Day 16 - Intimacy, Anger & Captain Kirk
Updated: Oct 28, 2019
I had an epiphany. The person that I project to the world and the person I am in my most intimate relationships has always been skewed. I think that in tangential and less intimate relationships I am loving, capable of giving the benefit of the doubt, much more easy going and carefree. With the people closest to me however, I am angry. I was just sitting here thinking that the people who see me at my worst are my children. Why am I angry with them so often? The easy answer is that they challenge me, try my patience and demand a great deal from me while giving me little to work with in return. But it is deeper than that...what I just realized is that I use anger in my most intimate relations to keep myself feeling safe. It is like I can let people get only so close to me and then I either have to keep them at arm’s length or if they are successful in getting closer - then I have to use anger to distance myself so that I can feel safe.
Now, this may seem counterproductive, odd, stupid, sad and on the whole, giving me results that I do not really want. However, I have come to realize that intimacy and I have a very hard relationship. I do not do it well. Allowing someone into my interior is hard. Very hard. Apparently so much so that I just realized that the most intimate relationships I have all suffer from me using anger as a buffer to drive others out of the inner sanctum and away from me so that I can have some space. This does not mean that I am always angry AT the person standing too close for comfort. I can see that sometimes I just rail against things in their presence and that seems to be enough to keep me feeling protected.
Where did this strategy come from? Why has it taken me so long to see it? I can answer the later one first. It is effective. People give angry people a wide birth. There is space in relation with angry people because you are never sure when they are going to go off and about what. So people tend to stay a few feet away, metaphorically and literally. This is fine unless you want to build intimacy. Intimacy requires that there be green lights along the way on the path towards someone’s center. As two people approach each other, there have to be ways to communicate to the other that it is safe to continue the progress.
I think my whole life I have acted in the following manner:
Project a happy, fun, joyful person who is quick witted and interesting.
Collect a myriad of people on the outer orbits and spend a great deal of time keeping them there - in their particular orbit that feels safe to me.
Try to allow a significant other into the inner sanctum but having lost the directions myself, steer them all around the Erin galaxy on a merry chase.
Finally, when one gets close to touching down on the interior of Erin, find some reason, large or small, to become upset, angry or indignant about...then blow that up and watch the person I love most be sent reeling through space and time.
It is like I have this invisible forcefield around my heart and soul. It radiates an attraction to others that pulls them into my orbit. I feel somewhat like a Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk drops the shields to allow another ship into his orbit, beckoning the inhabitants to come ever closer only at the last minute to surmise (sometimes correctly and sometimes incorrectly) that the incoming vessel is a threat and in an instant, throw up the shields and send the incoming ship reeling backward.
As much as I can see that I do this with intimate partners, I can now very regretfully see that I do this with my children and closest family and friends. I want you to continue your approach but have a very poor job of communicating that I need you to not just make a beeline for touchdown. I need the approach to be slow and steady or I will balk and throw up the shields leaving us all perplexed about the blowback.
I am sure that all humans have this dynamic at play in their lives. Maybe not everyone uses anger. Maybe others use different strategies: neediness, martyrdom, sex, stone walling, avoidance, disappearance to provide a barrier - a demilitarized zone - between themselves and others.
I guess now that I have seen how I do this, I can begin working on the why. There are lots of reasons that I can point to which all beg the question: What am I going to do about this now? I think the why is way less important than the fact that I do it. My efforts need to be focused on changing the pattern more than getting to the bottom of why. I know why - the reasons are painful, familiar and not new information. Now, what am I going to do about it?
So my question of the day is this...how can I take care of myself so that I feel less threatened by others? What can I do to support the relationships I have and honor them with the intimacy they deserve? Can I slow the inward progress before I push the panic button of anger? Because now I can see it for what it really is - I am not angry so much as I am afraid. They are the same. When I am angry, I am scared so I strike out. I launch an offensive because that has, for me, been the most effective strategy of hiding the fear, anxiety and vulnerability. So as I move forward with this new found truth, I will honor my own need for slow approaches and hard boundaries. Perhaps I can deploy an emissary to communicate to the incoming vessel my fast twitch fear response. Perhaps I can try to communicate instead of react with my default of “SHIELDS AT 100%!” Perhaps, I can set a new course of Erin 2.0 at vector 9. Stay tuned for next week's episode...Emissaries on Vector 9.