No trust without fallibility – Why are we afraid of intimacy while pinning for it?

Romantic novels and films usually ends when lovers finally find each other, complications are closed and the leading characters find their perfect pair like they have reached their life goals and wave good-bye to problems. However in real life the biggest part of the story comes after finding each other. To build intimacy requires longer time. Why do a lot of people afraid of intimacy while pinning for it?

If we find our partner we run-in is a popular misconception. Love requires care and work after the early stage and intimacy is not a static condition. It’s not enough to get that love/partner and just to sit and believe it will last the life out. The intimacy of relationships changes continuously depending on how we maintain a relation to each other. We often talk about intimacy – especially insufficiency of it – but to define what intimacy exactly means is difficult. Where does it start and what is not?

Intimacy is not the same as sexuality which is a very common misconception. Intimate relationship includes not just physical but also emotional closeness as well. Even if we spend a lot of time together with someone that doesn’t mean necessarily we have intimacy. The balance between closeness and intimacy is very fragile and closeness even can be the obstacle to intimacy. We push closer and closer to the other person believing that that’s how our relationship is becoming more intimate, whilst we reach the opposite effect. Without trust there is no intimacy, we let someone to get close if we feel safe beside him/her.

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Fear destroys intimacy

To trust someone also means I can show myself, who and how I’m in real, without masks. To belong to someone is a very human motive and basic need and that’s why we are afraid of losing it. Often we are not dare to show our real self because we are afraid of refusal and feeling of loss. The base of intimacy is when we let the other person to see us as we are, like we see ourselves. Without masks and “make-up” and without pretending. There is always a chance even if we revealed ourselves, we wouldn’t have been “enough good” to our partner. There is another side of a coin, which is revealing ourselves is essential to build and have intimate relationship, without that there is no intimacy. When we let someone to get close we take a risk as well, she/he can leave us.

Intimacy requires bravery

In a certain level we all are afraid of intimacy. Can be scary to show that part of ourselves what believe is shameful and not nice but also we can be afraid of defenceless as well. Behind this feeling can be the fear of losing ourselves and/or the fear of dissolving in other person. At the same time having a faith in somebody also means we are able to be happy alone and we give the chance to another person to make us happy as well. Intimacy comes from the Latin, intima word and it means being inside, being in closeness.

Intimacy is a substance in which we can born to ourselves. With accepting ourselves in a relationship with another person we are able to develop a deep understanding of ourselves. In an intimate substance we are able to feel compassion and affection.

A relationship can provide us just what we are ready for!

If somebody’s self-esteem is dubious or hating or not accepting herself/himself will be not able to experience the feeling of being loved and valuable with somebody else as well. If somebody is not able feel intimacy with herself/himself won’t be able to experience with someone else too. In intimacy we also find ourselves not just the other person.

Unfortunately not being alone as a motivation is often stronger than the motivation of building intimacy.

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New life proceeds from traumas

Life is a cycle of ups and downs also once in a while something happens which can push us very very deep. We lose a relative, we get diagnosed with a serious illness or get lethargic after a break up with our partner. These happenings can get fixed in our memory as traumas and followed by emotions like fear, desperation, sadness and hopelessness. However traumas are not just the source of suffering, also a source of development according to psychological researches. Several cases have been documented when from a heavy burden situation a positive scripts grew, as an internal psychological reality and experience. This is called post-traumatic development.

There have been several documented cases about development even after abuse, rape, accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack. But also researchers have documented about those people as well who live under a high and continuous stress, like a parent who takes care of physically or mentally disabled child for example or working in ER and have been raped or kidnapped.

Quaking and rebuilding

It’s like a seismic procedure, quaking our life, destroying our view of life which makes us believe that life and our world generally is predictable and just. Nevertheless after the quake re-arrangement is starting and we set up a new world of concept which already includes the experience and observation of the trauma.

Traumas are actually a kind of watershed in our life: events are sharply divided to a before and after the trauma. When we recover from a trauma the relationships with others can become more important, internal values and the affection of life can become conspicuous, we can feel that became stronger and built more internal strength, we can start a new path or became more opened to spiritual experiments. The changes in these aspects are the psychic development.

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Finding meaning under remains

It’s a long and difficult process indeed. It requires internal commitment and work to understand what exactly happened with us and to find those handholds for moving on. The susceptibility to looking for meaning and understanding is necessary for recovering instead of degradation. This means that we are willing to think what happened over and to search for deeper meaning and inherency. This absorbed procedure of thinking furnishes a basis for reconstruction and drawing a lesson which become our new life’s establishment of principles, a new mindset, a new attitude.

Be careful! “Why me?” or “What if?” types of questions doesn’t serve the purpose. Important to experience the suffering and not running away from it and when it’s time we can ask right and constructive questions like “What if I’m doing this and this now?”

The good things proceed from difficult situation don’t grow from the traumatic event or from the experience of strong stress, they grow from ourselves. From those strengths which have been revived by bad things and from that natural human capability what with we can transform suffer into mean. To familiarization with stress means, we must trust in this capability even if the sorrow is still new and the future is doubtful.

Since the procedure can be long and very painful, we always can look for professional help and use the trauma for development.

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What we are running from that catch up – meeting with our shadow part of self

I’m asking you to spend 5 minutes thinking about one question: Is there anything in your life which upsets you, very uncomfortable and time by time comes back, appears in your life? Think of it! It can be a dream, a situation, or a type of person, behaviour which triggers those feelings. Also think about why this thing or this person is so irritating to you. According to C.G. Jung psychologist, if we feel that something or somebody (recurring pattern) irritates us, worthy to pay attention to ourselves because we might able to see that part of our selves, which is in shade. “Most of the people are not completely aware of their personality traits” – Marie-Louise Franz. What we don’t know or rather don’t want to know about ourselves, get into the shadow part of our personality. However they are there, they still appear in our relationships or dreams.

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Why don’t I want to see myself as I’m really? Why does this part of our personality needs to be hidden?

We like to believe that we are intelligent, kind, have a nice disposition and decent. That’s all very well but we have personality traits, kind of inferior ones what we don’t know. For instance: we are precise and very well organized. We make a lot of effort to have everything set up and going well otherwise we would lose our internal balance. But what is behind actually? Maybe if we didn’t make so much effort to have everything set up, solved and elucidated we would get into a surprising and unpredictable situations and at the end we might make mistakes – which is, we also have tendency to chaos but we don’t want to admit it, not even to ourselves. “Most of the people identify themselves with those characteristics which make them acceptable to other people, that’s why most of the time the shadow part of self is awkward, subordinated and sometimes a bit malignant or socially clumsy as well.

Everybody cast a shadow!

For instance if we think a lot, our emotional sensory part become inferior or underdeveloped because we don’t pay enough attention to it. If somebody works mainly with technical things, with machines, susceptible to neglect the importance of fantasy or creative part of the self. Though if we suppress our shadow part we are just half. When we get angry, tired or under pressure often that shadow part appears. For instance nice and helpful people can become very egoist and merciless. Our shadow side also can appear when we get sick and the people around are wondering who this person is really. They change because their shadow is breaking through and reveals itself which was hidden. It’s actually just a matter of time. We can get a colleague or even our child who is sporadic or always being late. (I often see that how children act like mirrow to the parents-showing exactly the real problem) We all have our favorite “enemies” whom symbolize actually our shadow side. If there is someone who didn’t hurt us but we really feel this person irritates us, well we can be sure, she/he personalizes our shadow. That’s why we can’t push them out from our life, because they are in us, being part of our personality and if we try to get rid out of them after a while another “symbol” appears.

Instead of whip them, better to take a look at this shadow part and integrate it consciously. We might have to give up some illusions about ourselves (like my life is well set up, controlled and organized) but if we accept that we have this is aspect of our personality, those traits won’t bother us anymore.

How can we do it?

Good to sit down and think (or writing down) which traits actually bothers us in that person, or in that situation or thing. Using a healthy critical self-reflection we should try to find and identify those traits in us. After we found we can say that, “yes, this is me”!

Of course it’s not a comfortable feeling and easier to attribute those negative traits to somebody else. However, it’s very beneficial to do. We get known that part and we are able to start working on it. Pretending like this shadow side doesn’t exist, lying to ourselves is the biggest mistake and the worst living strategy what we can do and go on with. It’s just a matter of time when it comes to the surface or another “symbol” appears.

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The destroying power of refusal

When someone is breaking up with us or we can’t successfully fit into our working environment or when our family doesn’t care about us or when our friend doesn’t call, with different intensity but we all experience almost a paralyzing pain. Refusal is one of the most frequent emotional wound what can be caused by others. Why is it so painful being refused and how we can protect ourselves from it?

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People live connected, having several different kind of connections, like family, friendship and working relationship. There are just few people who want to live alone without any connection with others. In some civilization social exclusion had been or is the heaviest punishment.

There is a kind of connection need which is a basic human motivation. Human is a social animal.

People feel a strong need to have a minimal long standing and positive connection with others around. Theoretically trend anybody it doesn’t focus just one certain person. However it’s not completely independent from the subject of the connection, because interactions with unknown or disliked people doesn’t satisfy this need of connection.

If we have a basic need of connection, how do we react if it doesn’t happen or being jeopardized?

It causes a similar reaction in the activity of the brain like pain. (Eisenberger, N. I., Lieberman, M. D., Williams, K. D. (2003) Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Sutdy of Soical Exclusion. Science, 302, 290-292)

The research results suggested that the neuroanatomy base of social and physical pain is the same. Mental pain is just one of elements which influences or well-being when we experience refusal. Our mood worsen, our self-esteem decreasing, we feel anger and aggression and after all these emotions physically our body is reacting as well. Like decreasing appetite, less good quality of sleep, stomachache, headache etc.

Paradoxically when we are down we are susceptible make our mental situation worse with destructive thoughts. When we experience a physical hurt immediately know and act to treat that injury. But when it comes to mental pain we are susceptible to accept the situation without doing anything constructive (Dr. Guy Winch).

There are methods which can work as a mental first aid, supporting development of our self-esteem, reducing pain and helping us to move on.

  1. Stop self-scourge

It’s not useless to go through and examine what we did wrong in those situations, what we can learn and do differently next time. It’s important how we see and do it! The punitive and critical view is more unbeneficial than constructive.

For instance: after an unsuccessful date to think that “Next time might be better not to talk about my ex-boyfriend on the first date” – This way of examining the situation and taking conclusions is constructive. “I’m a hopeless looser!” – This way is very subjective and destructive. People who take this conclusion, they miss to see the difference between doing a mistake and being someone. Often they forget not all of the refusals are personal. Most of the times circumstances and self-adjustment play the same important role in the situation and the refusal is not personal. (There are some personality disorders when the feeling of being refused is pathological).

  1. Strengthen your self-esteem

The main problem of refusal is we take it personal and it influences our self-esteem. With stable self-esteem we are able to do a more objective examination and evaluation of the situation. Being more realistic and not forgetting our strengths as well, not focusing just on our deficiencies. If we have got refused in specific roles (like a partner, friend or colleague) spending time with collecting positive characteristics (five with examples) in that role help us to see we might have made a mistake but that doesn’t define us as a person. Also important to think why those characteristics are important to others.

  1. Connect

Very important to make ourselves understand that even if somebody refused us that doesn’t mean we are worthless. We must remember there are other people who love and respect us. Through this we are able to experience the security of connection which supports the feeling of being able to connect. Look for those people who care about you. Refusal doesn’t influence our personality being able to be loved.

Being refused is never simple. At the same time alleviation of the pain and the recovery of self-esteem can help to overtake it and move on.

Also important that every each difficulty has its own treasure which comes in knowing ourselves better and deeper. Often to change perspective or getting known ourselves better is difficult just doing by ourselves. With professional help it’s easier in a consultation where you become the center.

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Emotional blackmail IV. – Aftermaths

Emotional blackmail is not life-threatening but overbalances our mental unity. This unity means I am who I’m; I believe this and this; this what I’m willing to do; these are my boundaries. Victims often give up their mental unity, they don’t stand up for themselves; they allow fears drive their life; they don’t oppose whom hurt them; and they allow others to define them how to act, think and feel; they betray themselves and others; they can’t protect their physical and mental health and they lie. They give up their beliefs, continuously get disappointed in themselves and loosing self-respect. But how is it possible that victims can’t see it?

Victims often use rationalization when they need to choose between their own scale of values and surrender. Finding justifications why must surrender because the victim doesn’t want to lose the important person-who is the autocrat. (Not to be confused with codependency) The highest price of emotional blackmail is the narrowed world of the victim. They lose their friends, their interests just to make the autocrat happy.

Also victims suffer a lot from feelings what they are not able to express freely. They dig them deeply which come up like depression, anxiety, overeating or chronic headaches or other physical pains. They often question themselves if they are allowed to feel certain emotions, mainly anger.

They betray themselves but they might don’t realize the fact, they often betray others as well just to avoid disapproval of the autocrat. Often victims feel they must choose between the autocrat and another important person or even a child.

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Emotional blackmail destroys security in the relationship, which means the trust and the good will is going to disappear. If these two things are missing the relationship becomes superficial, there is not going to be emotional openness. The victim loose trust and start to hide things and emotions and stop talking openly. They start to hide things from the autocrat, avoid topics to talk about as a protection. For instance: avoid to talk about mistakes; expressing sadness, fear or doubts; hopes, dreams, goals or fantasies; unhappy moments or time periods; everything which can prove that the victim changes and develops. The safe talk topic’s scopes get ever tighter and talks become more and more vapid.

When intimacy and security disappear from the relationship, mainly victims start to pretend. They pretend to be happy and not having any problems, not to be worried about things and pretend still loving that person who emotionally blackmailing them. Victims usually use so much energy to keep up appearances.

We can see to live together with an emotional blackmailer is not easy and the price is very high. But as always, there are solutions and available help as well to change it, it just requires a bit of courage.

If you could have recognized yourself as a victim of emotional blackmail, you must know that there is a way out, it doesn’t matter how hopeless and helpless you feel. You are the only one who is able to change your life! If you want to know more about emotional blackmail, I recommend you a book to read.

Susan Forward – Donna Frazier

Emotional Blackmail: When the people in your life use fear, obligation and guilt to manipulate you

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Emotional blackmail III. – The victim

To have emotional blackmailing situation it requires two people, the autocrat and the victim. The victim is actively involved in these situations, taking a back-seat and allows this kind of behaviour of the autocrat. Why do some people become easily a victim of emotional blackmail and others don’t? There are some personality traits which make easy to become a victim of emotional blackmail. Exaggerated claim to acceptance, strong fear of anger, making every effort to peace, exaggerated taking responsibility for others and strong self-doubt.

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The recognition seeker

We all seek for recognition, completely acceptable feeling and one of our basic needs but when we feel we must get others’ recognition and our self-image/self-esteem depends on if we get it or not; that makes us addictive and dependent and this trait becomes an easy target to an emotional blackmailer. Recognition seekers continuously need confirmation like a daily dose and if they don’t get it they feel they failed. They believe something is wrong with them till someone confirms the opposite. Their feeling of security completely depends on external confirmations. They believe “If no one praise me I did something wrong.” or “If I don’t get praised I’m bad.”

Anger avoidance-peace maker

Their mottos are “Don’t be angry!” and “Don’t bring down others’ wrath!” These people’s main wish is always everybody being peaceful and rational. In difficult situation this is able to become a rigid hindrance, like there is nothing worse than an argument. They are whom jump first and make serious efforts to achieve reconciliation, to avoid argument which is the Armageddon for them (this is how they see and feel it). They do everything to avoid any divergence, if they have, they immediately surrender because they are so afraid of the relationship breaks in two. They believe if they surrender this is just a temporary concession to reach a higher good.

The responsibility taker

There are people who take so much responsibility but not just for their own feeling also for others’. They believe they must solve alone every problems and push their sometimes basic needs behind. They have problems with personal boundaries. They pay attention too much other people’s emotional well-being and that makes them completely blind on their own.

The self-doubter

It’s healthy to know that we are not perfect, we all have our weaknesses and make mistakes. Even tough healthy self-esteem can swing into its opposite. Blackmailers often use this weakness. If someone didn’t have a stable self-esteem or at least stable self-image easily can become a self-doubter. These people gives too much importance to other’s opinions, they believe others are wiser and more intelligent.

The victim trains the autocrat to become better and stronger!

When the victim faces with the pressure of autocrat, act/react like excuse, reason, argue, cry and/or beg. If someone does one or two of these actions, she/he is the coach of the autocrat!

Victims believe they are not able to act like, standing up, oppose, run boundaries or simply telling to the autocrat that went too far.

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Emotional manipulation-emotional blackmail II.

I wrote about how emotional blackmail works and described typical types of blackmailers in my previous post. No, they are not monsters, of course what they do, especially how they do it is wrong but there is always a reason why and how they developed this strategy to get what they want. How is the internal world of an emotional blackmailer? How do they think and feel?

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We all have learnt that we cannot get everything what we want and whenever we want. Faced with several bitter disappointments but we accepted them with feeling sad or angry for a while.

Autocrats cannot bear frustration because to them frustration means more than a temporary hindrance. When an autocrat is becoming frustrated it activates a deep fear of loss and privation. Autocratic people seem like everyone else, often are very effective in one part of life. Completely apart from which type of autocrat they are or which means they use, they suffer from a privation, and they do everything to avoid this feeling.

They sense and feel even small tensions as catastrophe and attach great importance to resistance. Often they feel, if they don’t get what they want, they got refused as a person and not what they wanted or asked. They believe if they don’t react aggressively their partner privates them from something which is vitally important. These are the basic believes of an autocrat who is an emotional blackmailer.

These believes can develop by long term anxiety and suspense but also often we can find relation between childhood determinant happenings and the fear of privation in adulthood. Unfortunately sometimes we can’t find any relation.

Autocrats focus their attention on their own needs and wishes and often seems like they don’t care about other’s feelings and how they make others feel when they use pressure or threats. Autocrats are self-centred and it can come from a belief that the attention and love what they have now is limited and can be gone. Often they react like small problems or arguments will end the whole relationship. They experience very intensive emotional disappointment and frustrations when they face with even small resistance and try to make small problems appear as if they are unsolvable.

We must understand that, the autocrat mainly doesn’t respond to the actual situation, responding to a situation which symbolizes something from past happenings. Typical in autocrats’ exaggerated responses that comes with so much noise and emotions but usually the internal deep primary feelings don’t come up to the surface . If they could have known and expressed those primary emotions they wouldn’t need to use emotional manipulation or blackmail to get what they want or they would be able to make a difference between them as person being refused or their request got refused which is a big difference indeed.

Autocrats can’t see the long term outcomes of their behaviour because their urgent compulsion to satisfy their needs or wishes befogs their logical consideration. Often seems like autocrats want to make the victim feel bad. Often they demand and humiliate while trying to make their intention looks if it’s good. They completely see their intention differently as they are in real.

Like the punishers see, they don’t punish their victims, just keep order or control the family’s life properly. The end justifies the means. However there are autocrats who feel or see themselves like victims.  Punishment also helps autocrats to get into an active and aggressive position, in this case they feel strong and invulnerable. With this method they are able to calm down the believed fear of privation. Basic truth is, what we don’t word that appears in our actions. If the autocrats could have been able to look into themselves for a while, probably they would be horrified at their own fears and weaknesses. Unfortunately they just rarely do it, or face with their own fears, they hurt and attack others instead. The harshest punishers mainly those autocrats who lost someone who was important. Lost because that person became emotionally unavailable, left physically or a distance developed in the relationship. Angry punishers often disparage others because it eases the pain of coping and the pain of possible loss. Punishers also often can believe, actually they just help the victim. Instead of feeling guilty after hurting someone, they are proud of their acts because they just make a man of the victim, like teaching.

The most important thing is, it’s not about the victim and there is nothing to do with him/her. It’s all about correction and strengthening those huge suspense what the autocrat has deep inside. Emotional blackmail more often has something to do with the past than with the present and even more often it’s all about the satisfaction of the autocrat’s needs and not about what the victim did or did not do.

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