Archive for the ‘intimacy’ tag
Enmeshed - relationships in which boundaries between self and other are blurred and what results is a tangled mess beneath the surface while to all outward appearances the world sees two separate beings
Nice Guys frequently find themselves in these kind of entangled relationships. In an enmeshed relationship it is confusing to figure out who exactly owns which mood, which position, which belief for the other person is quickly drawn into the mood, belief or position. If one becomes depressed, both are depressed. If one decides on a life-style change (such as diet), both embrace the life-style change. Often, from the outside, it appears as though the relationship is the perfect relationship where both parties are a perfect fit in all ways.
The enmeshing Nice Guy makes his partner his emotional center. His world revolves around her. She is more important than his work, his buddies, his hobbies. He will do whatever it takes to make her happy. He will give her gifts, try to fix her problems, and arrange his schedule to be with her. He will gladly sacrifice his wants and needs to win her love. He will even tolerate her bad moods, rage attacks, addictions, and emotional or sexual unavailability – all because he “loves her so much.” (Glover, No More Mr. Nice Guy, p. 114)
There is a problem with this. For all of his effort and intention, the Nice Guy isn’t really there for his partner. He is there to meet his unmet needs of childhood. And as a result, as Glover puts it:
“The Nice Guy’s pursuing and enmeshing behavior is an attempt to hook up an emotional hose to his partner. This hose is used to suck the life out of her and fill an empty place inside of him. The Nice Guy’s partner unconsciously picks up on this agenda and works like hell to make sure the Nice Guy can’t get close enough to hook up the hose.” (p. 114)
And what results is a relationship that fights against itself, a relationship of unidentified unconscious conflict where intimacy between the individuals has no chance to authentically appear. But what is perhaps even more dysfunctional is the missing intimacy with the self. Filling the hole makes the Nice Guy oblivious to all the things about himself that are functional, the parts that work. The task for the Nice Guy is to discover those hidden parts of himself that are bubbling under the surface. What does he really want from life, what does he need to feel “complete?” This last part is the hardest to discover for childhood and life patterns have taught him that an “other” is the key to being complete. Yet, the real path to wholeness is to discover the missing pieces within and not put that burden on another person. Once that work is done, there is a chance for real, intimate and healthy relationship.
I took this photo a while ago while strolling down the street. At first, I simply saw the humour in the photo, humour from a Canadian male point of view. Young men in Canada would not be caught dead carrying their girlfriend’s purse, let alone a pink purse, down a public street where other young men would see them. Yet, here, the scene is not that rare. Proving “love” to the “other” has so many quirky twists and turns regardless of the culture one finds oneself in. When there is a focus on “self” in the situation of “love,” it is usually about insecurity and the need for proof that one is valued by the “other – “Prove you love me,” kind of thinking takes over. When there is a focus on “other” then the “self” feels abandoned and almost valueless. There is no space where two become one. Does it matter which one is suppressed and which one suppresses? The result is the same for both, albeit from different viewpoints – the individual, unique self is no longer is valued.
The last day I wrote about distance and intimacy. I want to return to that topic in order to add to the idea of what “distance” really means in terms of intimacy and relationships.
“A relationship based on intimacy with distance does not require separate living quarters. Intimacy with distance means psychological separation, which comes about through the process of differentiation – knowing where you end and the other begins. Intimacy with distance can be as close and warm as you want, and it’s psychologically clean. Togetherness is simply fusion, the submersion of two individualities into one. That’s symbiosis, identification, participation mystique. It can feel good for a while but in the long term it doesn’t work.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 73)
In China, I see this “psychological distance” every day on the street, especially in crowds. It is as though each person, though surrounded by a sea of others, is alone, is separated as if on a deserted island. People walk by each other only aware on a peripheral level that there are others present, but oblivious of the them other than as objects to navigate around while walking.
How does one move to being self-contained rather than as half of a couple? This is the real problem for our heads, at least for mine. How can one be “separate” without having one’s partner feel abandoned? Living in the same place together and having a privateness is often taken as a rejection by the other. Somehow, it takes two moving through individuation and arriving at the idea of intimacy with space for relationship to survive. When it is a journey only one chooses to take, the relationship is threatened and all hell breaks loose.
“Togetherness is to intimacy with distance as being in love is to loving. When you’re in love, you absolutely need the other. This is symptomatic of bonding, which is natural at the beginning of any relationship, at any age. But need, finally, is not compatible with loving; it only shows the degree to which one lacks personal resources. Better take your need to a therapist than dump it on the one you love. Need in an intimate relationship easily becomes the rationale for power, leading to the fear of loss on one hand, and resentment on the other.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 74)
In the photo, this expression of love is about power. At what point will this young couple move from “falling in love” to a fear of loss and of resentment?
Another look at the architectural style that is being preserved in quite a few locations in the city shows classical lines and contrast. The colour, or should I say the lack of colour as in comparison to Latin America speaks loudly about keeping it simple yet classy. But of course, it isn’t an either/or for me. I enjoy both, colour, and black & white; both China and the colourful heat of Latin America.
I love the intensity of colour and heat in Latin America as well as the language. I could easily see myself in my private villa enjoying the best of the winter season in warmth. But then again, the vitality and contrasts in China invites me to remain here as well. But of course, I don’t have to choose one or the other. I can choose both without thoughts of exclusivity. By spending most of the time in neither, I can better appreciate these places from a distance. I know that to actually choose one over the other would have me become poorer. It is the same with relationships.
Like almost all other modern men and women, I have bought into the idea of “Soulmates.” Thomas Moore’s book as well as a number of others by various authors, as well as classical literature over the centuries have painted high expectation on us poor humans in terms of relationships. Anyone who dares partner up with us is bound, in the end, to disappoint and give rise to anger. A mere human being cannot hold all the the word “soulmate” encompasses. Yet, we willingly put out their, our “lost other,” the half of ourselves that will make us whole, even holy.
“The mistake is expecting to find our “lost other” in the outside world. In fact, it is our contrasexual self inner other, animus or anima, who should be the object of our search. Outer relationships, already hampered by personal complexes and a multitude of day-to-day concerns, cannot bear the extra weight of archetypal expectations. Although individuation is not possible without relationship, it is not compatible with togetherness.
Individuation, finding your own unique pat, requires a focus on the inner axis, ego to unconscious – getting to know yourself. The ideal of togetherness lets you off that hook. Togetherness doesn’t acknowledge the natural boundaries between people, and it gives short shrift to their differences. All you are left with is unconscious identity. When you are on the path of individuation, focused on your own psychological development, you relate to others from a position of personal integrity. This is the basis for intimacy with distance. It is not as sentimental as togetherness, but is’s not as sticky either.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 73)
There’s a lot to chew on here. Hmmm? Time to sit quiet and think.
Cattle and cattle egrets found together in a field on the outskirts of Playa Jaco somehow find a way to live together in spite of being very different. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship, providing each other something that is needed and receiving equal benefit. When I think about this, it isn’t much different in many human relationships.
Of course, I don’t think I can include most intimate relationships, most marriages in this willingness to both give and receive in spite of differences, Rather, I am speaking of many other community relationships. For example, a friend is skilled in various crafts but doesn’t have much skill with communications technology. Since the opposite friend has the skills needed in communication technology, but is lacking in working with tools, a relationship is able to grow and thrive giving each person a sense of worth in relation to the other.
In another situation, one who has a need to talk, to have someone listen compassionately is a valued friend for someone else who is grateful for friendship where there is little demand for talking, something that is a difficult task other than to offer a few pleasantries. Most of our human lives including in the workplace are filled with just this kind of symbiotic relationships. Yet, in intimate situations?
The difficulties that regularly arise between different attitude-types are legion … Jung’s observation was that what initially seems to be an ideal union may in time become uneasy and embittered.
One might think an understanding of typology would forestall such enmity and allow two people to live in peace, each acknowledging and appreciating the value of the other, but the reality is that even many individuals who have a good grasp on their psychological make-up may find it difficult or even impossible to tolerate an intimate relationship with someone of a different attitudinal orientation. Hence so many acrimonious divorces and separations. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book One, 2008, pp 86-87)
I think that this is easily enough understood in itself. Intimacy requires a high level of trust where one’s “self” is held in esteem by the “other.” When intimacy between opposite types is enacted, it becomes critical to deny the “self” in favour of “other.” Where on dominates, the other is diminished. This takes me to the words of Jung:
Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other. (Jung, CW 7, par 78)
And therein lies the problem. Especially when life causes us to fall to our knees, bruised and wounded, when we begin the work of healing the self and the soul, that is when strive to survive knowing that in the end, regardless of whom we engage in intimacy, we are alone. Our journey is an individual journey even if shared with an “other.”