I, along with others, have found it useful to divide core-styled self organization into three different types. The “pursuer form” is the most common and has been the subject of much of our discussion here. A second type is the “core with outer-styled defense form,” also a common form of organization, but one which we will discuss elsewhere. The third, which in my experience is least common of the three, is the “distanced form of core-style.” We have seen in prior discussions how the core-styled can pull-away/push-away from their partner as a means of protecting from dissappointment on the one hand and engulfment fears on the other. For most core-styled these distancing behaviors are less prominent than pursuing behaviors. There are, however, a sizeable number of core-styled who adopt the push/pull-away adaptation to the exclusion of the pursuing mode. These are individuals who deep down inside long to reach out to others but who have come to feel so imperiled by the terribleness of the outcome, they commonly push/pull-away in advance. (to be continued)
Some days ago a colleague reminded me of the Harville Hendrick’s focus upon mutual empathy as central to fulfilling marriage. Thinking of Hendrick’s contribution, though many factors contribute to the successful MarriageOfOpposites, few are more important than well-developed empathy. Empathy is necessary in all marriages but it is especially important in the MarriageOfOpposites because of the huge foundational differences of the two psychologies. Almost always, when a MarriageOfOpposites is in trouble, a good part of the difficulty is inadequate or absent empathy. Likewise, healing in such a marriage requires the return to empathy where it has been lost and the creation of empathy where it has been absent.
The empathic failings of the two types are generally different. The core-styled readily loose awareness that much of their outer-styled partners emotional distancing is motivated by various forms of underlying fear/shame/self-sufficiency defense. Likewise, the outer-styled readily loose empathy for the pivotal role that abandonment/engulfment anxieties play in the core-styled’s emotional escalation/aggression/rupture.
For the core-styled, the containment of “aggression” is almost always a good thing. Negative repercusions generally follow when the core-styled discharge anger at their partner. The crux of the matter rest with two interacting dimensions. First, angry discharge meant “to shake” the more distancing partner into an awareness of their pursuing partner’s pain almost always results in the opposite; rather than “step up” or “awaken” to challenge, the outer-styled partner tends to shut down, defend, or become compliant. This leads to a compounding of pain and threat in the core-styled. Originally seeking redress for some issue related to the marital distance, the core-styled ends up receiving that which they fear most… more distancing. This deposits in the core-styled a feeling of being abandoned/rejected because of a “badness” inherent in their emotional reactivity, generally resulting in a powerful need to self-protect by even more attack, eventually resulting in reenactment of rupture in the marriage.
Second, the escalation that almost always follows the discharge of anger, has a damaging impact on the core-styled’s inner life. One person I worked with described it as “the monsters are loosed inside and walking the land.” Though this may seem an extreme example, it actually captures the feeling of many core-styled when they are caught up in rupturing escalation with their partner. At these moments the core-styled is thrown back into their most primitive selves, resulting in intense primal feelings and highly permeable boundaries. In this state, intense feelings of anger/rage/hate also result in intense anxieties regarding retribution and endangerment. This moves into a kind of normative paranoid state wherein the world is not safe. Throughout it all, it is very hard for the core-styled not to feel quite badly about themselves during these conflictual moments. At these times the core-styled often function as if their “worst case scenario” of the marriage is reality, resulting in increased polarization and often the spectre of marital breakup.
Core-styled individuals vary greatly, as do relationships, in the extent to which actual behavioral rupture result from marital conflict. The actual expression of the dynamics will vary depending upon particulars of the relationship, developmental level of the couple, and the emotional health in both partners. However, with varying degrees of both activation and restraint, most core-styled individuals will cycle through some degree of the above rupturing dynamic, following the highly predictable frustrations inherent in the marriageofopposites.
In Healing the Marriage-of-Opposites I allude to the core-styled as vulnerable and to the outer-styled as defended. Strictly speaking, both styles are forms of defensive organization. While the outer-styled typically defend with various forms of constriction (minimization, devaluing, intellectualization, emotional distancing, etc.), the core-styled are also locked into their own defensive forms (pursuing, reparative fantasy, maintaining illusion of withheld goodness, splitting into good and bad objects, etc.). At the end of the day, however, the defensive organization of the core-styled results in more exposure to vulnerability rather than less, in contrast to the outer-styled’s which typically results in an effective walling off of core feeling and lessened vulnerability. It is this very important difference in lived experience that I am attempting to capture by referring to the one style as vulnerable and the other as defended.
To a degree, this weblog is largely a dialogue with Healing The MarriageOfOpposites; a dialogue, an elaboration and extension of ideas expressed in that web document. For that reason, many of the blog entries will begin with a reference from that document. It is recommended that readers of this weblog familiarize themselves with Healing the MarriageOfOpposites in order to make best use of this blog.