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Emotional Maturity as a Foundation for Honesty and Intimacy

Kaileen shared,

"I am a fighter. I'm an only child. My room was always very quiet. Leaving my room, I did a lot of watching and observing. I observed my parents either arguing or ignoring. My father was consistently the parent with the power. I wanted to defuse their fiery and alternately icy cold encounters.  I wanted their conflict to stop so I did all that I could to please my parents and be the perfect daughter."

As children, we lack the power to influence our environment.

We want the bad things taking place around us to stop. We want to make things better. Kaileen's power stopped at the border of what she could draw attention to or draw attention away from.

Marvin shared that as a teenager he fought with his parents at every turn. His way of protecting himself was to fight for what he believed was right or to prove that he was right and that his parents were wrong.

Marvin's mother was emotionally manipulative and engaged in gaslighting. Gaslighting is to manipulate another by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. Marvin could not trust the state of things in his home so he yelled and slammed his bedroom door hoping the sound waves would smash the tension in his family home. Marvin felt protected by the idea that he was right and was determined that he would not rest until he proved that he was right to his family.

As adults, we continue to experience the shame based conflict cycles that we learned as children whenever we feel we lack the power to influence our environment.

As he grew older, Marvin felt shame and embarrassment whenever he felt he lacked control or others thought he wasn't right about something. In relationships with women he allowed himself to be manipulated, resulting in intense anger with himself. 

Being angry at himself and others became Marvin's go to defense mechanism to protect him from experiencing manipulation and shame.

Marvin said, 

"If I can prove my point and I'm right, that means you're not and then I'm not being manipulated and I'm not being taken advantage of.  I associated power and control and safety with being the one who's right. I don't like that part of me. I can't stand the part of me who hurt the people I loved. When I think of that part of myself I feel totally unlovable."

As adults, Marvin and Kaileen continue to experience the shame based conflict cycles that they learned as children. While they both believe they have grown and matured, when they experience conflict with another, they hop back into patterns of perfectionism and angry point proving.

When we experience conflict, we find it difficult to be our best selves.

We go back to acting out in a way we did when we were younger. Our actions and words feel emotionally immature but at the same time, in the moment, it feels good to push others away.

Intimacy becomes scary when we are experiencing conflict with another so we use old conflict cycles to create space and distance and lack of intimacy.

Fighting may feel and sound to us like intimacy but instead we are vying for control. While we're fighting, we feel each other's presence intensely. The intensity is not real intimacy. What our hearts and souls need is real, healthy, transformative intimacy.

Staying in the moment and in conversation when we disagree is a step toward healthy intimacy. Accepting that when we are wrong we are still lovable is a step toward healthy relationships.

Jodi Peary, JD, PhD


Two Step

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