Confessions of Anxiety and Other-Validated Intimacy, Part I

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Last year as I sat across the table from one of my Doctors she said “I don’t think depression is your main thing, I think it’s anxiety. You seem to be very anxious, in fact I feel more anxious in your presence.”

That is when I first realized how much my anxiety affected others and how other people’s anxiety was affecting me.

In light of what I read in Passionate Marriage I also realized that people who are ‘healthier’, more mature, more secure in themselves, more differentiated (as Schnarch would call it) are less affected by other people’s anxiety.

Last year my goal was to reduce stress causing obligations that was within my power to reduce and then take better care of myself (body, mind & soul) in an attempt to learn to how to handle the unavoidable stress in my life.

My life improved in many ways. The depression lifted without medication. But when crisis came back into my life I still responded in ways I did not want to and I had physical symptoms related to anxiety.

As I read the chapter ‘Intimacy Is Not For The Faint Of Heart’ in ‘Passionate Marriage’, I found myself saying “I do that”, over and over in my head. Here is my confession, the quotes I responded to with identification and the examples of this concept in my life (past and present):

  • “Young couples gab like magpies because their stroking and reinforcing each other in their quest for commonality and union.” (This described our courtship and early years of marriage but also the way I am so over-talkative with friends and not comfortable with silence.)
  • “She no longer wanted self-disclosure to know (her husband) better or to be better known. Instead she used a strategy that had worked in her other relationships: attempting to elicit reassurance and acceptance by self-disclosing. Bottom line: she wanted (her husband) to dispel her mounting anxieties and insecurities.” (I can see that my compulsion to self-disclose was a strategy I developed as a child and it has worked to bring friends closer to me but their reassurance never really dispels my mounting anxieties and insecurities.)
  • “Other-validated intimacy involves the expectation of acceptance, empathy, validation, or reciprocal disclosure from one’s partner….this is what is often mistaken for intimacy per se…” (again I see this in my marriage but also in close friendships and when I don’t get the response I unknowingly long for I feel anxious in the relationship)
  • “Other-validated intimacy ‘sounds’ like this: “I’ll tell you about myself, but only if you then tell me about yourself. If you don’t, I won’t either. But I want to, so you have to. I’ll go first and then you’ll be obligated to disclose – it’s only fair. And if I go first, you have to make me feel secure. I need to be able to trust you!” (I see this most clearly in new friendships <both in me and coming from them>, the careful balance of self-disclosure with minimal risks.)
  • “Self-validated intimacy relies on a person’s maintaining his or her own sense of identity and self-worth when disclosing, with no expectation of acceptance or reciprocity from the partner. One’s capacity for self-validated intimacy is directly related to one’s level of differentiation; that is one’s ability to maintain a clear sense of one-self when loved ones are pressuring for conforming and sameness. Self-validated intimacy is the tangible product of one’s ‘relationship with oneself’.” (I have a lot of trouble maintaining a clear sense of self when people I feel very close to try to pressure me into conforming. I question my beliefs and identity when someone gives feedback on how they see or experience me.)
  • “Self-validated intimacy in long-term relationship sounds quite different: ‘I don’t expect you to agree with me; you weren’t put on the face of the earth to validate and reinforce me. But I want you to love me – and you can’t really do that if you don’t know me. I don’t want your rejection – but I must face that possibility if I’m ever to feel accepted or secure with you. It’s time to show myself to you and confront my separateness and mortality. One day when we are no longer together on this earth, I want to know you knew me.” (This really struck a chord in relationship to our 18 yr. old son. My inability to do this has both modeled and pressured our son to experience great difficulty separating from us <‘Lord forgive me’>)

To be continued…..

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