreme fear of abandonment, and I am sooooo much better off for it. But let me tell you something...NOTHING has been more uncomfortable than that! No one likes to feel like a basket case and like they are manipulative, so when I saw how I had been behaving I was so ashamed! They pain of learning to self soothe is quite fierce when you are new at it. But, the pains are growing pains! I am not perfect at it yet, but posts like these help so much! One piece of advice for the nay-sayers/skeptics (or people that think they ALREADY self-soothe)...try it! I thought I was a strong, independent woman and that I was having problems because (secretly) I had a partner that wasn't strong enough to deal with me, or that they were somewhat inferior in some way (and they should be SO GRATEFUL to have me because of it)... but what I really was, was VERY good at manipulating others, and my "strength" was just superior verbal skills I used for belittling my partner so much that he thought he was always wrong!
I do have one problem with the sex/desire issue Anonymous is having in the first few posts... I am getting quite tired of sexual desire being measured against MEN'S standards. It seems that everywhere I turn I see examples of men's sexual desire standards, and how women aren't measuring up. I think this is just part and parcel of being in a patriarchal society, but since we are all working toward more equality in the world, we would so well to recognize this bias. That being said, desire differences should be addressed, but not in a way that makes the woman feel like she should "fix" herself, because her man is waiting. It is just so sexist. Here are a few great posts from PT that I thought were quite refreshing to read regarding sexual desire....
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Dr Schnarch, thank you so much for this explanation above. My husband and I are having so many problems and while I've read lots and we've seen two counsellors, we're not making headway. However, what you have explained about emotional fusion seems so much closer to what our issues are about.
Can you explain more about "unhooking" and becoming more emotionally autonomous please? I feel so vulnerable even thinking about unhooking from the things that are important to me when it comes to parenting. I feel I have to defend my ground and of course this makes me very defensive. I wonder if I would be so defensive if my partner and my views weren't at polar extremes.
You know what I realized? I've read your book, Passionate Marriage, and read a lot of things online you have to say. I've read parts out loud to my husband since he won't pick up a book or look into anything about increasing intimacy or closeness himself or try to understand me personally himself, like most men will do nothing to have a deeper connection with their wife on their own until she abandons ship. The part in that book where you talk about your wife "screwing up" is totally appalling and immature, as if you're so desperate to keep her tainted with your own fucked up in vain of a life that you literally cannot stay focused on your self as you did the rest of the book but have to try to paint her in a bad light. I realized you are so fucking wrong about everything. I don't devalue myself because my husband doesn't cater to my whims, or because he is so unappreciative that I sometimes break down and cry myself to sleep. I very much care about myself and know he is a manchild I would be better off without. There is a actually a right and a wrong in every situation, and sometimes our relationships reflect that, and if the other person behaves badly we have to either walk away and suffer because we want to see our commitments through and thus fail ourselves by leaving, or stay and let them fuck up, and suffer because they are also fucking up our life. The "home" within ourselves we always protect. It has zero to do with emotional "fusion" in an unhealthy manner. It is not unhealthy to have and try to maintain standards. It's totally disgusting you felt the need to write "everyone loved our confessions" as if that matters. No one cares if your marriage sucks or survives. You aren't special. No one wants to read about a bunch of fictional patients' revved sex lives you imagined coming from your imagined sessions, which, by the way, weren't even that great. Me and my 23 yr old husband were having crazier, more intimate sex than the couples described when we'd just gotten married and still do three years later. Eyes open and barely moving because it's still electric. I feel bad for your wife. She deserves someone not so into himself that he had to write a 300+ page book to remind himself to appreciate her/himself. Getting out of sync because someone isn't growing up or giving the affection they should be to their spouse isn't being "fused" or dependent on the other. Let me tell you, when you got upset because your wife wasn't marching that mountain the same speed as you and you left her to her own pace, she got LONELY. Probably mad and sad. Probably fantasized about the guy she befriended or worked with beforehand that was much nicer to and interested in her personally. The one that doesn't try to drag her down with him in his own selfish fuck-up of a life. The one that owns his own mistakes like a man and sees his spouse for the perfect untouchable beauty she is. That's what maturity is. It's realizing that it's not "emotional gridlock" when your partner is selfish and refusing to be understanding or grounded or mature enough to decide things with you as a life partner and parent. Sometimes two people just aren't good life partners because they aren't. Feelings or ego aren't the first factor. Identity is.
I know this is an old comment, but I just had to get in here and say “you go!” People overcomplicate things. Sometimes you’re just married to a “taker” with an ungrateful heart who doesn’t think he needs to expend one ounce of energy being loving and kind. Or avoiding saying whatever nasty thing comes to mind. There’s no amount of self-soothing and independence that’s going to make that relationship anything other than miserable pretty quickly, no matter how strong and independent you are.
Can u advice me some changes in my daily life to achieve emotional autonomy! i generally lose my temper if people around me dont behave according to my way....the way which i think is correct! if somebody say something against my way ...i feel insulted! Though i keep on saying in my head that it alright and it doesn't matter...but i cant get it out of my heart..and keep thinking about it!
Here’s my advice, offered in a gentle voice with respect:
Stop selling yourself short every day. Your response indicates you’re not so blind you believe your own B.S. The problem isn’t that you can’t get it out of your heart and mind, it’s that you allow yourself to act like you don’t have much of either one.
You obviously have some depth with the potential for much more. Your response starts with you confronting yourself about what you’re doing, so you already have the ability. You know right from wrong. You know you depend on a reflected sense of self and accommodation/regulation from others. You understand “people who can’t control themselves control the people around them.” What’s standing in your way now is self-indulgence or self-deprivation, depending on how you look at it.
Why not be nice to yourself, believe in yourself, and hold yourself accountable to be the person you could be. It would be a gift to everyone else. Not only would you remove a pain in the ass from their lives, all of us would be grateful to have a person like that around us.
yeah I would like more examples as well Are you talking about being over emotional about things or figuring out when things should be let go? What do you fight for and what do you let go? Emotions are a part of life there is no way around them so how to you know you should listen to them and when not to? And should we not take this a step further and just tell people before they get married that they should really get to know the person they are with instead of thinking later they can control them emotionally(i call it emotional munipulation) to get what they want. I think that if your truly with a person who complements you there is less need for emotional munipulation.
These are good questions.
If you insist on having your way, sometimes phrased as “don’t try to change me,” then it’s true that finding a person who complements you requires less emotional manipulation. There’s always the option of developing more ability to hold onto yourself so you can make room in your relationship for your partner. That’s what emotional autonomy offers.
We definitely should tell people they shouldn’t expect to change a partner—but it won’t change the partner-changers. People don’t change their partner because of an idea, they tamper with their partner out of necessity. The first chapter of my book, Passionate Marriage, is entitled “No one’s ready for marriage, marriage makes you ready for marriage.” Some lesions we can’t learn in advance, in part, because we don’t want to. Committed relationships push us to grow up, because everyone’s happiness is on the line.
Knowing when to follow your feelings, when to contain them, what to fight for, when to let go—these are critical parts of self-regulation and emotional autonomy. The only way you learn this is by confronting yourself—keeping an eye on yourself—about whether the best in you or the worst in you is running the show and making decisions. You could do any one of these four options from the worst in you, or from the best in you, and when it’s done from the worst in you, all four options are the wrong choice.
From an anecdotal/story-telling POV this is a pleasant heuristic model. However, is there both theory and experimental evidence to back-up this model?
Of course, there are brain processes underlying all this. It would also be helpful to have some anthropological/ethnographic evidence. What parallels are there in other animals?
We are also less interested in verbal-behavior than physical behavior. Would be great to see experiments or descriptions based on the kinds of behaviors outlined. Much work to do.
If you were familiar with my work, you wouldn't be interpreting this as anecdotal story-telling or a pleasant model. You have me confused with attachment-based therapy, which offers a pleasant heuristic model. Crucible Therapy is among the most hard-hitting adult, realistic, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is approaches available today. This is not just a model, it is tied to a faced-paced therapy based on collaborative confrontation that walks clients into the difficult issues they've been avoiding. It is based on the natural ecology of love relationships (i.e., how relationship REALLY work), whereas anyone can make up a story they want to illustrate their idealistic picture of how relationships SHOULD work (which is what attachment-based therapy does.)
There is at least thirty years of work in differentiation theory. Development was based on experimental evidence, and research continues to date. Therapists and researches have been using one particular differentiation scale for over a decade, and we are about to publish what we feel is a superior instrument (Crucible Differentiation Scale) in the professional Journal of Marriage & Family Therapy. This was pilot-tested on over 4000 people.
The Passionate Marriage Couples Enrichment Weekend (Denver Colorado, July 22, 23, 24, 2011), based on precepts in this post, has been proven affective when independently evaluated by two major universities. ((http://crucible4points.com/couples-enrichment-weekends-0). Moreover, two pilot intervention programs with domestic violence batterers and poverty-level parents have shown promising empirical results.
Underlying brain processes as well as anthropological/ethnographic evidence are covered in my latest book, “Intimacy & Desire.” Although it is written for the general public and easy to understand, it was designed from the outset to be a ‘crossover book’ like my previous one, “Passionate Marriage.” “Intimacy & Desire” is used by therapists around the world (who recommend it to clients) and in university courses. Technical discussions occur in the end notes for those who want this, including 150+ references to original scientific studies and a textbook-type index for ease of access. None of this clutters the easy read the average reader wants.
If you are interested in physical behavior and not just talk, this approach is for you. Thirty years of sex therapy experience is woven into “Intimacy & Desire” and you can’t get more physical or practical than that. The trouble with attachment-based therapy is its forte is talking about feelings, but it doesn’t line up with how sex operates in committed relationships. For what it’s worth I’m about to give an invited plenary address at the World Congress of Sexology describing this approach. That doesn’t happen for anecdotal storytelling.
If you want additional discussion about the topics raised in your post, check out my professional-level exchanges with attachment-based therapists at http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog-communities/p004/viewpost/1294_P004_Attachment_Session_4_David_Schnarch.
We appreciate that people are buying these programs and paying for treatment, however, is there peer-reviewed evidence of efficacy that can be cited?
Freudian therapy proceeded for countless amounts of money and decades with no evidence-basis. Now with brain science we no longer need to rely on folklore no matter how popular or professionally promoted.
The emphasis in the post and comments on promotion suggest more of a commercial focused than science-based activity. That's fine but not medically-based.
A collection of studies and theories does not offer proof of efficacy for the specific therapies/seminars/instructional materials. Nor does the fact that people buy them.
I appreciate your skeptical attitude. It should be obvious from this post I often have one myself. I also appreciate your demand for empirical evidence, as I expect this from myself as well as other clinicians. But some of your expectations may be a little premature.
I appreciate you making to me the same point I wrote about the article: The fact that people buy services or an idea is popular is by no means proof their efficacy or validity. It applies to me like anyone else, and it can't be said too many times.
No we don't have double-blind experimental evidence. If that is your criterion you basically need to demand the entire psychotherapy industry shut down. Virtually no approach has this. There are one or two, like cognitive-behavior therapy, but here you run into a problem: The approaches that are simple to manualize and research may not ultimately prove to be the most effective or sophisticated. They are just the first to jump through this all-important hoop.
Developing the Crucible Differentiation Scale took four years. It's a crucial first step towards double-blind research. Publication in Journal of Marriage & Family Therapy is peer-reviewed.
No one's going to pull the wool over your eyes. You're entirely correct that collections of studies and theories don't prove the efficacy of specific therapies/seminars/instructional materials. But double-blind studies don't prove the efficacy of therapy delivered by your local therapist who says they use that approach. "Point of service" efficacy research is a ways off from becoming standard in the industry.
However, our Passionate Marriage Couples Enrichment Weekend does to have outcome research demonstrating its efficacy. You may have overlooked this in my reply to you. This independent research was peer-reviewed by faculty advisers, research committees, and human subjects panels in accredited academic institutions. We never saw the raw data and were not involved in its analysis or interpretation.
You are correct we are a for-profit institution. What makes us unusual is we are more involved in evaluation and research than most practitioners. You're mistaken if you think hospital-based (medical based?) mental health services have the kind of outcome evidence you seek (but which all programs should ultimately have). You recognize the promising future of brain-based efficacy studies, but greatly over-estimate it is a practical reality today. I can't wait for the day this happens, but you and I will have to contain our impatience. The day when clinicians test the efficacy of their work by putting people in brain scanners, and consumers can use this in purchasing services, is not on this (or next) year's calendar.
Labeling questions about/the questioner of evidence by attributing an attitude (personalizing), like skepticism, is a standard default of our brains. Our brains naturally make it all about the person(s)when it's really about principals, ideas or matters of fact.
It's normal but it just detracts from problem-solving.
So while someone may have an attitude or characteristic reflected in a discussion, it is likely irrelevant to the topic.
The matter at hand is whether the activities (behaviors) proposed in the post are, in fact, robust enough to be:
- predictive of outcomes claimed -- more than chance
- in some time frame
- generalize across individuals in different circumstances
We don't seek anything. We are just curious about evidence-based practices or not -- or anything in between.
Also, just because there is very little evidence-based practice now or theory -- does not mean we abandon that standard of practice or knowledge in professional activities related to treatment of personal distress (medical in our definition).
A useful step all practices can take is full disclosure and transparency with whatever evidence there is or is not. The commercial effects of full and fair disclosure are not always, and likely rarely, costly.
It would be a great set of studies but likely transparency and disclosure of clearly fraudulent things would not hurt their popularity. The vaccine-autism fraud seem bullet-proof to contrary evidence. There appears to be a brain reason for this, BTW.
Is there a link for the passionate couples outcome study? Was there a selection bias? Are any couples who sign-up for any kind of activity together going to have good outcomes?
We fully appreciate that when pointed questions are asked about professional activities they can trigger a fear/defensive response because it may feel like attacking someone's livelihood. It's not.
All our goals are all the same -- to help people in distress. Besides, no one's livelihood was ever hurt by more people talking about it
Believe Sagen said "Outsized claims require outsized evidence."
Excellent approach, ...sleeprunning... I tend to be disappointed by the general lack of critical thinking surrounding "wonder therapies," especially when the therapists themselves spend so much time and effort promoting them and defending them. Your comments are very refreshing.
(Note from David Schnarch--I am posting two questions I received in an email, and answering them below so many readers can benefit. All identifying information has been removed out of respect for the author.)
I am dealing with my personal life. I have mixed feelings about it all, but I am trying to understand it and grow from it. In saying “people who can’t control themselves control the people around them,” you mentioned:"parents who push their children to be outstanding athletes, musicians, artists, or students because the parents need the reflected glory." I was unclear of what you meant by this. In today's world, great athletes, musicians, artists and overall good students are very much liked in their community (school, work, extracurricular activities, etc.) and become leaders. Parents who stay on top of their children about becoming the best they can be, try to help them by controlling the things they do, and lead them into a positive adulthood by getting them into sports and other activities at a younger age and pushing them, actually help them to become better people.
I also would like to know more about your item, "Parents who can't control their sexual impulses towards their children." I can relate this to my own personal experiences. My parent had sex with someone while I was in the room. Also, used me as a pawn with people I'm sure my parent knew were bad people, to get what my parent wanted. The list goes on. Those kinds of things came to mind when you mentioned this, and I just wanted to know what you meant by it.
I’m very happy to answer both your questions.
You’re absolutely right about parents helping their children get ahead or pursue their talents by controlling the things they do, and some children being grateful in later life for the imposed structure and discipline. The controversy about “Tiger Moms” is one recent example. Clearly there are cultural differences about how much control is too much, as this is apparently more common in Chinese homes. And within any given culture, parents differ in this issue as well.
But I wasn’t really pointing to how much parents push children to achieve, but rather, why or for whom the pushing occurs. Parents can try to sell their child the idea it’s for the child’s benefit, but when it’s really because the parent needs their child to be valedictorian, varsity athlete, violin prodigy, or junior chess master, children map their parent’s mind and see right through this. In the same way many socially powerful men need “arm candy” (young beautify women), or a Ferrari, or a home in a gated community, some parents need the positive reflected sense of self they get from their kid standing out.
Here's the real point: When parents can’t control themselves, they STEAL their children’s success. Parents can say they’re just being proud of their child, but kids can see when parents are basking in the spotlight, instead of holding the spotlight on the child. Believe me, this doesn’t help children become better people. It actually leads many talented children to STOP playing or practicing. It’s easier to say “I don’t want to play any more,” than tell your parent “I’m not your championship dog to show off!” The parent may be proud of the child, but the child is disappointed in the parent.
Your second question contains a sad picture I’ve encountered numerous times. Many people wouldn’t realize, although you rightly did, this illustrates “parents who can’t control their sexual impulses towards their children.” That’s because people only envision this as parents engaging in inappropriate comments, touch, or sexual intercourse with children. But inappropriately sexualizing children, dressing them in age-inappropriate seductive clothes, or including them as bystanders during adult sexual behavior, or bartering them as sex objects, is clearly about parents not controlling their sexual impulses with their children. The parent doesn’t have to indicate desire to have sex with the child per se. All these things tell the child that the parent is relating to the child sexually. When the child maps out the parent’s mind, this itself creates emotional trauma.
For example, one woman told me about her father meeting her high school boyfriend for the first time. In her presence, her father asked the boy if she was any good in bed. It’s not hard to understand how she was traumatized when she asked herself, “HOW COULD MY FATHER DO THAT?!”
I hope these clarifications speed you on your journey. Thank you for your questions, which will surely help many readers.
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There are two differences in these two types of boats.
with the whole parent comment with pushing children to get the glory, could it also go the oppisite way as far as punishment. There were times were I felt i was punished(rightly so) But i felt more like I was punished harshly because of my parents embarassment for what I had done and not really because they worried for me. I came to this conclusion because when I had made horrible grades in school I would get punished ( rightly so) However, my parents made no attempt to physically help me with my homeowrk or get me a tutor. They would just call me lazy.
You are absolutely right (rightly so) about the parallels between parents who inappropriately punish their children and those who inappropriately push their children to succeed., But you seem hesitant to pursue your perception as far as it may go.
To make this issue clear let’s make a distinction for purposes of discussion between punishment and discipline. There are times when you may have needed discipline. The purpose of parental discipline is to help the child learn self-discipline. Punishment is meant to make the child feel bad, hurt, deprived, etc., with the goal of making the child apologetic and regretful to the parent.
It is common for parents to lose their grip on themselves when they are angry or embarrassed, and the PUNISH the child, meaning punitively take out their feelings on the child. When this happens, even if you needed discipline, whatever positive benefit there might have been in your parent's actions is lost. When parents can’t control themselves, they can’t help their children develop self-control no matter how harsh the punishment, because it’s not meant to help the child. The parent wants the child to hurt, suffer, or “pay” for what the parent feels the child has done TO HIM OR HER. You seem to feel your parents were right to punish you when you made terrible grades in school. You were there, I wasn’t, and you have to decide for yourself. But it sounds like you feel this was not being done for you, it was being done for them—you embarrassed them—and not because they were trying to help you do better. Once this line is crossed, discussing whether the punishment was too harsh becomes immaterial, because it’s punishment (in the way I’m defining here).
It’s not from the best in the parent, and it’s not designed to bring out the best in the child. The parent’s feelings and needs become primary, and the child’s needs get lost, even if the child is told this is for her or his benefit. The real mind-screw is if and when the parent says, “This hurts me more than it does you.”
You have the additional data that your parents made no attempt to help you directly or indirectly (with a tutor), and they did things most parents know interfere with children doing better (calling you lazy). The realization you’re struggling with is very painful, many people struggle with this, and there’s the strong urge to not look at it with both eyes. If you get clear that looking at this is not punishment, but it does require discipline, and that self-discipline leads to freedom, then maybe you can discipline yourself to see what you need to see.
There is the assumption in this article that everyone enters a relationship for the need of self-validation. In my arrogant opinion, only narcissists do that. I just want to play with and love those that I fall in love with. And I stay far away from people who are cruel.
You’re mostly right about the assumption you recognized in the article. Guilty as charged. One place where I and attachment-based therapists agree is that children are born dependent on a reflected sense of self. It’s a given because of the way our species has evolved: our consciousness emerges very early in childhood, long before we’re able to support that self-awareness on our own. We look to parents and others to help us understand who we are.
I differ with attachment therapists in that they believe this is suppose to continue into adulthood, and your partner is suppose to take over and do a better job than your parents did. I think you’re supposed to get over this and become more emotionally autonomous. Now, narcissists do form relationships to get validation and admiration. But so do normal healthy people who simply haven’t grown up yet (meaning lots of us).
You may be a new exception, but in my clinical experience it’s extremely rare for people to be well-differentiated when they first enter a long-term relationship. It’s the relationship that makes them grow up. The main exception I’ve seen is when a widow and a widower marry late in life after each having successful prior marriages.
One minor part is wrong: people enter relationships seeking OTHER-validation. Getting self-validation from other people is an oxymoron.
I guess this explains why Charlie Sheen's goddesses stay with him. He is controlling them.
This reminds me of Rainer Maria Rilke's essay on Love and Other Difficulties where he talks about the perfect relationship being one where the two people are guardians of each other's solitude. In other words, giving each other lots of breathing room to be ourselves, work through our own problems, and not expect the other person to babysit our emotions.
I read the essay long ago and knew he was absolutely right. Yet it took mistakes in my own former marriage to understand the message at a much deeper level. I talked the talk but didn't walk the walk--largely because I wasn't aware of when and how I was most likely to unload my baggage onto my ex. And yeah, he did it to me too...but I can only work with my own issues. :-)
I appreciated this discussion and had a realization as a result. It has been painful to notice that my grandmother and mother have no problem taking my accomplishments from college and telling them to other people, sharing about my successes without consulting me about what I feel comfortable sharing. When I told them that I feel uncomfortable with their actions...they said so what...we do not see a problem talking about your accomplishments with others. The problem is before my success in college, I did the work on my own and they were not very involved or aware of what I was doing or what I was capable of (I felt alright with this because I did the work on my own and for myself). Now that I have graduated and I am looking for work while being at home they act as though something is wrong with me, that I am "lazy", that I am not doing enough. It feels as though that now that they do not have something to brag about...they show disappointment instead during a time where I am just going through a transition of figuring out what to do (trying to find work). Despite how disappointed I am in their actions, I am beginning to realize how I let their actions affect me. For example, in the beginning of this comment I mentioned how painful their actions are to me and how incredulous I feel about the way they are using my accomplishments for themselves. Another example I can give is: when I was in college I did painting and drawing, when I came home my mother saw my work. Without asking my permission she took my work and showed it to her friends who came over to visit, my work is private and personal for me. I also expect understanding instead of the scorn and frustration I am given that I am not where they expect me to be. The question I have is how do I separate my reactions to their actions and begin to become more emotionally autonomous...how is this done? Also if you have any other thoughts on what I have written, I would also appreciate it. How can I work on being less emotionally reactive to their actions?
You have your understanding of what's apparently happening well-lined up. But, working off your description, there's a critical piece that you're missing. This is not as simple as your mother and grandmother purloining your accomplishment for their own reflected sense of self. While this is sounds true, you are describing them deliberately trying to hasten your failure by telling you to your face that your feelings have no importance to them and they will say and do whatever they please.
Taking and misusing a child's paintings is a good way to get that child to stop painting in defiance. Lots of teenagers get hooked into this, I'm glad to hear this didn't happen to you.
The people you describe are not friends of your success. When you add in that this is exactly what they want to use for their own reflected sense of self, and berate you for not working harder (which lessens your functioning), you now have a crazy-making system.
Starting to appreciate how they impact you is a good thing. You're describing "sledgehammer" psychological blows. Of course you're going to have reactions to their actions. The goal is not to become impervious to destructive people. It's to handle yourself with them, rather than just take whatever they dish out so you can maintain a relationship with them.
You sound like a very bright and gifted person who's afraid to see the whole picture of what's going on, because it's going to be "dark." I'll bet if you pay closer attention, and be more willing to see the unthinkable, you will figure out what to do. I've seen countless people at your stage of development. Think of it like a butterfly emerging from the cocoon. A butterfly with resilience for the next phase in her life.
Thank you for the reply. I was wondering if you could explain further what you mean by "sledgehammer" psychological blows in this case and to give more examples of what "sledgehammer" psychological blows are. I have the same question about the concept of a crazy-making system, what are some examples of situations where a crazy-making system is created? It is not easy to accept that they are not friends of my success as you mentioned because of their constant reminder that they care and love me (to the point where I feel uncomfortable). Although I am beginning to realize that people who care and love do not behave the way they are behaving, it is hard to tell whether they care or do not care...or what their intentions are. The biggest question I have to them is why do you behave this way and how have I not seen this behavior before college (I left for 5 years to study in a different city). I do not know if they have other needs and intentions they they are trying to meet that they are not aware of when they proclaim their love/caring or if they are truly ignorant of the impact of their behavior. I feel like I am going crazy sometimes because they present themselves as extremely vulnerable and sensitive (I do not know if it is a deliberate act or if they have their own unresolved issues). My grandmother claims that she behaves the way she does because she is "worried" about me while she expresses frustration and scorn about the position that I am in. I am truly having difficulty putting together and understanding their behavior. I think a crazy making system is created when someone says that they love and care and yet behave in ways that undermine the feelings and well-being of another person. What you have described...about lessening functioning, I have been feeling. I feel nervous and uncomfortable and unsure of myself as I look for work (which also probably has many causes). I am trying to encourage myself the best that I can but I also understand that their actions create pressure that I do not know how to counteract as I am moving forward which makes the process more difficult. I get angry with their behavior while knowing that my anger won't change their actions or will not help me in anyway. [From your comment I understood that it is up to me to struggle through this and figure out how to move forward, I appreciate the chance to share the situation and how I am feeling about it...although a big part of me wants an answer and a quick fix].Thank you for taking the time to respond.
For a more opportunity to discuss your situation, let me refer you to the wonderful forums on Crucible4Points.com, where you'll find a non-professional online community of some very nice people who are applying differentiation to their lives. Replies to postings tend to be thoughtful, helpful, and supportive although I don't screen them. You are welcome to copy and post your original question, my response, and your message above in the Forum. I'm sure you'll be interacting with someone in no time.
Good luck. Hope this helps.
Hello Dr. Schnarch,
I wanted to thank you for giving encouragement for paying closer attention. I have begun to see that this situation has been happening since my childhood. After coming across descriptions of dysfunctional family dynamics...I have realized that I fall under the category of being the scapegoat. I am still confused and in disbelief, but at least I am beginning to find resources to describe my experiences. The situation is much darker than I realized and it is frightening to realize how much further there is to see and how much to learn to approach the situation because I do not have the skills yet to know what to do.
I have noticed that there are many co-dependent relationships around, also among my friends. They are either rule than exception. So this independence is an important issue. But to be able to realize this You have to have some independence and overt energy to be able to reflect from outside. Even the will to look inside yourself, not just point out...
Since I am urban academic in early 40s with some long time interest in psychology classes I have a lot of experience as couple watcher. I still often think that mostly the problems are in playing a role, probably the role we learned as children and not knowing that we are not mature. I am sure myself I have had few. like being mother or wife or supersmart lol
But my bigger concern are people who dont have relationships. They definitively play lonely roles. I dont know what is better.. Serial monogamy or existential aloneness. They might even happen same time...
Actually I come from very dysfunctional family. And I have had several relationships, both longer and shorter. Only by knowing the patterns and roles I can make it work for longer time... And this does not come in early 20's. So we are products of our familiar games- everyone has to care for the narsissist, or emotinal nuclear winters, or love you to death, or pull me and I hit you or everybody loves Mom/hates Dad or whatever combo there is. I love the book of Eric Berne... being my self from story of Cinderella - at least I don,t carry revenge. But i seriously have to admit that I hate big drama. Lol
Whats your games and do. You know them? I guess only awareness of them helps us to act more reasonably when inthe heat of "fixing the childhood". Isn't most of out struggles to get what we did not have on childhood? to feel unity with the love...
Thats why I think it is difficult to understand the borders. Emotional, physical and inytellectual. Since maybe we did not have healthy ones ourselves. I so have so great hopes for us tobe able to find more authentic parts and roles and relationships. That can make us to become more...
Whats your favourite game, role and pattern?
I wholeheartedly agree with you. Codependents - among the majority of Americans - confuse oneness with closeness and get attached easily not because they love so much, but because they need so much. Developing autonomy allows them to find love and intimacy.
Codependency for Dummies explains the cause and why and how of it.
I wholeheartedly agree with you. Codependents - among the majority of Americans - confuse oneness with closeness and get attached easily not because they love so much, but because they need so much. Developing autonomy allows them to find love and intimacy.
Codependency for Dummies explains the cause, how to recognize it and how to recover.
i understand emotional autonomy, its like being selfish in a way by satisfying your partners needs while satisfying yours. Its like not worrying about people who dont satisfy your needs, but you dont you dont control them or give much thought to them. But their are sociopaths that rule the majority of the world and spill crime and murder everywhere, somebody has to give a damn about what their doing, or else all human beings will suffer horribly in the end, and it will be complete world domination. Not like we can do anything to stop it now.
I really liked your posts about emotional independence. However, there is one question that in my opinion is left unanswered: if you manage to be really emotionally independent why would you need a relationship at all? Friends would be enough as they would provide the nice, occasional addition to your life.
When I do manage to feel emotionally independent I don't really know where my relationship fits in. Since I don't "need" someone to provide me with emotional support, how do I relate to the other person? What for? What is their role then? Exchanging news about our independent lives just seems ... pointless - or at least something that I could do with anyone.
I would really appreciate your thoughts on that matter...
Hi, a good question.
What I have experienced or rather learned (prescious lesson) is that there is difference in these two sentences... You might enjoy reading Fromm.
I love You because I need you.
I need You because I love You.
I am newly married. Why? This will be because I do want this relationship because I do love to love. And I want to love exclusively this man of mine. At least make love to only him. It makes my personality bigger and gives my heart fuel. BUT and specially because I can love the person as he is... I love many of my friends, but this intimacy is only possible in a close relationship. But I don't need the relationship - I do choose it.
I guess that is why I believe that the best relationships do happen when you are independent. And still longing for togetherness. I do hope so ;-)
You're right in that independence is important in a relationship. The problem is that I get it "in theory" but not really "in practice". I'm just wondering whether you can be truly independent even if you you need someone because you love them and not because you are dependent on them in other ways. If you love someone you WILL be influenced by their moods, attitudes, etc. which means that you can't be really independent. And you WILL seek their approval or some sort of soothing if you had a hard day, which again rules out real independence.
And if you do achieve independence, why would you really need someone else? If you can deal with your emotions and life on your own... what is there left for the other person?
I have thought about it a lot, and failed and not failed in life. What I believe is that a part of independency is the process of individuation. In early years you dont know who You are. Or You make an image of who You think You should be. And what Your parents wanted You to become. While life gives us our lessons one day we need to find out who we truelly are and what we stand for. Then your indipendence is Yours, not others to take. When two individuals meet they try not to change the other, because they know that the other does not necessarily need to be entertained, pleased and satisfied. They are they. When You give in love You do get back manyfold. And only by being loving we are actually truelly ourselves. So the other will be an opportunity for us to practise love.... And to have love we have to love ourself first. That is not the easiest. Because no-ones love can make us love ourselves. We stand for our own happiness and emotions... And by loving someone else we dont have to sacrifice. Because love has different phases and levels... And we are learning in life always. Maybe by becoming mother many years ago I realised that I love my son however always. And then later there was more spaces in my heart that opened up. After healing things that had closed my heart and made me typically clingy peoplepleaser.... the type - I need others to love me to feel loved... But it changed over time. I did not cope with dependency and once in my 30s went to the journey of who am I really.... For me it was...ehmmm.... Also spiritual and emottional journey. Because brain does not feel. And really we have to learn to think also with our heart.... Paradoxically...
Of course- I am influenced by my beloveds moods and interests, but I am responsible for my own reactions, moods and interests also. So it will be like a dance, not battle. I will change in a relationship, but when I know who I am I will probably be only the better version. Knowing who You are is having independence. I do have my good and less good sides, just as my partner has. Smetimes they clash and other time they synergetically grow. But and really if we would be too much alike it would be not interesting. So if You ever come to the point that You know that You enjoy Your solitude and your own company and ypur life- but You love togetherness even more- then You can committ without codependence. and there is no neediness. When You know that You are unique and manage whatever situation life brings You- then you also might attract the similar partner. I believe. Maybe it is like this.....
I was recently diagnosed as being on the Asperger spectrum. The way typical peoole interact has never made sense. They demand that you "be yourself" but in the next breath order you to be some way or another if how you are doesn't suit them! I've listened to people on dates be on "their very best behavior" which was obviously NOT who they really were.
After much independent study and observation, my amateur hypothesis is that people rely on others for their sense of normalcy as well as emotional balance. Normalcy or normality isn't something we can entirely construct on our own. I rely on others for what typical social normalcy looks like; otherwise it would be impossible for me to get along with others in a neurotypically dominated world. I have no sense of the typical social normalcy within me to draw upon. Now, I'm guessing that some NTs might need to have their sense of "being normal" externally reinforced; if their internal sense was discredited or discoraged at some point during development it might lead to an internal normalcy deafness.
I do not understand why so many neurotypicals are afraid of being single.
I have not read the comments, so please forgive if this has already been mentioned.
This article seemed to lose momentum in that the topic encompassed a non-control group of subjects ( pun intended) too broad with varied psychological illnesses and too narrow a description of the controlling behaviors they exhibit toward other people and how these effect the dynamic of their interpersonal relationships.
Dr. David Schnarch is a licensed clinical psychologist and author of numerous books and articles on intimacy, sexuality, and relationships.
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