The problem of intimacy
Intimacy in adult relationships and the way it gets played out in people’s lives has always been an area of interest from the psychological perspective. Human relationships have a very complex nature and people often find it difficult to understand the underlying blocks in their intimate relationships. Attachment theory can provide some explanation about why we are the way we are in our intimate relationships.
Attachment theory proposes that security and insecurity in our adult relationships with others are connected to our childhood and our relationship style. The theory proposed by John Bowlby was further developed by other contributors. A more simplified explanation of the attachment concept can help us understand more about the meaning of trust and/or the lack of it in our relationship with ourselves and others around us.
Attachment theory basically states that children, psychologically attach to their caregivers for safety and security. The quality of safety, comfort and protection that is offered to the infants influences the level of trust that develops in her/him for the rest of their lives. If there was a lack of security in our initial relationship with our caregivers, it would be a lot more difficult to put ourselves in the risk of being let down again in our adult relationship. Thus if our earlier experience of relationships with our caregivers lacked the element of security, it would be difficult for us to accept that we could ever experience security in our relationships and therefore we encounter problems with building and maintaining trust in our relationships.
When we receive nurturance in childhood, we more easily give it to others in our adult life, because we identify with our parents. Safety and security are nurtured by being soothed by someone when we are confused or afraid. To become self-soothing and to not seek soothing from others as adults, we need to have received soothing from others as children. Our capacity is engendered by receiving from others. This helps us go beyond self-soothing to trust others for comfort too. Thus we move from trusting in the trustworthiness of someone to trusting ourselves and then to trusting others.
Our first intimate or loving relationship which is our first attachments bond continues to teach us as adults. The knowledge and emotional awareness that we gain can then guide us in improving our adult relationship.
Many of adult relationships are affected by the nonverbal communications that takes place between two people, at times even outside of their immediate awareness or consciousness. New born infants are unable to communicate non verbally and yet they are equipped to communicate their needs with their caregivers. When an infant communicates with a caretaker who understands and meets their physical and emotional needs, the infants feel secure and assured that their needs are being met and they are understood. This is a big part of attachment and the formulation of it.
Relationships in which the two parties understand and attend to each other’s needs are called attuned relationships, and in that attuned relationship we manage to grasp that nonverbal cues deeply impact our relationship.
When we can recognise dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours as problems arising from insecure attachment bonds, we can end their influence on our adult relationships. That recognition allows us to reconstruct the healthy nonverbal communication skills that produce an attuned attachment and successful relationships.
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About Farya Barlas
I am a Chartered Counselling Psychologist registered with British Psychological Society(BPS). I am also an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society (AFBPsS) I offer short term and long term therapy to individuals and couples in Central and North London.
I am the Therapeutic Services Clinical Lead in Hammersmith and Fulham Mind which means I oversee and supervise all the clinica… Read more
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