Issue 10/2017 summary

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Issue 10/2017 summary

Julija Abakumova-Kočiūnienė (Lithuania). Vulnerability and Close Relationships

In order to be in close relationships, mutual openness is necessary, which always causes the feeling of vulnerability. Openness is often experienced as hurting and painful, so that a person faces the question: ‘How to be in close relationships and bear the emerging pain?’ A modern person’s attitude to vulnerability and pain, as well as his notions about close relationships, have their own peculiarities.

The choice of a modern Westerner often results from the notion about life as a sphere of consumption, and the same applies to the area of relationships. Relationships become a special type of consumable goods and must have definite qualities. If these qualities are missing, a person tries to alter them, or rejects such relationships.

Why does it often happen that people who call each other close ones do not know what is vital for the other person, losing an opportunity to talk to each other, becoming strangers? By trying to import as much calm, comfort and pleasure as possible, we oust everything that may interfere from their space.

The possibility of openness to oneself and to another person in all of one’s manifestations contains the danger of contact with negative, conflicting, unpermitted, and often even prohibited areas of life. These dangerous contacts could bring us unpleasant and painful experiences. Wishing to bring to life our notion about close relationships, we begin building barriers against unpleasant feelings. As is often the case with all barriers, they ward off not only the things we would like to be protected against, but much more. We are afraid of discomfort and pain in relationships. Fearing the pain of touching one’s feelings or the feelings of another person, we create barriers against openness.

The modern man tries to escape pain, to close off, to protect against it, to eliminate vulnerability of one’s life space. By doing this, the person rejects many manifestations of the need of close relationships, such as, for instance, the need of another’s help, the need of being dependent upon another person, the need to be linked to this person, because these needs entail the possibility of being painfully hurt or wounded. Thus, such manifestations in close relationships as conscious sacrifice, devotion or act of heroism for the sake of another person become, at best, outdated, and, more often than not, completely impossible, unacceptable and forgotten.

The modern person lives in a culture of pain-killing. It is also true of pain in relationships. The fear of being vulnerable or wounded, of experiencing pain in relationships has the effect of creating areas that are closed for addressing in relationships.

As a result of being closed against pain, a person becomes greatly limited in his or her openness for him/herself and another person. We are afraid of the genuine, which is why we do not enter in a genuine relationship with another person. The fear of wounding another person goes in hand with the fear of being wounded, when touching another person.

Being in close relationships, genuine close relationships, requires the readiness to wound and to be wounded. When we try to protect ourselves against pain in close relationships, the effect is similar to trying to ward off a physical pain. By desensitising the skin’s analytical functions, we block, together with the sensation of pain, all other sensations for which they are responsible (motion, temperature, tactile). Anaesthetics against the sensation of pain also block off the sensation of touch.

We spend a lot of energy to protect ourselves against vulnerability in relationships. We want to control relationships and predict their development, which is why we often wonder what could secure relationships and how to be relationships guaranteed to be good. But, by suppressing our dread of pain and vulnerability, we lose the capacity to rejoice and create in relationship with another person. We lose the capacity to accept and to love, because we cannot retain sensitivity selectively. We lose the ability to experience one’s own sensitivity and to accept the sensitivity of another.

Vulnerability, sensitivity, lack of protection and weakness are inevitable features of a person. The ability to feel and experience pain is a sort of trigger, of potential in relationships, which can engender real, genuine closeness we are capable of as adult, individual beings. Fear of vulnerability and a misconceived notion of closeness as an unconditionally pleasant (warm and sunny) feeling hinder genuine closeness.

The task of the therapy is to assist a person in his readiness for close relationships, to accept vulnerability as part of them, to offer support in his courage to be subjective, changing, and open, in his courage to be alive and feel pain. The task of psychotherapy is to transform a person’s notions about mythical closeness into a more realistic vision, aid in transforming a mythical vision of closeness in relationships, which should offer maximum comfort, into a mature notion of relationships, where the feeling of pain is inevitable, too.

For this, a person must stay ready to be hurt while in close relationships, which means accepting the other person’s right to be different, to refuse something, to disagree, etc.

A person should be able to hurt the other person, that is, confront him, disagree with him, express unpleasant feelings, and, as a result, lead a genuine dialogue with the other person.

In this open dialogue, it is possible to see one’s true self and another person without risking the situation when one finds oneself next to a stranger, with whom one has nothing to talk about, despite years of living together.

In order to be in close relationships, mutual openness is necessary, which always causes the feeling of vulnerability. Openness is often experienced as hurting and painful, so that a person faces the question: ‘How to be in close relationships and bear the emerging pain?’ A modern person’s attitude to vulnerability and pain, as well as his notions about close relationships, have their own peculiarities.

The choice of a modern Westerner often results from the notion about life as a sphere of consumption, and the same applies to the area of relationships. Relationships become a special type of consumable goods and must have definite qualities. If these qualities are missing, a person tries to alter them, or rejects such relationships.

Why does it often happen that people who call each other close ones do not know what is vital for the other person, losing an opportunity to talk to each other, becoming strangers? By trying to import as much calm, comfort and pleasure as possible, we oust everything that may interfere from their space.

The possibility of openness to oneself and to another person in all of one’s manifestations contains the danger of contact with negative, conflicting, unpermitted, and often even prohibited areas of life. These dangerous contacts could bring us unpleasant and painful experiences. Wishing to bring to life our notion about close relationships, we begin building barriers against unpleasant feelings. As is often the case with all barriers, they ward off not only the things we would like to be protected against, but much more. We are afraid of discomfort and pain in relationships. Fearing the pain of touching one’s feelings or the feelings of another person, we create barriers against openness.

The modern man tries to escape pain, to close off, to protect against it, to eliminate vulnerability of one’s life space. By doing this, the person rejects many manifestations of the need of close relationships, such as, for instance, the need of another’s help, the need of being dependent upon another person, the need to be linked to this person, because these needs entail the possibility of being painfully hurt or wounded. Thus, such manifestations in close relationships as conscious sacrifice, devotion or act of heroism for the sake of another person become, at best, outdated, and, more often than not, completely impossible, unacceptable and forgotten.

The modern person lives in a culture of pain-killing. It is also true of pain in relationships. The fear of being vulnerable or wounded, of experiencing pain in relationships has the effect of creating areas that are closed for addressing in relationships.

As a result of being closed against pain, a person becomes greatly limited in his or her openness for him/herself and another person. We are afraid of the genuine, which is why we do not enter in a genuine relationship with another person. The fear of wounding another person goes in hand with the fear of being wounded, when touching another person.

Being in close relationships, genuine close relationships, requires the readiness to wound and to be wounded. When we try to protect ourselves against pain in close relationships, the effect is similar to trying to ward off a physical pain. By desensitising the skin’s analytical functions, we block, together with the sensation of pain, all other sensations for which they are responsible (motion, temperature, tactile). Anaesthetics against the sensation of pain also block off the sensation of touch.

We spend a lot of energy to protect ourselves against vulnerability in relationships. We want to control relationships and predict their development, which is why we often wonder what could secure relationships and how to be relationships guaranteed to be good. But, by suppressing our dread of pain and vulnerability, we lose the capacity to rejoice and create in relationship with another person. We lose the capacity to accept and to love, because we cannot retain sensitivity selectively. We lose the ability to experience one’s own sensitivity and to accept the sensitivity of another.

Vulnerability, sensitivity, lack of protection and weakness are inevitable features of a person. The ability to feel and experience pain is a sort of trigger, of potential in relationships, which can engender real, genuine closeness we are capable of as adult, individual beings. Fear of vulnerability and a misconceived notion of closeness as an unconditionally pleasant (warm and sunny) feeling hinder genuine closeness.

The task of the therapy is to assist a person in his readiness for close relationships, to accept vulnerability as part of them, to offer support in his courage to be subjective, changing, and open, in his courage to be alive and feel pain. The task of psychotherapy is to transform a person’s notions about mythical closeness into a more realistic vision, aid in transforming a mythical vision of closeness in relationships, which should offer maximum comfort, into a mature notion of relationships, where the feeling of pain is inevitable, too.

For this, a person must stay ready to be hurt while in close relationships, which means accepting the other person’s right to be different, to refuse something, to disagree, etc.

A person should be able to hurt the other person, that is, confront him, disagree with him, express unpleasant feelings, and, as a result, lead a genuine dialogue with the other person.

In this open dialogue, it is possible to see one’s true self and another person without risking the situation when one finds oneself next to a stranger, with whom one has nothing to talk about, despite years of living together.

 

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