I wonder if you have ever truly felt close to any other human being. In my interpersonal interactions, I have observed that many people lack the ability to feel close to anybody other than a family member or romantic partner. If you happen to be such a person, this post is for you!
Some people let themselves become so estranged from their environment that they become paranoid. They become those human beings who proudly chirp never trust any human being! I scold anybody who tells me such a statement, regardless of age or social standing.
Why do I? Trust is essential to basic social functioning! Trust is a necessary ingredient of business, healthcare, family relations… society as a whole. Consider: if you lacked the ability to trust, would you be able to buy a bottle of Coke? Or believe your friend when she says she will show up at a certain time?
No, you won’t.
What brings about this inability to trust human beings, which can lead to mental illnesses? It is the inability to bond with those in your environment!
Let’s get down to business. When most people think of closeness, what they think of is enmeshment! Many people have experienced this form of closeness in their interpersonal interactions, where they feel like two have become one. But the thing is it takes two people to maintain a relationship, not one person!
It is this concept of closeness that brings about distancer-pursuer dynamics in family relationships, romantic, platonic and work relationships. Some people tolerate enmeshment better than others. Some actively crave and seek out enmeshment, with the mistaken notion that it’s love.
I’ll describe my own concept of enmeshment. For so long, I lived a life actively craving closeness, not realizing that my concept of closeness was enmeshment. This enmeshment was what fueled my feelings of love for those I claimed to love. Stay with me here.
- I believed I needed to win the approval of those I felt close to, as such I felt uncomfortable having ideas, habits and lifestyle choices different from those I loved. This made me think of ways to win them over to my side, subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Or think of how to cross over to their side.
- It was hard for me to know where their emotions and thoughts ended and where mine started. I could parrot beautiful ideas which were nothing more than a remixed mash-up of the ideas and emotions of those I claimed to love.
- I felt a strong desire to rush in to rescue those I loved if I saw them making a mistake or if they complained about something to me. I used subtle and not-so-subtle ways (dropping hints, get the drift) to achieve this. I was unable to let them make their own mistakes and find their own coping mechanisms for whatever chaos or havoc that ensued from their mistakes.
- I found it very hard to stay with anybody I loved if we disagreed on a major point of view. I felt the need to stay away from them or make all possible attempts to avoid bringing this topic up in conversation.
What was the consequence of my concept of closeness? I alternated between enmeshment and distancer-pursuer dynamics with my loved ones. Sometimes things would get to a head and I would resort to emotional cut-off.
Now, now, now, what is emotional cut-off? I understand it to mean the intensity of the association has gotten to the point that one or both partners seek to achieve psychological or physical distance in the relationship.
In my own case, I felt controlled by my loved ones, like they constantly had to tell me what to do, constantly expressed disapproval of my behaviour and felt they were trying to bend me to their own version of normal.
I became hypervigilant and would often retreat to my bedroom when I felt criticized by my loved ones. I became obsessed with the concept of personal boundaries and felt a great need for space in my interpersonal associations. Of course, the net result was I would come across as blowing hot and cold!
How did I set out on the lazy man’s way to achieving closeness in my interpersonal interactions?
I developed my sense of self.
This is a stage that starts with being able to answer the question Who am I? I chose a self-concept (comprising of self-image, self-esteem, self-worth, self-value, self-respect, self-acceptance, self-compassion) that was stable regardless of mood state and circumstances.
No matter how frustrated I felt, how depressed, how happy, the state of my bank account, my relationship status, my social standing… my self-concept remains stable regardless of mood state!
I chose to disclose my developed self in my interpersonal interactions.
I realize that I had been hiding from myself and the world in my interpersonal interactions. I was obsessed with self-presentation, trying to portray myself in a way people around me would approve of. Or so I thought. This happened because I had no sense of self!
With my developed sense of self, I chose to disclose my developed self-concept in my interpersonal interactions. This made me feel more authentic and less of a fake. I felt less and less like a person who had something to hide and gradually lost my fixation on personal boundaries, personal space and withholding personal information in my social interactions.
I got in touch with my needs and core values.
I once wrote of the needs universal to the human being in my post on communication. By getting in touch with these needs and core values, I realized that not every human being I met/will meet is available for bonding with me.
I realized that letting myself get attached stupidly to someone (love the person) without considering if my universal human needs will be met in so doing, if my self-concept will be enhanced, and if my core values will be expressed would bring about the inevitable dysphoria, restlessness, and distancer-pursuer dynamics, thus leading to emotional cut-off.
I had to change my concept of love via my perception shifting method before this came about.
I chose to change my concept of closeness.
I changed my concept of closeness to be something more in line with self-differentiation. I realized that my previous concept of closeness was the key culprit in feeling trapped, thus needing to escape or avoid people in my interpersonal interactions.
Or in feeling like a person I liked was being cold and distant towards me. My previous concept of closeness made me crave enmeshment with anybody I felt attracted to, and emotional cut-off from anybody I felt repelled by.
With my new concept of closeness, I no longer feel the need to enmesh with people, or escape/avoid those I feel are too different from me.
I am convinced that many people would feel a lot happier and have much improved physical & mental health once they redefine their concept of closeness.
Many people diagnosed with mental illnesses think recovery is all about medication, diet, exercise, therapy, and eliminating stressors from their lives. True that these work, but true recovery comes about when you achieve self-differentiation.
Psychiatric medication influence mood, thoughts, and perception to a certain extent. But there is no medication a person will be given that will make him achieve self-differentiation. Only he can do it for himself.
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