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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Vulnerability (Part Three)

Learning boundaries is a fundamental tool in relational development. In order for our relationship to become intimate, we much learn the art of controlled vulnerability. A concept from the work on boundaries presented by Pia Mellody. Controlled vulnerability means the ability to keep yourself safe and utilize boundaries, while at the same time being vulnerable. Controlled vulnerability keeps us open enough that our partners can know us, but it defends us from destructive incoming energy.

Our bodies are made up of energy. We learned as children to become attuned to our caregivers' energy. We knew when they walked in the room what their mood was, without saying a word. In fact, most of us became hyper-vigilant to energy; it's the way we learned to survive.

Addicts live in extremes. They flood energy like Ingrid Berman in Casablanca, oozing sexual energy like think molasses dripping off the screen. Or they are walled off, emotionally shut down like the Terminator, a robotic character void of emotional connection and authenticity.

The goal in emotional maturity is the moderate expression of our energy, neither flooding nor damming its flow. It becomes a steady stream of conscious expression.

When we practice controlled vulnerability, we protect our partners from the unloving or disrespectful energies that we, as perfectly imperfect human beings, have their potential to discharge. This is the job of our "containment boundary," whereby we protect our partners from ourselves. At the same time, we learn to protect ourselves from unloving or disrespectful energies targeted towards us. This is the job of our "protective boundary," whereby we protect ourselves from our partner's lack of containment.

Sex addicts have fears of abandonment and judgment. Their fears build unconscious expectations that their partners in relationship "make them feel" the way they do. This is called "the victim stance," and it runs rampant in our culture. We habitually blame another person or situation rather than taking responsibility for the realities we choose to create. I say "choose" because our realities and reactions are products of our personal experiences. What might upset one individual could mean nothing to another. A person's response to a certain situation or another person is determined by his or her individual experience.

For example, if every time your father beat you, a red light turned on, you became conditioned to respond when you saw a red light. You may break into a cold sweat, your breath may become shallow, or you may panic.

Or let's say that your mother was controlling, or yelled or withheld her attention when she was upset with you. You will respond within your relationships the way you responded to her. You will react to a certain behavior, tone of voice, or other nuance that taps into your original wounding. This is why the implementation of boundaries -- for both partners -- becomes crucial as relationships develop.

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