Truth, lies and intimacy:
An attachment perspective
ABSTRACT This paper
outlines some of the ways in which secure attachment is associated with the capacity
to participate in successful intimate relationships.
The paper begins
with the discussion of 4 key abilities required for intimacy: the ability to seek care, the ability to give care, the ability to feel comfortable with an autonomous self and the ability to negotiate. Bowlby's attachment theory (1969/1982, 1973, 1980) and related research are presented
as a framework for understanding the development of these
Next, attachment, intimacy and sexuality are discussed. In the final section, attachment, intimacy and
truth are considered.
Emotions are part of our genetic heritage. Fish swim, birds fly and people
feel. Sometimes we're happy, sometimes we aren't; but sometimes in our life we're sure
to feel anger and fear, sadness and joy, greed and guilt, lust and scorn, delight & disgust.
While we aren't free to choose the emotions that arise in us, we're free to choose how and when to express
them, provided we know what they are. That's the crux of the problem.
Many people have been educated out of knowing what their feelings are.
When they hated, they were told it was only dislike. When they were
afraid, they were told there was nothing to be afraid of. When they felt pain, they were advised to be brave and smile. Many of our popular songs tell us 'Pretend you're
happy when you aren't.'
What is suggested
in the place of this pretense? Truth. Emotional education can help children to know what they
feel. It's more important for a child to know what he feels than why he feels it.
When he knows clearly what his feelings are, he is less likely to feel ambivalent inside. (Haim Ginott,
1965, p. 34)
It's likely that
that most people view their attachment relationships as their most
intimate relationships. Yet surprisingly, examination of the developmental origins of intimacy hasn't been a focus of attachment theorists.
Although the American
Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic & statistical
manual of mental disorders (DSM-IV; 1994) contains no diagnostic category uniquely devoted to difficulties with intimacy
(such difficulty isn't in itself psychopathology), there are links between difficulties
with intimacy and a number
Furthermore, understanding intimacy is important to clinicians because of the clear evidence that problems
with intimacy contribute to both physiological and health problems as well as to psychological problems (e.g. Berman & Margolin, 1992; Fisher & Stricker,
1982; Loevinger, 1976;
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, intimate means 'belonging to or characterizing one's deepest nature' (1971, 7th ed., p. 444). As Reiss and Patrick (1996) pointed out, the Latin intimus means 'innermost' & intimare means 'to
make the innermost known'.
of intimacy addresses
one's deepest nature, one's innermost self, the core of one's being, the truth about who one really is - what the poet Yeats
called 'heart-revealing intimacy'. Intimacy, therefore, is making one's innermost known, sharing one's core, one's truth, one's heart, with another and accepting, tolerating the core, the truth, of another.
It's being able to tell both the good and the bad parts of oneself, to tell of anger, ambivalence, love and to accept both the good and the bad parts of another, to accept anger, ambivalence, love. It's to share the self: one's excitements, longings, fears and neediness and to hear of these in another.
This paper begins
with discussion of 4 key abilities required for intimacy and of how Bowlby's attachment theory (1969/1982, 1973, 1980) and related research contribute to an understanding of the development of these abilities. My proposition is that secure attachment facilitates these abilities. I'll first describe both theory
and data in relation to this proposition.
Next, I discuss attachment, intimacy and sexuality. In the final section, I focus on attachment, intimacy and truth.
4 Abilities Required For Intimacy
The ability to seek
ability to seek care relates to what attachment theorists call the 'attachment behavioral system', a biologically based system of behaviors, most likely
to be activated in times of threat, that results in an individual's gaining or
maintaining proximity to an attachment figure (Bowlby, 1969/1982; see Cassidy, 1999a, for a summary).
The attachment system is thought to have evolved because individuals who protested separation
and sought an attachment figure when threatened were more likely to survive to pass on the genes for this tendency.
attachment system has been studied mostly in infants
and mothers, Bowlby (1979a) made it clear that attachment is important 'from the cradle to the grave' and that people of all ages do best when they have a trusted attachment figure, or a few such figures, to whom they can turn in
times of trouble.
The reason that
seeking care is important for intimacy is that, in the words of poet Robert Hass (1998),
'In this life, the heart
is going to be injured'.
Life, for all humans, involves times when the innermost core is filled with
fear, sadness, anger, grief and a person will want
care because, according to Bowlby, humans are biologically
predisposed to want care at such times.
Intimacy means sharing those feelings and that wish for care. Thus, for intimacy, the care-seeking system - the attachment system - has to be functioning well. A person
must be able to turn to others, appropriately selected others, effectively, in times of trouble.
What helps the
attachment system function well? Two factors, both related to trust,
are important. There are extensive data that secure infants have had experiences with their parents that would contribute to their developing this sort of trust.
First, the trust
that others are available and sensitively responsive is
important. A number of studies report that secure infants, more than insecure infants, have mothers who are sensitively responsive, particularly when the infants are upset and signal for comfort.
These mothers have
been found to be more accepting, co-operative, available, comforting
and tender than other mothers (e.g. Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978; Belsky, Rovine, & Taylor, 1984; Egeland & Farber, 1984; NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 1997).
In fact, a recent
meta analysis examining 66 studies and over 4,000 dyads
found what in meta-analytic terms is considered a 'moderately
strong' association between maternal sensitivity
and secure infant attachment (de Wolfe & van Ijzendoorn, 1997).
According to Bowlby,
based on the experiences with the mother, the child develops
a mental representation (Bowlby calls this a representational model, or an internal working model [IWMJ)
of the mother.
Secure children are thought to develop representations of the parent as loving, responsive and sensitive. There are an increasing number of studies that support this proposition. Main, Kaplan and Cassidy (1985) reported the first work examining attachment and children's mental representations, with a longitudinal sample followed from infancy to age 6.
Attachment was assessed in infancy with Ainsworth's Strange
Situation procedure (Ainsworth et al., 1978).
At age 6, children's mental representations related to attachment were examined. Children were asked to discuss photographs
of other children undergoing increasingly stressful separations
from their parents (e.g. parents bringing the child to the first day of school, parents leaving for a weekend, parents leaving for a two-week trip).
At 6, the stories of children who had been securely attached as babies were more often viewed as reflecting representations of the mother as responsive.
A series of studies has followed. Several researchers have examined attachment representations in pre-school and early school-aged
children (e. g., Bretherton,
Ridgeway, & Cassidy, 1990; Slough & Greenberg, 1990; Shouldice & Stevenson-Hinde, 1992; Solomon, George, & De Jong, 1995).
The methods of
these studies have varied. Some involve doll stories, some photographs.
In all cases, the attachment system was activated (the child was hurt, frightened; there was a separation).
In all the studies, secure children were more likely than insecure children to have
positive representations of the mother as available, responsive,
comforting (see Solomon & George, 1999b, for a review).
Bowlby (1973) proposed that through the process of generalization
secure children come to have more positive representations of others
in general. A second aspect of trust important for a well-functioning
attachment system is trust in the self as lovable.
According to Bowlby,
closely intertwined with the IWM of the attachment figure is the IWM of the self. If, for instance, a child is loved and valued, that child will come to view himself or herself as lovable and valuable. If, however, a child is
dismissed or not loved, that child will come
to view herself or himself as not lovable and worth little.
This notion - that
people learn about themselves from seeing how others view them
is a widely held view within several theories, beginning with the earliest theorizing about the self (Baldwin, 1897; Cooley, 1902; Mead, 1934; Sullivan, 1953).
Data from several
laboratories support this notion that secure attachment is
associated with positive representations of the self. The first evidence came from Sroufe and Egeland's longitudinal Minnesota Mother-Child Project (Sroufe, 1983).
assessed in infancy in a large sample of poor children;
in pre-school, teachers used 3 measures to rate children's self esteem. Pre-schoolers who had been securely attached to their mothers in infancy had higher self-esteem than
children who had been insecurely attached.
In my own work
(Cassidy, 1988), I used doll stories to examine 6-year-olds' representations of the self within the relationship with the mother. Attachment was assessed at age 6 with Main & Cassidy's (1988) reunion procedure.
of secure children were more positive than those of insecure children:
secure children had representations of the self as valued
and worthy of care. Security scale scores were also significantly positively correlated
with global self-esteem scores (as assessed both concurrently & 3 years later; Cassidy, 1988, 1999b).
(See Verschueren, Marcoen, & Schoefs, 1996, for similar findings with a sample of children from
Thus, there are
converging data that securely attached children have had positive experiences when they turned
to others for care. And I propose that these experiences foster their capacity
for intimacy by making them comfortable and confident in seeking care and by contributing to positive mental representations
of others as caring and of themselves as worthy of care.
Secure individuals thereby bring a set of expectations into new relationships - expectations that others are accepting of them & their imperfections - and through a variety of self-fulfilling mechanisms, these positive expectations contribute to intimacy.
But what of children
whose experiences of turning to others for care haven't been positive? Attachment researchers have identified 3 patterns of insecure attachment. I now discuss each of these in relation to capacities for seeking
Insecure / avoidant attachment
In Mary Ainsworth's pioneering naturalistic observation studies of mothers and
infants, a group of babies was identified hose bids for
comfort were rejected (approximately 25%; Ainsworth, 1967; Ainsworth et al., 1978).
The mothers of
these babies were also uncomfortable with close bodily contact.
Main & Solomon (1986) proposed that infants in a caregiving environment in which activation of their attachment system consistently led to
painful rejection might develop a strategy in which their attachment system was activated as little as possible.
Such a strategy
would be adaptive to their circumstances. (For discussion of avoidance as a defensive process, see also Ainsworth et al., 1978; Cassidy & Kobak,
1988; and Main,
There are both
infants and adults who appear to suppress activation of the attachment system - who have trouble seeking care. Laboratory studies of babies separated from their mothers have revealed that some babies don't seek the mother for comfort or even interaction on reunion as most infants do.
These infants instead
actively avoid the mother and become focused on toy play.
Bowlby (1980; see also Ainsworth et al., 1978; & Main, 1981a) proposed that sight of the mother might activate the attachment system - which ordinarily leads the infant
to engage in bids for contact and comfort - but because the past expression of such bids has been met with painful rejection, the baby has learned to turn defensively toward play activity.
The notion that
this play activity is different from genuine play is supported
by physiological data. Whereas the heart rate of babies
truly interested in play typically decreases, the heart
rate of these babies doesn't decrease, suggesting a lack of true focus on the play (Spangler & Grossmann, 1993).
it seems that these infants aren't
shifting attention to the toys, but rather away from the
mother. Bowlby (1969/1982)
borrowed the term 'diversionary activity' from the ethologists
to describe this behavior. Evidence that avoidant children
have difficulty seeking care also comes from several additional studies of young children.
In one study examining
infant behavior in the Strange Situation, observations of
the communication patterns of mother-infant dyads revealed
that avoidant infants communicated directly with their mothers
only when they (the infants) were feeling well.
When distressed, these infants tended not to directly signal the mother and they didn't seek bodily contact (Grossmann, Grossmann, & Schwan, 1986). In another study of infants
during the Strange Situation, avoidant infants didn't make
visual contact with the mother when they were aroused, but only in situations with low emotional distress (Spangler & Grossmann,
Findings from this
study converge well with findings from a third Strange Situation
study in which insecure/avoidant infants, even though they were
just as likely as some secure infants to be distressed during separation from mother, were less likely to seek comfort from (or even interaction with)
the mother on reunion, but engaged instead in
self-soothing behaviors (Braungart & Stifter, 1991).
study, avoidant children similarly masked
negative affect, this time in a social situation - a tower-building game - with an adult stranger (Lutkenhaus, Grossmann, & Grossmann, 1985). Children's
affective reactions to winning and losing this competitive building game were analyzed.
The avoidant children
manifested sadness about losing during the game, but not
when the game was over and the experimenter was available
for social communication. In fact, during the social communicative
exchange, there was a tendency for the avoidant children
to replace sadness with smiling.
In contrast, securely
attached children showed their sadness after the game when the adult was more available. Thus, even though avoidant children felt and displayed sadness, they did so only when there was no child-adult eye contact, thereby precluding any comfort or reassurance the adult might offer.
As Bowlby's claim
that representations are largely experience-based would lead
one to predict, the attachment-related representations of avoidant children aren't as
positive as those of secure children. In one study, 3-year olds were presented with hypothetical vignettes in which a peer caused something negative to happen to the same-sex child story protagonist.
When asked what the mother in the story would do in response to this situation,
children who had been avoidant infants were significantly
less likely than other children to describe
a supportive maternal response (Cassidy, Kirsh, Scolton, & Parke, 1996).
from another study in which avoidant children had difficulty remembering stories (in a laboratory task) involving
mothers who were responsive to distress also suggests that
these children may lack representations of their
mothers as supportive (Kirsh & Cassidy, 1997).
related to separation and reunion also reflect
less optimal experiences. In Main et al.'s (1985) study asking 6-year-olds about photographs of separation, children who had been avoidant infants were unable to
suggest how children might cope with separation (see also Shouldice & Stevenson-Hinde, 1992).
study, a similar pattern emerged for avoidant
6-year-olds: fears about separation weren't expressed directly, and reunions were hampered by psychological unavailability of family members or by delay and distraction (Solomon et al., 1995).
The representational model
of the self of avoidant children has also been found to
be problematic. I've used a doll stories procedure to assess 'children's representation of the self in relation to attachment' (Cassidy,
The stories of
children classified insecure / avoidant to mother at age 6 reflected
representations of the self as lacking a supportive relationship with the mother:
The doll protagonist was isolated and/or rejected & the importance of relationships was denied; the
existence of conflict was denied in stressful situations, as was the need
for help; and when there was a successful resolution, it was brought about
entirely by the child.
In the same study,
avoidant children responded to
a puppet interview with descriptions of themselves as perfect in every way, even when repeatedly pressed for possibly diverse descriptors. This claim of perfection is viewed as a form of defensive idealization of the self by a child who fears rejection should any imperfection be found.
There are also
data showing that adults with an insecure / avoidant romantic attachment
style have trouble seeking care. Simpson, Rholes & Nelligan (1992) asked dating heterosexual couples to come to the laboratory.
were told that the female partner of the couple
would soon be subjected to a stressful experimental procedure
and were surreptitiously observed while waiting
for the procedure to begin.
that unlike secure women, insecure / avoidant
women failed to seek care (defined as failing to share their concerns with their partners) and in fact withdrew from
their partners as they became more anxious.
In another laboratory
study, Collins & B. C.
Feeney (2000) asked one member of a dating couple to disclose a personal problem or worry to his/her partner.
Avoidant attachment predicted ineffective (i.e.
indirect) support-seeking. Similarly, in a naturalistic observational study of couples separating at the airport, Fraley & Shaver (1998) found that insecure/avoidant
women were less likely than secure women to express their
anxiety and seek comfort from their partners; avoidant women were,
instead, more likely to pull away or withdraw from their partners.
A number of additional self-report studies also have found that avoidant adults are less likely than secure adults to seek support in response to stress.
For instance, in a study about responses to the missile attacks on Israel
during the Gulf War, Mikulincer & his colleagues
(Mikulincer, Florian, & Weller, 1993) found that avoidant adults were less likely to seek support from others,
but instead used a strategy of distancing themselves from
the threat (by trying to 'forget the whole thing') (see
also Mikulincer & Florian, 1995; Ognibene & Collins, 1998; Pierce & Lydon, 1998).
Insecure / ambivalent
Ainsworth (Ainsworth et al., 1978) observed
that the mothers of insecure/ambivalent infants were inconsistent: sometimes loving and responsive, but only when they could manage, not in response to the infant's signals. An adaptive strategy
for an infant whose mother was sometimes responsive,
but other times too preoccupied, too overwhelmed, or too
inept to respond would be staying near (Main & Solomon, 1986).
infant can't count on the mother to monitor its needs, clinging and monitoring closely her availability becomes a good strategy, so that if need for the mother does arise, the infant will have quick access to her. Bretherton (1985) described this as the infant's having to take on more than its share of the burden of maintaining the connection.
This pattern has been described in terms of hyper vigilance and hyper activation
of the attachment system. It is the child's lack of confidence in the caregiver's availability if needed that is thought to contribute to the child's hyper care seeking, the
aim of which is to gain quick access to the mother.
The Strange Situation
behavior of infants classified as ambivalent is characterized by
extreme distress on separation and difficulty in calming on reunion;
these infants display angry, resistant behavior toward the parent (Ainsworth et al., 1978).
This heightened negative emotionality can be viewed as a component of the child's strategy
to gain the mother's attention (Cassidy, 1994; Main & Solomon, 1986). The negative emotionality of the insecure / ambivalent child may be exaggerated and chronic because the
child recognizes that to relax and allow herself or
himself to be soothed by the presence of the attachment figure is to run the risk of then losing contact with the
inconsistently available parent.
A history of exaggerated
negative emotionality may explain findings revealing that
these children have trouble maintaining a boundary between
another person's distress and their own (Kestenbaum, Farber, & Sroufe, 1989).
strategy may involve fearfulness in
response to relatively benign stimuli. Through exaggerated fearfulness,
the infant increases the likelihood of gaining the attention of a frequently unavailable caregiver should true danger arise (Main & Hesse,
However, the critical
research needed to demonstrate a heightening of negative
affect - or indeed a heightened activation of the attachment system - by ambivalent infants doesn't exist. With the
avoidant pattern, consistent evidence of minimization of
negative affect does exist; avoidant infants and adults
can feel negatively aroused while suppressing expression of such feelings (albeit with varying degrees of success; Dozier &
Kobak, 1992; Fraley & Shaver, 1997; Grossmann
et al., 1986; Lutkenhaus et al., 1985; Malatesta, Culver, Tesman, & Shepard, 1989).
evidence in relation to the ambivalent
pattern would consist of a demonstration that the ambivalent individuals show greater negative reactivity than they actually feel.
The rationalization of 'heightening'
hasn't yet been attempted.
A child with the
experiences typical of ambivalent infants might develop a representation of the mother as inconsistently available and of the self as able to gain care only by sending exaggerated signals of need.
the representations of young children have not yielded a
consistent picture for the ambivalent group (which may be due in part to the small number of children typically classified in this group).
In one study, whose
findings can be interpreted as reflecting a representation
of the mother as relatively unavailable, the parent-child
reunions of ambivalent 6 year-olds were characterized by
'delay and distraction' (Solomon et al., 1995). (See Cassidy & Berlin, 1994, for a review of both child and parent behavior associated with this pattern.)
In adult romantic
attachments, this hyper activation is manifested as a seeming insatiability
for closeness. Ambivalent adults describe desires to merge with a partner (Hazan & Shaver, 1987); they portray
themselves in relationships in
ways classified as 'preoccupied' (a. A. Feeney & Noller, 1990); and they're particularly
upset by relationship breakups (O. A. Feeney & Noller, 1992).
The heightened desire for closeness reflects an impairment of the attachment system that would be likely to interfere with intimacy, because to expect someone else to fill all one's needs, to be utterly dependent on another, to be threatened by another's natural autonomy strivings, is bound
to lead to ambivalence and resentment in both partners.
Insecure / disorganized attachment
A third more recently
identified group of insecure infants and children is becoming
better understood following increased research involving
high-risk samples: the insecure / disorganized group (Cassidy & Mohr, in press; Hesse & Main, 2000; Lyons-Ruth & Jacobvitz, 1999; Main & Hesse, 1990; Solomon & George, 1999a; van Ijzendoorn, Schuengel, & Bakerman-Kranenburg, 1999).1
have had experiences of maternal behavior that is so frightening
or unpredictable that they couldn't develop an organized,
strategic response to it and so the attachment system is behaviorally disorganized.
It may be these insecure / disorganized children
who have the most severe difficulties related to seeking
care. Because their mothers are frightening to them, they've
been placed in a very difficult position.
by a parent activates simultaneous inevitably
competing tendencies: to flee to the parent as a haven of safety and to flee from the parent as a source of alarm. In this paradoxical situation no organized behavioral strategy is available. Neither proximity seeking nor proximity-avoiding is a solution. The baby must seek care from a person who frightens him or her.
The baby is in
a terrible position that can't be resolved, a position evident
in the baby's behavioral response to reunion in the Strange
Situation: freezing, disorientation, disorganization (Main & Hesse, 1990; see Main & Solomon, 1986, for a description of the behavioral indices of disorganization
The mental representations
that children classified insecure / disorganized have
both of themselves and their mothers are hostile, violent, incoherent, frightening.
For example, in
a study in which I interviewed children about themselves
(Cassidy, 1988), I asked a 6-year-old what she 'hoped happened to her when she grew up'. She responded that she hoped she would 'get
hit by a car'.
In a narrative procedure
within the same study, I told children a story about a mother
and child having a minor conflict about the dinner menu
and asked what the mother would do next. One boy from this group answered, 'She would throw the boy in the garbage dump.'
The story responses of another disorganized child involved furniture flying across
the room; in another, all family members died violently
(see also Bretherton et al., 1990; Hodges & Steele, 2000; Solomon et a1., 1995).
Secure attachment is associated with positive care-seeking in both children and adults. In Ainsworth's Strange
Situation, when secure babies are distressed, they're direct
and clear in their care-seeking. They seek contact with little or no avoidance
They're soon calmed and return to play. If
secure babies aren't particularly distressed on separation, they're less likely to seek contact; they may be satisfied with proximity or with interaction across a distance.
Furthermore, secure attachment is associated with children's mental representations
of the mother as supportive and helpful and of the self as worthy of care.
This doesn't appear
to be the case for insecurely attached children. Although the 3 types of insecure attachment differ in many ways, each is likely to interfere with successful seeking of care and thus to impair the capacity for intimacy.
In adulthood, there's also evidence that security is associated with the ability to seek care. Furthermore, there's evidence that adult care-seeking relates to adults' own (retrospectively
self-reponed) childhood experiences with their parents (A.
Feeney & Noller, 1990; Hazan & Shaver, 1987; Mikulincer et al., 1993).
The ability to give care
Giving care means being available - to children, to an adult romantic partner - in times of trouble. It means being able to recognize when the person needs care & doing what it takes to provide it. Giving care means being loving:
being respectful of the truth of another, accepting
of a range of ways of being, ways of feeling. It involves openness, flexibility, acceptance.
that the ability to give care is important for intimacy is that giving care contributes to one's partner's being able to be intimate.
Being a secure attachment figure for another, being a source of comfort, allows another person to turn to one in times of trouble, to share needs & longings.
to be flexibly accepting of many aspects of the partner will naturally enhance the partner's willingness to express himself or herself openly & honestly & so fosters intimacy.
controlling stance, an overly fragile stance, anything that restricts what is acceptable within a relationship can limit the partner's willingness to be open about all aspects of his or her true self.
How does this
ability to give care develop? According to attachment theory (Bowlby, 1988), it develops largely within the
context of having been cared for. As Fraiberg (1980) noted: 'We do unto others as we were done to.'
this linkage between attachment & caregiving has been examined most in relation to caregiving to children (e.g. Cassidy, 1999a; George & Solomon, 1999). For instance, Sroufe & Fleeson
(1986) pointed out that babies learn both sides of important early dyadic relationships - at the same time that they learn what it's like to be a baby in a relationship, they learn how
it is that the caregiver is.
The most compelling
evidence for this claim that the early care received contributes to later care given would emerge from prospective longitudinal studies in which parenting was observed in adults
whose own infant attachment history had been previously examined.
According to attachment
theory, adults who, as infants, had had experiences with a sensitive, responsive caregiver would give such care to their own infants. Conversely, adults who, as infants, had had negative experiences, would be likely to be at higher risk for being insensitive to their own infants - even though the clinical & empirical literatures are clear that this isn't an inevitable
pathway (Pearson, Cohn, Cowan, & Cowan, 1994; Phelps, Belsky, & Crnic, 1998).
There are as yet
no prospective longitudinal data, though infants observed in several samples are close to reaching the age when they'll become
parents (e.g. Main's Berkeley sample, Egeland & Sroufe's Minnesota sample, the Grossmanns'
from these studies will provide important insights. The extent to which the childhood care received predicts adult care given to a romantic partner has been much less considered & examined (yet see Hazan
& Shaver, 1987; Carnelley, Pietromonaco, & Jaffe, 1996).
There are, none the less,
several relevant studies of children & adults that suggest that security is associated with the ability to provide care. In children, two sets of studies are relevant. First, a series of studies has found that securely attached children behave in ways that reflect skills related to positive caregiving.
For instance, Main (1981b) observed toddlers playing in a laboratory when a clown entered & cried in distress. Toddlers securely attached to mother showed more 'concerned attentiveness' to the crying clown than did insecurely attached children. Other studies have found evidence that secure children are more prosocial, less aggressive & less hostile (Lyons-Ruth, Alpern, & Repacholi, 1993; Renken, Egeland, Marvinney, Mangelsdorf, & Sroufe,
1989; Suess, Grossmann, & Sroufe, 1992; see Belsky & Cassidy, 1994, for a review).
2nd, studies of sibling
relationships offer insight into attachment security & caregiving. In one study, pre-school children who were securely attached to their mothers were more likely to soothe & give care to a toddler sibling who was distressed during parental separation (Teti & Abalard, 1989).
In another study, 6-year-olds
who had been secure infants were less aggressive to siblings than were children who had been insecure infants (Volling & Belsky, 1992).
Studies of adults have
also reported a connection between security & the sensitive provision of care. The caregiving of mothers to their infants, i.e., has been found to be linked to mothers'
In several studies, secure
mothers, identified with the Adult Attachment Interview as having 'a coherent state of mind with regard to attachment' when
discussing their own early attachment experiences (George, Kaplan, & Main, 1985/1996),
have been found to provide more sensitive care to their children (see van IJzendoorn, 1995, for a meta-analytic review).
A series of studies of
adult caregiving within romantic relationships - both laboratory & naturalistic studies - has found a similar relation
between security & the ability to give care. Simpson & his colleagues (1992), in the laboratory study where couples were surreptitiously
observed while waiting for the woman to participate in a stressful procedure, found that secure men were more likely than insecure men to provide supportive attention to their partner.
During a similar laboratory task
requiring discussion of a stressful event, Collins & B. C. Feeney (2000) found that secure individuals were more likely to offer care & support to their partners.
In another study, B. C.
Feeney & Collins (2000) experimentally manipulated romantic partners' needs for support
during a stressful laboratory situation & found that secure caregivers were more responsive to their partners' needs than were insecure caregivers (see also B. C. Feeney & Collins, 1998).
Kobak & Hazan (1991) reported similar findings:
when married couples were engaged in a laboratory problem-solving
task, secure husbands were less rejecting & more supportive.
Converging findings emerged
from naturalistic studies of adult romantic relationships. Fraley & Shaver (1998), in
the observation study of couples separating at the airport, reported that insecure women were less likely to comfort their partner (e.g. attend to him, hold his hand).
Two studies, one by Kunce
& Shaver (1994) with a student sample & one by J. A. Feeney (1996) with married couples, found that in
their daily lives, secure adults offered their partners more sensitive care than insecure adults.
adults either didn't offer support even though they knew their partner wanted it, or were inept & insensitive when
offering care. (See also Carnelley et al., 1996, for related findings.)
In sum, research findings
from studies of children, mothers & romantic partners support the claim that this second ability important for intimacy - the ability to give care - does, like the ability to seek care, emerge in part from secure attachment.
The ability to feel comfortable
with an autonomous self Kent Hoffman (personal communication, 1997), a clinical psychologist
and researcher working with attachment theory, quoted the poet Rilke:
'Love consists in this, that
two solitudes protect & touch & greet each other.'
'What he is saying is that for genuine intimacy to exist, it is first essential that there be two separate, autonomous selves
willing to both make contact & honor difference.'
Autonomy is important
for intimacy because to permit oneself to become truly close to another person, one must
have confidence in the autonomy of both the self & the partner so that one is free from fear of engulfment (Erickson, 1950).
To permit this autonomy,
one must in turn have confidence that separation will not result in the irrevocable loss of the partner (Holmes, 1997). The notion that autonomy is necessary for good close relationships is a key component of a variety
of theoretical perspectives (e.g. Bowlby, 1988; Erickson, 1950; Minuchin, 1974; Winnicott, 1958).
Secure attachment is thought to facilitate comfort with autonomy. Mothers of secure infants are thought to provide their infants with 'a secure base from which to explore' (Ainsworth et al., 1978). This notion is central to attachment
In fact, the title of
Bowlby's final collection of clinical writings is A secure base (1988). It's notable that the phrase isn't a secure base to which to cling'. It's the moving away, the exploring, the enjoyment of autonomous activity, that's emphasized.
Why does security contribute to the ability to explore & be autonomous? Because the secure infant is confident of ready accessibility to the mother if trouble arises.
This confidence in turn
means the infant doesn't have to overly monitor the mother's whereabouts & can turn his or her attention to enjoying autonomous
exploration (Ainsworth et al., 1978). Evidence from several studies supports the notion
that securely attached children are more autonomous than insecurely attached children.
example, Hazen & Durrett (1982) found that infants securely attached at 12 months
explored more autonomously in an unfamiliar multiroom laboratory playhouse at 2Y2 years of age. Four longitudinal studies
have also provided evidence of a link between security & autonomy.
In one, Cassidy &
Main (1984) examined the ability of 6-year-olds to tolerate a brief laboratory separation
from their parents. Children had been in the room with their parents for an hour while they watched a film & had
Parents were then asked
to leave the room & the friendly experimenter said that they would return in a few minutes. Children who had been
insecurely attached to their mothers 5 years previously were significantly more likely to become distressed during this brief
In another study, pre-schoolers
who had been securely attached as infants were less dependent on their teachers in the pre-school than were children who had been insecurely attached
(Sroufe, Fox, & Pancake, 1983).
In a later study of the
same children, 10-year-olds who had been securely attached were found to be less dependent on their summer camp counselors (Urban, Carlson, Egeland,
& Sroufe, 1991).
In a 4th study, 5-year-old
Israeli kibbutzim children who had been securely attached to the caregiver as infants were more independent than those who had been insecurely attached (Oppenheim, Sagi, & Lamb, 1988).
One group of children
- the insecure/ambivalent group - is characterized by particularly poor autonomy during exploration.
These children show restricted
exploration of the general environment (e.g. Cassidy, 1986; Hazen & Durrett, 1982),
less focused attention & less competence during toy play (e.g. Belsky, Garduque, & Hrncir,
1984; Matas, Arend, & Sroufe, 1978) & greater fear & inhibition during peer play (e.g.
Erickson, Sroufe, & Egeland, 1985) (see Cassidy & Berlin, 1994, for a review).
According to attachment
theory (Ainsworth et al., 1978; Bowlby, 1988), this relatively low autonomous exploration
would result from turning attention away from the environment & toward the mother, provoked by uncertainty about her availability.
Maternal sensitive responsiveness
to the infant's wishes for/interest in exploration will also relate to the infant's comfort with an autonomous self.
As Ainsworth (1984) noted,
'Among a child's behavioral cues are those indicating
that he enjoys the adventures of exploring, he dislikes being interrupted when absorbed in autonomous activity & he is
gratified when he masters a new skill or problem on his own. A parent can't be
truly sensitive to a child's cues if she ignores these' (p. 568).
bids for exploration are resented, controlled, or interfered with, who are made to feel guilty when they explore, or who are
abandoned in retaliation by an angry mother will have difficulty with intimacy.
If an infant learns that
to be close be suspicious of closeness. (See Bretherton, 1990, and Cassidy & Berlin,
1994, for further discussion of maternal sensitivity to infant interest in exploration.) In a recent chapter,
Fonagy (1999) asked: 'Does intimacy grow out of autonomy
or autonomy out of intimacy?' (p. 618).
assume that he would agree that the answer to both pans of his question is yes. The earliest abilities to be autonomous
are fostered by a secure intimacy with the parent (Cassidy & Main, 1984); the later
capacities for intimacy in turn are fostered by capacities for autonomy.
Holmes (1997) made a similar proposal, pointing out an 'apparent paradox - autonomy
based on intimacy, intimacy a prerequisite for autonomy'
The ability to negotiate
According to Hoffman (1997, personal communication):
'Intimacy doesn't mean closeness, but
means the ability to negotiate closeness.'
to Prager (1995), 'to enjoy smoothly functioning relationships, most relationship partners
must eventually negotiate how much intimate contact they will have' (p. 276). One reason
for this relates to basic baseline differences.
People vary in the amount
of closeness they prefer (Buhrmester & Prager, 1995; McAdams, 1982). Some variation
is likely to be due to innate biological differences & some to experiences. Two people may have quite different thresholds
for closeness & the ability to negotiate this honestly is the capacity for intimacy.
A second reason relates
to the fact that even if two people have relatively similar basic thresholds for closeness, they aren't always going to be
in perfect synchrony with each other. They'll have different goals; their priorities may differ.
One person's attachment system
may be activated while the other person's exploratory system is activated. On a Saturday morning, one person wants to cuddle,
while the other wants to go to the hardware store. One person seeks care & the other doesn't feel like giving it at that moment.
intimacy, negotiation is a crucial skill. Failure to negotiate keeps a partner at a distance; it isn't intimate because it means not sharing one's wishes & feelings. There are many pathways that would lead a
person to want to block intimacy (see Prager, 1995).
When a person wishes to
block intimacy, failure to negotiate is an effective strategy. (For further discussion of negotiation of intimacy, see Baxter & Simon, 1993, and Christensen & Shenk,
How do people learn to negotiate?
Again, I propose that this learning occurs within the context of the infant-mother relationship which is full of negotiation,
all day long. (During the early months, negotiation takes place much of the night as well!)
A mother & an infant often have different goals.
A mother wants to open
her mail, brush her teeth, talk to the plumber, put the baby in the car seat, pay a bill, get dressed for a party. An
infant wants to be picked up, to be entertained, to be fed, not to be put in the car seat, to climb on the mother's
back, to go outside.
for learning about negotiation are constantly present between mothers & babies. As infants grow, they develop a capacity
to negotiate & mothers make more demands that they wait, compromise, share, negotiate. (For
discussion of what Bowlby [1969/1982J called the 'goal-corrected partnership' see Marvin, 1977, and Marvin & Britner,
When a child experiences
productive negotiation, that child's wishes are heard & understood; the right to have wishes & preferences is acknowledged;
the right to negotiate is acknowledged; the child isn't attacked or resented every time her or his wishes differ from the
mother's; the mother's wishes are clear most of the time; the child's right to be angry, sad, disappointed, or frustrated
is acknowledged; a joint plan is made & respected; a mutually satisfying deal is struck; promises are kept ('I'll play with you after I put the roast in the oven'); the child gets things the way he or
she wants them some of the time.
These are things thought
to happen within a secure attachment (see Ainsworth et al., 1978; Bretherton, 1990). And I propose that these
kinds of repeated experiences with successful negotiation render one a better negotiator in future relationships. (For reviews of data showing that children learn negotiation skills from parents & then apply them in later
relationships, see Cole, Baldwin, Baldwin, & Fischer, 1982; Cooper & Cooper, 1992; & Maccoby & Martin, 1983.)
Having had good experiences
with negotiation is useful for later competent negotiation. What else helps? Trust that the relationship is solid, that
it can stand the stress of negotiation, that it isn't so fragile that negotiation will destroy it.
Trust in others. Trust
in the self. Knowledge of the self; to negotiate for what one wants, one must know what one wants.
And, as I described earlier,
trust in others, in the self & in the relationship (all of which are related to positive
representations of others, the self & relationships) stem in part from secure attachment.
Empirical evidence of
a connection between secure attachment & negotiation emerged from a laboratory study in which adolescents & mothers were asked to discuss
& try to resolve an issue about which they disagreed.
These problem-solving discussions
can be viewed as a type of negotiation. The discussions of secure adolescents were characterized by less dysfunctional anger, less avoidance of problem-solving & a balanced assertiveness
with their mothers (Kobak, Cole, Ferenz-Gillies, Fleming, & Gamble, 1993).
Still another way in which
secure attachment helps negotiation is that in adulthood, according to Kobak (personal communication,
1998), security gives an individual the capacity to tolerate the inevitable times when a partner fails - without becoming excessively defensive
or angry. A core of secure attachment helps an individual deal with disappointment in ways that don't prevent future intimacy.
Several studies have examined
negotiation in adult romantic couples & have reported connections between secure attachment (as assessed with self-report measures of romantic attachment style)
& good negotiation.
In a study by Feeney &
her colleagues (Feeney, Noller, & Callan, 1994), secure individuals were less likely than individuals with high anxiety about relationships to describe their marital conflicts as
'lacking in mutual negotiation' (see also J. A. Feeney, 1994).
In another study, secure adults were more likely than others to report using 'integrative, win-win' negotiation strategies in which the wishes of
both individuals were considered as was maintenance of the relationship (Pistole, 1989).
Attachment, Intimacy and
exist among attachment, intimacy and sexuality. Sexuality
is, of course, linked to intimacy starting in adolescence. 'Being intimate' can be a euphemism for having a sexual relationship.
As for relating to a person's 'innermost self', sexual behavior is associated with
the emotions of pleasure, joy, passion and longing that
are among the most intense feelings one experiences and
that surely emerge from one's innermost self.
People generally have sex with those with whom they are intimate. People generally
become intimate with those with whom they have sex. Sex is also linked to attachment starting in adolescence.
Examination of the data on timing of first sexual activity in adult relationships (on
average, following 7 dates) and the data on the timing of coming to view an adult partner as an attachment figure (on average, after two years; Hazan & Zeifman, 1994), suggests that over the course of relationship
formation, people have sex with people to
whom they are not yet attached.
Increasing evidence, however, suggests that sexual behavior fosters the tendency
for the two people to become attached to each other.
of attachment and sexuality
Evidence has emerged,
primarily from research with non-human mammals, that oxytocin,
a posterior pituitary peptide, may be a mechanism through which sexual activity facilitates adult attachment. Oxytocin is related to the
development of three important bonds: the
infant's attachment to the mother, the maternal bond to
the infant, and the adult sexual bond.
For instance, evidence that oxytocin release is actively involved in the infant's social
interaction with the mother comes from research with rats.
seems to be associated with the calming that infants display
during social contact, seems to greatly reduce the ultrasonic
vocalizations that infant rats typically emit when separated
from their mothers, and is required for the development
of some pre-attachment processes, such as a baby's recognition of the mother's odor (Nelson & Panksepp, 1996; Singh & Hofer, 1978; see
for a review).
also play a role in maternal bonds to infants.
When females in many mammalian species give birth, high circulating levels of estrogen trigger the proliferation of oxytocin receptors in many forebrain areas. Changes in oxytocin receptors may be related to induction of maternal behavior: administration of oxytocin to virgin female rats results in a sudden surge of maternal behavior; blocking oxytocin in new rat mothers interferes with maternal behavior (Nelson & Panksepp,
in these two intimate, powerful, emotionally
significant, individual-specific bonds - infant to
mother and mother to infant - oxytocin seems to playa role in bond formation. If oxytocin also plays a role in attachment formation in
adult romantic partners, sex may playa role
because for several mammalian species, including humans,
a large surge in oxytocin accompanies orgasm for both males
and females (Carter, 1992).
The brain opiod theory
of social attachment has received much empirical support
and is also relevant (e.g. Panksepp, Siviy, & Normansell, 1985). Social contact can induce the release of opiods, and opiods result in powerful
reduction of separation distress.
Opiods are rewarding:
stimuli associated with them come to be greatly preferred,
and this preference is slow to extinguish. According to
Hazan and Zeifman (1999): Opiod conditioning would be expected
to be the result of repeated anxiety and/or tension alleviating
Exchanges of this kind
are a common feature of both infant-caregiver and adult
romantic relationships. When a parent comforts a crying
infant, the parent becomes associated ... with the alleviation
of distress. Similarly, through repeated comforting exchanges,
including the release of tension brought about by sexual
climax, a lover comes to be associated with stress reduction
develop into attachment bonds appear to be those in which
heightened physiological arousal is repeatedly attenuated
by the same person and in a context of close bodily contact.
As such, attachment may involve the conditioning of an individual's
opiod system to the stimulus ofa specific other. (italics
added; p. 350)
An evolutionary perspective
The sexual system is,
of course, biologically adaptive, just as the attachment system
is; its activation typically ensures the creation of offspring who carry the individuals' genes forward into future generations. Yet what would explain the evolutionary processes that linked the sexual system and the attachment system?
Why would it be
biologically, evolutionarily advantageous - that is, contributing
to humans' reproductive fitness - for sexual activity to
foster the process of becoming attached in adulthood?
To become attached to a sexual partner is adaptive because the attachment system
then serves to keep the couple together, which, biologically,
is important because it means that two people rather than
one can protect the resulting offspring and ensure their
It may well be
the case that the sexual system serves to keep partners
together long enough for their attachment systems to become
organized around each other. Once the sexual system is not such a powerful force in keeping a couple together, the attachment system can exert considerable force in uniting the couple.
Given the complexities
of sex within a relationship, and given the close ties to
the attachment system - and particularly because the attachment system develops first and influences representational models - it is reasonable to expect that individual differences in attachment would relate to individual differences in sexual behavior.
Main (1990) has noted that because humans have evolved
with the capacity to adjust to environmental variation, individual differences in attachment quality can be viewed in part as adaptations to the particular caregiving environment in which the individual finds himself or herself.
The same can be said
about individual differences in sexual behavior: Such differences
can be viewed in part as environmental adaptation (see Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Daly & Wilson, 1988).
seems reasonable to assume that evolutionary pressures would
contribute to a process whereby, given a stable environment,
what an individual learns about attachment from early relationships
would prove useful (that is, would enhance the individual's reproductive fitness) when
making decisions about later attachment and sexual relationships.
What empirical evidence
documents a link between the attachment and the sexual
behavior systems? Does, for instance, a child's attachment history
influence his or her later (adolescent and adult) sexual behavioral system?
Studies from a number
of laboratories have revealed such influence among primates (Harlow & Harlow, 1965). In
humans, Belsky and his colleagues described
ways in which early attachment experiences may contribute
to the nature and onset of subsequent sexual activity (Belsky, Steinberg, & Draper, 1991).
Sroufe and his colleagues reported links between
secure infant-mother attachment and later (pre-adolescent) gender boundary maintenance, which is thought to be a precursor of later
competent sexual behavior (Sroufe,
Bennett, Englund, & Urban, 1993).
In another study using adults' retrospective reports, greater maternal
rejection in childhood was associated with adult sexual
promiscuity (Brennan, Shaver, & Tobey, 1991).
What about reciprocal
influences in adulthood? Is there evidence of an association
between the attachment and the sexual systems? There are as yet few studies. In the most comprehensive study, Hazan and her colleagues found associations of self-reported attachment style and the frequency and enjoyment of various sexual behaviors in a sample of 100 adults (Hazan, Zeifman, & Middleton, 1994).
Secure adults were
more likely to be involved in mutually initiated sexual
activity and to enjoy physical contact than were other adults.
This sexual activity was in the context of a primary relationship:
Secure adults were less likely than others to be
involved in one-night stands or to engage
in sex outside the primary relationship.
Anxious / ambivalent females reported greater involvement in exhibitionism, voyeurism and
dominance/ bondage, whereas anxious/ambivalent males reported
sexual reticence (see also Feeney, Noller, & Patty, 1993, who reported similar findings about anxious/ambivalent males).
reported less enjoyment of physical contact, and their sexual
behaviors were more likely to be those with sex without
love. A similar picture of avoidant adults emerged from two other
Feeney and her colleagues (1993) found them to have more accepting attitudes toward
casual sex than others, and Brennan and Shaver (1995)
found them more likely to engage in one-night stands and to agree with
the notion that sex without love is pleasurable.
Stability and change
Thus far, I have
built a model where early experiences with secure attachment increase
later capacities for intimacy. I also propose that if a person has not had a history of secure attachment but has been able to forge secure attachments later in life and/or in some way rework representational models, the capacity for intimacy will be enhanced.
Schore (1994) argued that the parts of the brain most
central to early attachment processes are 'the most plastic
areas of the cortex', allowing, to an extent as yet unknown, for continuing reorganization throughout life.
Attempts to understand
this process - why and when reorganization is possible
and why and when it is not - will offer fascinating and
important opportunities for addressing key developmental and
It may be that the time
of pair-bonding - related to procreation of offspring and an important time for reproductive fitness - is a time when attachment related neural pathways are particularly open to change. Nelson and Panksepp (1998) reviewed the evidence that gonadal steroids exert strong
regulatory influence on opiods, oxytocin and vasopressin,
and concluded that this influence may be one mechanism of
The onset of puberty and large-scale increases
in the synthesis and secretion of gonadal steroids could exert widespread
changes and shifts in emphasis throughout the proposed affiliative circuitry
of the brain.
This circuit would
also undergo functional changes during other periods of
time when gonadal steroids were elevated such as during mating
and pregnancy ... Many studies now indicate that both early and
later modifications of brain affiliative systems do occur, and it may be time to empirically reassess the role of critical or sensitive periods in the manifestations of affiliative circuits with the brain and psychobiological dispositions of mammals. (p. 444)
Thus it may well
be that new, adult attachments, in association with physiological processes related to sexual behavior, may facilitate new capacities for intimacy and secure attachment where
few existed previously.
In the past,
theorists (e.g. Bowlby, 1979a; Main & Goldwyn, 1998) have regarded the re-workings of mental representations that sometimes occur
in adolescence and adulthood as resulting from cognitive
development, from a change in representational processes
and the development of formal operations.
It is useful to consider whether
it may be - as Nelson and Panksepp (1998) proposed - that physiological changes associated with elevated gonadal steroids during puberty, mating, and pregnancy, also play a role in facilitating a reorganization of brain representations and brain circuitry related to processing attachment-related information.
The Dance Of Intimacy: 5 Key Steps For A Closer Relationship
By Dr. Richard Nicastro, the Official Guide To Intimacy
A loving connection is the bedrock of a committed relationship - all couples are trying to find ways to remain emotionally close to one
another as they navigate the complexities of life. When people feel deeply connected to their partners, they often describe feeling "complete," "whole" or fully "understood" by their partners. This is one of
the remarkable gifts that only intimacy can bring.
Jane, a fifty-three-year-old flight
attendant, describes the emotional connection she shares with her husband:
"It's like we're dancing to our favorite song. You
know how a song you love makes you feel really alive? When things are going well, our steps are in tune and I can almost anticipate
my husband's next move and he can anticipate mine. This lifts me up in ways I can't fully explain."
Dancing is the perfect metaphor to describe intimacy. It involves being in
sync with each other, attuned to the needs and emotional rhythms of your partner.
look at ways to nurture intimacy.
5 key ingredients to
keep your relationship dance in top form and you and your partner in step:
1. Effectively communicating
your needs - letting your partner know what works and doesn't, what is helpful and unhelpful.
Healthy communication needs to exist alongside healthy and realistic expectations about your partner. If you expect your partner to meet all your
needs, or to intuit your needs without direct communication, you are setting the stage for frustration. Focus on communicating
what you need, rather than attacking your partner when s/he fails to meet your needs.
2. The ability to compromise
and accept the differences that exist between you and your partner.
how attuned you and your partner are to each other's needs and desires, the fact that you are separate beings will
be felt in your relationship (e.g., you might have different ways of handling stress or
you may express your needs differently). When you and your partner accept the inherent differences that will
always exist between two people, you create a relationship atmosphere that allows each other's essence and uniqueness to unfold.
3. The ability to forgive your partner.
Forgiveness plays an important role in your marriage or relationship. Even with the best intentions, partners end up hurting each other.
This is heightened when you bring the most vulnerable and raw parts of yourself into the relationship - intimacy requires this level of emotional exposure. Without the ability to forgive your partner for his/her
blunders and relationship missteps, resentments build.
There is no greater obstacle to intimacy than pent-up
grievances. When forgiveness is part of your relationship terrain, space is created for the missteps that are inevitable.
This gives you the freedom to be yourself - an imperfect human who is trying his/her best to be a loving partner.
Affirming each other's strengths and vulnerabilities.
When your and your partner
affirm each other, your uniqueness is recognized and appreciated. Marriages and relationships that include
affirmations are more robust. Consider for a moment how you feel when your partner acknowledges your victories as well as
when s/he is compassionate and supportive when you feel insecure. Couples often report greater levels of intimacy when meaningful affirmations are a regular part of their relationship.
5. Be a consistent
and reliable presence for your partner.
Trust is the foundation of intimacy and if you want to build a stronger connection with your partner, you need to follow through on your word. Don't make promises you can't keep. Obviously we all mess up
now and then, but repeatedly failing to be a responsible partner will only erode the foundation of intimacy.
When you do what you said you were going to do, and you respond to your partner in a consistent way, the dance of intimacy is likely to proceed smoothly.
Remember, even the
best dancers (like the best relationships) fall out of step with each other,
and if you're like most people, your relationship dance will stumble from time to time. Disagreements, misunderstandings and
life's stresses may drive wedges between you and your partner, temporarily weakening your connection.
All marriages and relationships involve cycles of closeness and distance, intimacy and loneliness. You will
only set yourself up for disappointment if you assume that you should always feel intensely connected with your partner. Even "soul-mates" clumsily step on each other's feet.
When your relationship dance falls out
of step (which it will), try to remember the following:
~It is perfectly normal
that you and your partner bounce between connection and disconnection.
~As long as you both give your relationship the attention it
deserves, these missteps will be temporary.
~During moments of disconnection,
give each other the time needed to regain your emotional footing.
~When you're both
ready, work toward understanding why these missteps occurred.
arise when you allow the natural disconnections that occur in your marriage or relationship to linger indefinitely.
Don't use the frequency of these normal relationship tangles as a diagnostic tool for your relationship, but instead use the
fact that you and your partner are committed to working on repairing these natural missteps as a sign of a strong union.
So whether you have two left feet or are a skilled dancer, learn to appreciate and enjoy the dance of intimacy as it unfolds in your relationship.
To discover other ways
to create a deeper, more intimate relationship visit http://StrengthenYourRelationship.com/ and sign up for Dr. Nicastro’s free Relationship Toolbox
As a bonus, you will receive the popular free reports: "The four mindsets
that can topple your relationship" and "Relationship self-defense: Control the way you argue…before your arguments control
Author's Bio: Richard Nicastro, Ph.D. is a psychologist and relationship
coach who is passionate about helping couples protect the sanctuary of their relationship. Rich and his wife founded LifeTalk
Coaching, an internet-based coaching business that helps couples strengthen their relationships.
Presence: The Essence of Intimacy
By Joe Bailey
from "Slowing Down to the Speed of Life"
Human beings are born with
the ability to relate to one another and experience unconditional love, and most people would agree that loving and being loved is one of the most extraordinary of all human experiences. Nevertheless, unconditional love seems to be an elusive dream and a difficult challenge for all too many of us.
movies, soap operas, and novels are overflowing with star-crossed romances, crushing disappointments, and aching loneliness.
The self-help shelves of most bookstores are crammed with books on relationships - how to get one, how to behave when you're
in one, and how to end one. If we are so intent on finding love, then why does it seem that, like a butterfly, the more we reach for it, the more it seems to evade our grasp?
Much of the answer lies in
understanding the true nature of intimacy.
The Link Between Intimacy
We cannot be intimate unless
we are present in the moment. Until we are here, in this moment, unencumbered by thoughts of the future, the past, or even of what our lover is thinking right now, we are unable to experience real love. When we are in the free flowing mode of thought, we are in the moment. Then and only then can we experience intimacy.
Have you ever been so quiet with another - no matter what the setting - that you felt their presence? Time seems
to stand still, your senses awaken, and deep feelings of peace, warmth, and contentment well up in your heart. Have you ever,
on the other hand, had all the "right" ingredients for closeness - a special dinner or a romantic setting - and felt distant
nonetheless? The difference between these two scenarios is the degree of presence of the two people involved.
Presence is a state of mind where our thoughts are flowing, quiet, and responsive to the now. Like a radio receiver when the signal is perfectly tuned to the station, when
you are present you experience this moment without interference or static. When we are present - in free flowing mode - we
are aware of all the sounds, tones, and subtleties of our senses.
But when our minds are busy,
we are distracted by expectations, needs, fears, self-doubt, self-consciousness, or "shoulds." We are already too full of the static of thinking to experience the now. To be present, we must clear our minds and listen. Then we can experience intimacy.
No matter how busy our minds might be right now, we are all capable of opening ourselves to deep
listening. As you will discover, deep listening is natural when we return to our natural state of mind - mental health.
Deep Listening: The Prerequisite To Presence
Deep listening is more than just hearing. Hearing is a
physiological phenomenon, while listening is a psychological state. To deeply listen is to perceive beyond the mere words and gestures. Without analyzing, we sense the underlying feelings and meanings; we understand the subtler level of communication. When we are listening, we are affected and touched by the other person. And for the moment, we are changed. This kind of listening - deep listening -is what occurs in a heart to heart relationship when the mind is open, unimpeded by the chaos of our personal thoughts.
Here is an example of how deep listening can work in a heart to heart relationship:
Travis and Mary have both had a long
and demanding day at work, she as an engineer and he as an architect. Their lives are full, and they face many challenges in balancing their work and personal lives.
After Mary picks up their two young children at daycare,
they arrive home at about the same time that evening. Todd, the oldest child, has had a difficult day - his teacher was out
sick, and he didn't like the substitute. He is cranky and irritable. Although Mary is exhausted, she clears her mind in order to be present for her children during this time of reentry to the
home. She senses Todd's distress, fixes him a snack, and asks him if he'd like to go for a walk with her.
Although Todd is still whining,
he senses his mother's compassion and understanding. Travis really wants to connect with Mary, but sees it's important for Todd and Mary to be alone together. So he offers to take Lindsey to the park to play
on the swings.
By being present with Todd, Mary is able to listen patiently and compassionately to him as he tells her about his day. Within half an hour, Todd is in better spirits, singing a song he learned in school.
And Mary feels refreshed and energized from her walk with him.
Travis and Mary's capacity
to listen deeply to Todd helped turn around a potentially disastrous evening. With the children's needs met and their moods in a positive state, Travis and Mary were able to spend some time alone together and truly connected at the end of their long day. They didn't have to do anything extraordinary - they simply were present with their children
and each other.
Travis and Mary may seem unusually adept at tapping into their ability
to listen deeply, but this capacity exists in all of us. Every human being can be present when we quiet our busy minds and access our innate
mental health. And being present through deep listening creates intimacy and heart to heart relationships.
Bio: Joe Bailey’s life purpose is to help people find
true happiness and peace of mind. Towards this end, he studied psychology at the undergraduate and graduate levels, eventually
becoming a licensed psychologist. For the past thirty years, Joe’s desire to understand the connection between the psychological,
physical and spiritual facets of human beings has pulled him into a deeper understanding of the whole person and away from
the current fragmented view. His search led to a health-based approach to counseling, prevention programs, workplace wellness
and the attainment of a personal life of peace, joy and fulfillment for all people. Find out more about Joe on his EXPERT
page at selfgrowth.com.
The Power Of Intimacy: Overcoming Barriers to Deep and Lasting
By William G. DeFoore, Ph.D.
THE POWER OF INTIMACY
Have you ever been afraid of really loving someone?
Have you been afraid of letting someone really love you? Most of us have known this fear. To love and be loved is what we
want more than anything, so why would we be so afraid of having the deep, intimate experience of loving and being loved?
do we feel the most fear and anger with those we love the most? Why is it that domestic violence is considered by the police
to be the most dangerous situation they can walk into? These are important questions. Let's consider some possible answers.
As adults, we "fall" in love. This experience of loving at some point reminds us of how we were hurt in past experiences
of loving. Of course, we are afraid of being hurt, no matter how big, strong or healthy we may happen to be. So we try to
protect ourselves. This is human nature.
It follows that the more we love, the more potential we have to be hurt,
afraid and angry. Fortunately the love can grow and mature in such a way that the pain and fear are minimized and we no longer
need anger for protection from those we love.
This happens as our skill, strength, knowledge and awareness expand, allowing the more vulnerable inner core
of love to grow and expand into the world around us. You can imagine this by picturing the walls of protection, fear and pain
breaking down, allowing the inner circle of love in Figure 6.1 to expand and blend with the outer circle of skill, strength,
knowledge and awareness. So how does this happen in real life?
THE FIRST STEP TO TRUE INTIMACY
first step to true intimacy is to know, understand and become intimate
with yourself. Your self is what you bring into a relationship. If you don't know this self or you feel ashamed of some part
it, you will not be able or willing to share those aspects with your loved one.
If there are wounds that have not healed, you will automatically hide and protect those wounded parts. You will not offer yourself fully to another, as is required for true intimacy,
unless you feel good about the self you are offering.
This simply means that each of us must make a journey into ourselves
to learn about our own defense mechanisms, to manage our fear and to heal our pain. Only then can we reach the healing core
of love that is the heart of who we are. Only then will we be willing to allow someone else to really know and love us for
all that we are.
The first part of ourselves we offer to others is what we consider to be our best self. We smile,
shake hands or hug and act as if everything is just fine, whether it is or not. We show our social skills, demonstrate our
knowledge and awareness in our conversation and try to give the impression of being a healthy, together person. This is the
realm in which we operate at work or with people we don't know very well. This is the part of ourselves we use to "make a
good impression" on someone we like. This may even be all we really know of ourselves.
In school and throughout our
lives, we have gained knowledge, skill, strength and awareness about the world around us - but we never really learned very
much about ourselves. But it is your self that you are having trouble with. Your anger comes from you, not from somewhere
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE DEFENSES?
One of the first things that happens when you start trying to
get to know yourself is that you run into your own defense mechanisms. Defenses fall into two basic categories: fight and
flight. In other words, we tend to protect and defend ourselves by either getting angry or getting out - of the situation.
Do you know how to take a break in a relationship to give yourself time to think and calm down? If not, are you trying
to solve your problems with anger, and finding that you're only making it worse? Do you shut down until you can't stand it
any more and then you explode in anger?
Don't judge yourself at this point, just try to figure out what your defense
Next ask yourself what you are afraid of when you are using these defense methods. Whether you know
it or not, you are afraid of being hurt when you're angry. Fear drives your anger. If you don't know what your fear is, you
will be blindly controlled by your anger.
Fear falls into two basic categories. We are either afraid of being attacked,
assaulted, smothered or violated (something happening to us), or we are
afraid of losing someone or something we love (feelings of rejection, abandonment and jealousy
come into play here). All of your fears came from some past experience of pain.
To deal with your anger,
you have to understand your fear. To understand your fear you have to understand and heal your pain.
We have all been
hurt. That's part of being human. If you don't know your pain, you are unconsciously driven by efforts to avoid it happening
again. This is what drives most of the anger problems we see in the world every day.
Your task is to learn how you
were hurt, and heal those wounds. That will take the fire out from under your fear and anger, and you will be able to gain control.
You can do it.
Don't ever give up on yourself!
THE INTIMACY YOU HAVE ALWAYS WANTED
have experienced some emotional healing from your past wounds, you will be a more compassionate, empathetic and loving person. This will make your efforts at intimacy
much more successful.
Intimacy is not just great romance, fun and affection. Intimacy is being close and connected through the hard times. Which means being comfortable with
your own and your partner's pain and fear.
I have found in my 30 plus years of counseling that when a person heals
from her/his emotional wounds of the past, intimacy becomes possible for the first time. The skills are easy to learn,
once you're ready!
Author's Bio: William G. DeFoore is a counselor, executive coach, speaker and president of the
Institute for Personal and Professional Development . He has 34 years of experience in helping people achieve healthy,
happy relationships. Get free information, watch videos and purchase books, CDs and downloads at www.Goodfinding.com . Contact Dr. DeFoore at email@example.com.
Emotional Intimacy with Ourselves
by Allan Hardman
of my apprentices often called me, upset because there were no “good men” out there. She had been in so many relationships,
she said, waiting for a man that would be present and show his feelings. She told me that she was often fooled, thinking a
particular man wanted to share with her in a deeper way, but soon realized he did not. “Is it true,” she often
asked, “that all men are emotionally unavailable?”
“What do you do when you realize your man is not
available to you emotionally?” I asked her one day. “Well, I usually try to figure out what is wrong, and how
I can encourage him to tell me what is going on with him. But they just don’t want to answer me,” she said, followed
with a sigh of resignation. "Sometimes we end up fighting about it."
I understood her pain, because I have heard this
story from many people, both men and women. They want someone to be open, to share feelings with them, and to be emotionally
available. After many years of “research,” I have finally discovered the reason that so many people find themselves
in relationships with an emotionally unavailable partner. Want to know the reason?
It is because they are emotionally
It seems obvious when I say it perhaps, but many people do not want to acknowledge their own
difficulty with emotional intimacy, but instead blame their partner (or lack of partner) for the problem.
I have defined
intimacy elsewhere as “our willingness to be open and present and share ourselves with others,” and offered that
when two people can share this openness and presence, they can be said to have an “intimate relationship.” I often
describe how we were forced to deny our feelings and deep truth during our childhood domestication, so we could meet the demands
of our domesticators to think and be like them. We literally had to deny our awareness of our own emotional truth in order
When we find “love” in our adult lives, it stimulates all the fears and strategies of our
childhood experience with love. If we learned to be afraid of expressing our emotional reality in our first love experience,
it is very unlikely that we will be comfortable, or even willing, to express ourselves freely in our adult love experiences.
We must re-learn how to be emotionally present.
Since we have lost the connection between our emotions and our awareness
(through rigorous self-training), the first step is to become aware that we have lost that connection. The next important
step is to realize that without full awareness and expression of our feeling truth, we are not fully alive. We are using the
strategies we learned in childhood to manipulate our reality in order go please other people—we are not being ourselves.
Once you know you have lost that connection, and you are passionately willing to risk anything to restore it, you
are on your way to emotional freedom. From there you will attract the guidance and healing you need to tune into your body,
open the connection to your awareness, develop a language for the emotional energy you experience, and share that truth with
the ones you love. You may find old emotional baggage from the past mixing with your present reality, and that is okay. It
is all you, and all true.
When you learn to discharge and clear the old angers, hurts, fears, and shames of childhood,
you will open more presence into the subtle feelings of each moment. They may express themselves simply as “I like this,
I don’t like this. I want this, I don’t want this.”
The most important victory in this process is
developing emotional intimacy with yourself. Perhaps my definition of “intimacy” should be “a willingness
to be open and present with our own feeling truth in each moment.” This is intimacy with ourselves. Whether we are men
or women, unless we are present with ourselves in this way we cannot expect to be attractive or attracted to people who are
emotionally present with themselves.
My apprentice came to learn that her “problem” was not with the men
in her life, but with her own fear of emotional intimacy with herself. She has now learned to open with love to the Divine
perfection of everything she feels, thinks, wants, needs, loves, desires, and fears. All of her relationships now reflect
that emotional intimacy that she thought for so long was missing in the world. And she is IN love with life.
Allan Hardman is an author and expert on personal and spiritual transformation, relationships,
emotional healing-- and a Toltec Master in the lineage of don Miguel Ruiz, author of "The Four Agreements."™ Allan teaches
in Sonoma County, CA, guides Journeys of the Spirit to sacred sites in Mexico, and hosts wellness vacations to tropical paradises.
He is the author of "The Everything Toltec Wisdom Book," and co-author of "The Heart of Healing" and "Healing the Heart of
the World," with Deepak Chopra, Caroline Myss, Dr. Andrew Weil, Prince Charles, and others. Visit Allan’s extensive
website and TACO, his online spiritual and social networking community, at joydancer.com