Fear of Intimacy Paperback – 31 Jan 2001
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Top Customer Reviews
Great for anyone enthusiasted in improving their relationships, parenting, and just growing as a person.
I wish there was also a bit shorter and easier to read book, something I could recommend also for average friend with a bit less time and enthusiasm.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Firestone explains that "the major problem in interpersonal relationships is each person's psychological defences based on destructive voice processes and the distortions each partner introduces into the relationship". Firestone introduces two major concepts: the FANTASY BOND and VOICE.
The fantasy bond is the primary defense a child formed in facing pain and anxiety. Children who are deprived of emotional sustenance compensate themselves with fantasy gratification, by forming an imagined fusion 'fantasy bond' with the mother or parenting figure, and later in life, the adult continues to make fantasized connections in intimate associations.
The voice, a secondary defense, functions to support and confirm a person's retreat into an inward fantasy state. For example, the person imagines: "I can take care of myself. I don't need anyone else. I am my own parent." And later in life, some of the destructive voices which adult couples bring into their relationships like "You're unattractive and uninteresting. Why would he(she) want to go out with you".... "Don't fool yourself. He doesn't care about you."....
I need to put down the book from time to time while reading it. I need some pauses to reflect about my own inner voices. I agree that it is a long journey, and there is no quick fix. Self-awareness is the first step to rectify our own repetitive destructive patterns, and reading this book can be a good starting point.
Fear of Intimacy
Robert Firestone & Joyce Catlett (both in So. Cal)
David Deida says, "We long for the same fullness of bliss that we never seem to have time to offer. We complain about our lives and blame others, until we realize that right now, we are making love-or we are refusing-right now."
Fear of Intimacy offers several insights that can be used as tools to move towards intimacy with the universe as Deida proposes.
The book has several headlines. One is "our defenses are the illness." The book describes how defenses are formed. Our primary defense [are formed] at a time when the child would be in great danger if he or she was abandoned by the parent. ...[The child] is afraid that if they react with emotional integrity, if they really cry out, if they really ask, if they really scream for help, that it won't come, and they will be in the same panicky, frightened state [forever]" (36). Rather then be frightened forever, the child is forced to go away from the pain of 3D reality and into a fantasy world of some kind. They go into a fiction, into a delusion, hug a teddy bear or puppy, numb out, obsess on substances, etc. "In this [way] people's defenses formed under painful circumstances, become the core of their neurosis..." (35). This is the clearest language I've seen for how unresolved traumas are "put into us" as kids.
The idea of "defenses are our illness" stimulated me to check to see if defendedness could be measured by muscle testing. Sure enuf, it can. As Spirit sees it, Defendedness appears to be on a scale of 1000. John-Roger (msia.org) is the least defended person I know and perhaps one of the least defended persons ever. He measures at zero by my checking. It's possible to measure your own Defendedness.
The book excels on "Why do we defend?" Then it shows how defenses impact relationships. Defenses play into relationships this way, "...people tend to select partners who are like people in their own early lives [because] their defenses are appropriate [to them]"(39) If wife is like birth mother, then "...it leaves a person's defense system intact" (39). Hence the phenomena of the man who marries a woman then complains, "You're just like my mother!" The authors propose that in the unexamined areas of our life, "we "feel relaxed [and familiar] when our defenses are appropriate" (69). People who carry a primarily negative self-image from childhood are a particular focus of the book.
The book makes a nice segue to Deida when it says things like, "Distortions of self, others and the world, inherent in being defended, are introduced into new relationships... Most people end up fighting ghosts [of the past] rather than struggling with [growth:] personal gratification and self-actualization" (63). The early part of the book lays out patterns of psychological defense so that readers can find their own dysfunction and dysfunctional family pattern, if they stumble across a shoe that fits.
Readers are led early on to an insight that 99% of everyone-thruout human history-has, as a child, suffered physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect or some combination of the three. This simply goes with growing up on a planet where the sins of the parents are visited on the children. On this, the book is refreshingly frank. "The ideal conditions favoring a secure attachment [to an early care giver] rarely exist [anywhere]. All children, to varying degrees, suffer emotional pain and anxiety that necessitate the building of defenses" (65). The damaged condition of therapists and clients-that's everyone pretty much- is simply a given, not a cause for blame or for victim pride.
Moving on thru much ground the book covers, the authors say something new to me. "Once a person is damaged, he or she formulates defenses that not only preclude getting hurt again but also ward off loving responses." "...The truth is that mature love-kindness, respect, sensitivity, and affectionate treatment-is not only difficult to find but is [also] difficult to tolerate or accept [if negative self-concepts are held on to]." (310). The idea that we build defenses is old. The idea that we sabotage unconditionally loving gestures directed at us, because it would require us to give up familiar negative self-images, is not a common insight and is one that is conspicuous by its absence in my reading of classic Transactional Analysis literature
The book emphasizes how in childhood we are handed a provisional personality that integrates us into the family system. John Bradshaw used to display a hanging mobile from the ceiling in his televised workshops to show his conception of the family system, how every part has its place, is moving and affects every other part one way or another.
The books says, to the degree our provisional family personality was negative, was accepted by us, and became familiar, to that extent we tend to defend it from loving gestures that would cause us to rethink our view of ourself. The book is highly cognizant of the wisdom of family systems that if we do not review, revise, update and upgrade the personality handed to us early in our life in our family of origin, then we will tend to replicate our family dynamic in relationships, coupling, and marriage.
Much of the rest of the book works in the area where couples transition from being in love and cherishing each other; and then, transition to distance, routinized behavior, loss of passion, complacency or even fighting and violence. The books is good about tracking how couples move out of initial positive bloom of love to a dysfunctional relationships. "In spite of their stated desire for self-affirmation, people seek confirmation for their negative provisional identity, developed in the context of the [early] family" (304).
The book gives a lot of case studies. It proposes a variation of voice dialogue to unearth and expose the negative self-talk and give lots of examples of how they do this. The book embraces the topic of voice dialogue and quotes Christopher Lasch, "The distinguishing character of selfhood...is not rationality; rather, the critical awareness of man's divided nature." The book's take on unearthing negative self talk is more talk-therapy than inner-child related. See TA, Voice Dialogue or the Three Selves for the more solution-oriented approaches to conversing with your inner "parts."
Addictions and dysfunctional fantasy life, including masturbatory behavior, come in for lots of discussion. Addiction is discussed as "...a fundamental choice away from relationships" (41) `The child (and adult) unconsciously rejects real gratification and gives up goal-directed activity to hold on to the safety of a fantasy world over which he or she has complete control."
The unexamined life tends to repeat and recreate early family dynamics, good or ill. Beyond this, the authors point to two existential issues that clearly block us from the kind of intimacy Deida encourages. A radio interview Joyce Catlett gave on KPFK put a better point on this than the book does. She said that two fears block us at the deepest level. One is the fear of being separated and isolated from the ones we love [the Beloved]. The other fear is being overwhelmed and swallowed whole [merged and] losing our identity in our loved one [or the Beloved]. "...being loved challenges core psychological defenses" (311)
I've been checking this out. It does indeed seem to be the case; fear breaks down into two categories, fear of separation-isolation; and, fear of dissolution and loss of identity in merging with the Beloved. Some classical associations arise here. Separation and pain associate with darkness. Converging with ecstasy associates with light and bliss. Acknowledging and backtracking thru these two fears has clarified for me where I got off track navigating towards the undefended loving Deida encourages. These topics, more commonly found in spiritual literature, can be applied productively to couples counseling and self-examination.
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