The Weinholds believe that sustainable relationships create a social safety net for people during times of economic uncertainty, political instability and rapid global climate. These videos examine the importance of having a web of relationships that provide social and emotional support during times of rapid change. [Read more…]
The search for intimacy has reached new heights as more than 40 million lonely Americans used online dating services last year. The search for soul mates and other kinds of “perfect match” partners has caused an explosion of internet match services and social networking sites, showing just how many people are searching for intimacy and connection.
In spite of an increase in population, however, marriage rates are down. While people say they want intimacy, they also seem to fear and flee from it–people like John, Eric, Lindsey and Susan.
The Flight From Intimacy
John is a hard worker who puts in seventy hours a week and has frequent rage attacks when little things go wrong. Despite his high job performance, he has been passed over for promotion because of his poor relationship skills.
Eric is bright and seems to handle life easily. He is a sharp dresser and has a likeable personality. Inside he feels insecure and has low self-esteem. Divorced at the age of twenty-three, he is still looking for the perfect woman.
Lindsey always looks as if she stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine. She is witty and fun-loving but is careful about letting people get too close because of her struggle with sexual intimacy.
Susan is preoccupied by her children’s activity schedules, fundraising for local charities, playing competitive tennis, and exercising at the club. She is so unavailable to her husband that he recently had an affair.
So, what causes these kinds of counter-dependent behaviors in adults? We believe it is trauma that prevents a person from becoming emotionally separated from his or her parents as toddlers, between the age of 9 months and 3 years. This process is also known as the “psychological birth” because it marks the psychological separation from the parents.
When this separation doesn’t get completed during the appropriate developmental window, it can cause addictions to “upper” substances and activities, recurring relationship conflicts, problems with closeness and intimacy, patterns of bullying or victimization, and a series of unsuccessful relationships.
Separation Trauma Becomes Adult Drama
In order for toddlers to “individuate,” or become separate individuals, they must learn how to tolerate the loss of their infantile illusion that they are the center of the world. And they have to learn how to control their feelings of infantile rage when others set limits for them or around them.
During this painful process, toddlers need not only the understanding support of their mothers, but also the empathic support of their fathers. Without the support of both parents, children’s individuation process will not be completed on schedule and will continue to cause relationship problems for them later in life.
People who do not go through this rage reduction process during their toddler years will likely express rage their adult relationships when some one or life circumstances impose limits on their behavior. As the defenses against the need for emotional intimacy become stronger over the course of a person’s lifetime, this behavior can turn into a full-blown narcissistic personality disorder.
The massive number of narcissistic adults in the world has become a global problem. Because so many people did not experience healthy narcissism and go through the developmental process of ego reduction, they continue to act like entitled, grandiose, euphoric, and omnipotent 2- and 3-year-olds. As adults, their temper tantrums emerge in child abuse, domestic violence, wars, and a full range of dominating, revenge-seeking protective behaviors. They feel entitled to more than their share of Earth’s resources and even to bankrupt the whole planet!
Counterdependency & Narcissism
Unfortunately, narcissists tend to seek positions of power and prestige in government and private industry. It’s easy to see their unresolved two-year old issues—entitlement, grandiosity, omnipotence and euphoria—shining through their adult behaviors. Their air of superiority and their need to look good and be in control without having limits or being accountable shouts “NARCISSIST!”
Those who experience developmental wounds during the counterdependent stage of development are often addicted to “upper” substances and activities—drugs, overwork, quick sex, traveling and over-consuming. All of these addictions serve as inadequate and unsatisfying substitutes for the lost deep emotional connection with their mother and with the divine. Unfortunately, it often takes people a long time to discover this as the source of many of their problems.
Although people don’t generally remember their early developmental traumas, they are visible in their relationship histories. It’s visible in their addictions and in their intimate relationship patterns. People with counter-dependency issues often create a conflict when the relationship gets too intimate, while those with co-dependency issues create a conflict when the relationship is not intimate enough. Much of couple conflict involves a struggle to determine how much intimacy and how much separation partners can tolerate in their relationship.
The Good News & The Bad News
The bad news is that the closer your adult relationships become the more they will activate memories of old traumas of being dominated, invaded, betrayed, abused and manipulated. The good news is that intimate relationships are the best place to heal the trauma that causes co-dependent and counter-dependent behaviors.
We found that healing trauma in intimate relationships requires redefining intimacy so that it includes the conflicts and struggles that are a natural part of the healing process. This approach to healing trauma in relationships also requires telling the truth about who you really are, what your needs are, sharing power, finding soul-evolving solutions to all conflicts and being willing to openly share your life with your partner on many levels: mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.
Authentic intimacy involves seeing your partner as a complete and separate person with some traits you like and some traits you don’t. It requires skills in negotiating with your partner to meet your needs for closeness and separateness. Most importantly, it requires being willing to ask for what you want one hundred percent of the time.
Once you expand your definition of intimacy to include healing each other, your relationships will shift dramatically. You’ll find more opportunities for intimacy that help you create an intimate partnership relationship. For us, this is the foundation for building a sustainable relationship. Click here to hear a podcast of us talking about the search for intimacy in relationships.
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Birthing positions can be a cause of developmental trauma during a child’s birth. The trauma can be prevented by using more natural birthing positions that allow the mother to squat. This is possible during underwater births, which have been practiced for since the 1970s years in France and Russia and appeared more recently in California.
Some hospitals are now installing large water tanks so that mothers can give birth underwater, which is a remarkable innovation. This procedure makes sense because a child lives in water while in the womb. Water birth is also a natural way to give birth, as it allows the mother to deliver in a squatting position.
This allows the forces of gravity and support of the water to assist in the birth process. The worst possible delivery position for a mother is on her back with her feet up in the air. In most “primitive” societies, women squat to give birth.
Waterbirth is felt by mothers and providers alike to be the gentlest of gentle births.
Warm luxurious water cradles both the mother and child and give them complete freedom to move during this profound human experience. Women who have experienced the support and comfort of water for their labors while birthing and holding their newborns in their arms speak more than any scientific article or paper on the subject.
Here’s a great video about Gentle Birth:
We got a lot of inspiration from Tara and Bella about making close relationships work . . . we hope you do too.
In our recent book, Conflict Resolution: The Partnership Way, ( 2009, pp. 161-172), we discuss one of the most universal human experiences: betrayal trauma.
Betrayal experiences create a special kind of developmental trauma and stress. They often begin in early childhood when you placed all your trust in your parents and other caregiving adults, anticipating that they would be perfect caregivers, see your essence, honor your innocence, appreciate your uniqueness, and meet your needs in a timely manner. When your parents were unable to do so, you felt betrayed. Our experience indicates that all people have betrayals of some kind during their lives.
Our first childhood betrayals often begin in early infancy. We perceived our parents and others as divine and trusted them to treat us with respect. However, your mother or father may have looked at you, perhaps while feeding you, failed to see your divine nature, and saw instead their own unfulfilled wishes and dreams. In this situation, they may have used you as a tool for meeting their own unmet needs. This is how the process of invalidating our divine nature begins. We eventually discover that our parents are not divine beings but mortal humans with faults and problems. This realization can trigger feelings of betrayal and damage if not break primal trust in the relationship.
In our adult relationships we attempt to recreate this experience of primal trust and use it as a criterion for determining the relationship’s worth, so we get betrayed again and learn that our partners are just ordinary human beings like our parents. In the middle of conflicts they say and do things that activate memories of unhealed betrayal trauma. We feel profoundly disappointed, lost, and hopeless that we will ever find someone who can mirror our divine self so we can recover it.
The research on human potential indicates that most people use only a small percent of their inherent capacities. They are so richly over-endowed that very few even begin to understand how much unused potential they really have at their disposal. In fact, Einstein, who was considered the epitome of mental giants, reportedly wept just before his death when he contemplated the fact that he had used so little of his own potential. Betrayal trauma, as a form of developmental trauma or stress, plays a major role in the loss of human potential, particularly the loss of innocence in early childhood. Each time parents or other adults fail to see, accept, and understand a child, they chip away at the child’s sense of Self. It is helpful to look at when, how, where, and by whom you might have been betrayed as a child in order to recover your split-off parts, restore your full connection to your essence, and reclaim the vision of your true potential.
Typical Responses To Betrayal
James Hillman (1975), in a very penetrating article about betrayal, writes about the choices people typically make when they feel betrayed. He believes that most people make what he calls “sterile choices” that prevent them from learning from their betrayals. Here are Hillman’s descriptions of each of these choices:
- Revenge. People often feel a very strong desire to get even with the persons who betray them. When someone says or does something hurtful, the immediate impulse may be to get revenge. Hillman says that this choice is the most common response and the one that creates the least amount of growth in consciousness. Seeking revenge and getting even mean placing the focus on what other people did or didn’t do or say; this response allows you to avoid looking at yourself in order to expand your awareness.
- Splitting. People in intimate relationships who are unable to maintain their internal object constancy or sense of self often resort to splitting against themselves or others. Triggered by post-traumatic stimuli from the past, they may feel regressed, and then make either himself or herself or the other person the “bad guy.” This kind of split immediately activates automatic flight/fight/freeze behavioral responses. Splitting responses to a betrayal may indicate a need for trauma reduction therapies and/or individual counseling that focuses on developmental trauma during the first three years of life.
- Denial. A third choice in a betrayal situation is to deny the value of the other person. This choice may also involve splitting, or making a person once perceived as “all good” into someone now perceived as “all bad.” It’s surprising how quickly this defense mechanism can be activated, often with little awareness. By placing all the blame on the betrayer you may miss important learning about the real source of the betrayal as a reenactment experience of some earlier betrayal trauma.
- Cynicism. This easy choice may be the disease of contemporary times. It is easy for people to get cynical because of their inabilities to stop reenacting their betrayal traumas and the subsequent lack of understanding of the patterns inherent in them. Cynicism is often called broken idealism and if only seen this way, that perspective prevents any serious look at how any previous betrayals may have led up to the current one. Cynicism, again, doesn’t lead to much growth or awareness.
- Paranoia. Paranoia, or a lack of trust of the betrayer, is another common response to betrayal. Someone who was betrayed and hurt in a loving, trusting relationship may require that people pass a lot of tests before they are allowed to get close again. Paranoia also leads to very little growth. It requires a lot of time to constantly monitor the other person’s behavior to determine if he or she is passing some trustworthiness tests. Rather than focusing on the source of the betrayal or the patterns being reenacted in the relationship, paranoia is another way of avoiding self-scrutiny.
- Self-Betrayal. The final sterile choice, according to Hillman, involves the betrayal of one’s own self. The inner response to a betrayal might be, “How could I have been so stupid!” Such responses often include a self-judgment about the risks that were taken. Rather than seeing the risk-taking as a potential for learning, it becomes classified as a mistake that is used for self-judgment and disempowerment. In another post is a skill practice exercise designed to help you identify your patterns of betrayal that could have caused you to have unhealed developmental trauma or stress.
One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday He must really be a nerd.” I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. [Read more…]