Saturday, January 19, 2008

disclosure = intimacy

I should have warned you all in the last post that it seems this course I'm taking in human relations is going to give me lots of ideas for writing. But hopefully they'll be interesting enough to draw some good discussions like we just had.

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The text we're using for Human Relations is Becoming Aware (Kendall/Hunt Publishing). It talks about the evolution of relationships and how it is crucial to reveal the "real you" to people. We do this by being willing to disclose our "innermost thoughts, feelings, and actions to those with whom we desire to have a close relationship." The text goes on:

The evolution of a relationship, getting acquainted, becoming friends, and developing intimacy is based on how much you are willing to disclose about yourself and how much the other person is willing to disclose about themselves to you. The more you know about another person and the more he or she knows about you, the more effective and efficient the relationship will be

And there's that pesky little word that keeps popping up around the neighborhood. The ever elusive intimacy. The text makes it sound so easy. You meet someone, get to know each other, start talking about your feelings, and *poof* intimacy. The key phrase in that excerpt, though, is how much the other person is willing to disclose about themselves to you. That seems to be a lot of the problem: how do we get others to open up?

To me, it's a matter of understanding that self-disclosure is a choice and it is not dependent upon the other person's disclosure. Sharing my thoughts, feelings, etc. is about letting the other person know the real me and making them feel safe to, if they choose, let me know them.

For example, there was a time when my daughter was in an "I hate you" phase. I would tell her I loved her, but she wouldn't say it to me. Then the question came to mind, "What is your intention in telling her you love her? Do you just say it so she'll say it back?" Well, of course not! The intention was that I want her to know I love her. So I told her. And told her. And told her. And one day she said, "I love you too, Mom." OMG! I just about fainted. "Prepare the fatted calf!"

But what happened? Why the change? The text explains it this way: An individual is not likely to engage in much self-disclosure if the situation involves too much personal threat. For her to allow herself to disclose her feelings to me threatened her need to be detached from me for a while. My continuing to express my feelings to her (regardless of her response) communicated to her in a way that, eventually, made it safe for her to express those feelings to me.

The truth is there is a risk to self-disclosure. With my daughter, I could have decided that if she wasn't going to tell me she loved me, I wasn't going to tell her. But that would have only made the tension between us greater. There was a risk of me getting hurt by not hearing her tell me she loved me, but the advantage of self-disclosure is that "disclosure leads to trust and tust leads to more disclosure, and, thus, the relationship will grow and develop into a mature and long-lasting, loving interaction."

We can't force the intimacy aspect of the relationship. It has to come after the trust is built that tells the other person it's safe to let us in. And this could happen quickly, over time (even years) or even require us to start over in building their trust. But, I think, if we will take the risk, set aside our self-doubt, and examine our real intentions of our self-disclosure, we will be able to acquire the intimate relationships we desire.

9 comments:

XI Summit said...

OK, this is the third try to try and say what I wanna say. Wish me luck!

The angle that has always been missing by anything I've ever read on the subject is the concept of reception. Disclosure has no effect, no matter how intended, if it is not accepted as what it is. Much like a radio signal it is useless if not received, useless if tuned out, annoying if staticy, and frustrating if not understood. Disclosure is the start of the process but is nothing if not received clearly and completely.
As a for-instance, I am open with Queenie and am able to share and relate but there are fewer times than I wish when I can do so because she is not tuned in. Other times there's too much static (too many interruptions to either correct me or change the subject). And there are times when she is simply not available.
Authors and experts talk about opening up, etc, but do not typically entertain the problem of reception. Intimacy is not possible minus receptivity.
End of lecture.

The Silent Male said...

I have a love/hate thing for the *poof* concept.

It is like *poof* and things are suddenly better.

Or *poof* and everything is worse.

You *poof* just never know what you'll get.

PS, absolutely love the concept of telling someone you love them because you love them and not expect them to act or behave in any specific way because of it.

Sailor said...

"or even require us to start over in building their trust. But, I think, if we will take the risk, set aside our self-doubt, and examine our real intentions of our self-disclosure, we will be able to acquire the intimate relationships we desire."

SO very, very true- and what a slow, hard lesson for some of us (okay, for me anyway), but so real.

Thanks Phyllis- great post!

Jeff said...

The unconditional love and acceptance you showed to your beauty is hard to come by outside of the parent/child relationship.
I have a few dear friends who are uncomfortable with "saying it." It doesn't matter. I say it anyway.
Is it possible that unconditional love is the only real love? It seems to me that once there are conditions, it must be something else...

Phyllis Renée said...

XI - That's a good point. And you're right, there isn't a lot out there that talks about reception. It's frustrating when you're (I'm) reaching out to a brick wall.

SM - It always sounds so easy in the relationship books. Just do this or that and your relationship will suddenly be all you want it to be. But I think the reality is it's just hit-and-miss. And sometimes we have to let go of what is our ideal marriage (or any other relationship).

Sailor - Starting over is difficult, but making that choice, I think, brings hope.

Jeff - When Brandi and I were going through those struggles it was so heartbreaking. But God made it clear that I was to show her the same love He shows His children: the ultimate parent/child relationship.

Is it possible that unconditional love is the only real love? It seems to me that once there are conditions, it must be something else...

I don't think people generally think about that. But if we look at "love" closely and peel away all the shtuff we coat it with, I think sometimes we would discover it is something else.

1blueshi1 said...

I like your thoughts on this subject!

FTN said...

Maybe it's a bad idea for so many of us bloggers to be reading all of the psychobabble books at once?
:-)

Okay, so I'm in the midst of reading the "Passionate Marriage" book (perhaps you've heard of it?), which talks a LOT about the exact same concept. The problem is just that it's a different definition of intimacy -- I'm not sure if it's more "right" or "wrong" than how we USUALLY think of communication and being validated by others.

Yes, disclosure is a good thing. And it's good to be able to do it while not being overly threatened by what the reaction might be. If this is entirely a one-way street, though, regardless of whether or not we define it as "intimacy," it may not be the kind of intimacy that I want in a marriage.

Because sort of like XI is saying -- you can self-disclose until you are blue in the face, but that doesn't make it "intimacy" with another person. And do I really need to have intimacy with myself?

Nanette said...

What a fantastic class. Thank you for sharing that, I had never really thought of the whole 'intimacy' thing between a parent/child.

Digger Jones said...

I'm incredibly late to this party, but couldn't resist once I saw the subject...

Disclosure is powerful because it sort of pushes the other person into making a response. Your daughter probably hated you telling her that you loved her when she was mad at you, because it made it more difficult for her to hold her aggressive posture. But she still did for a time. Like Xi, and FTN, I think what the other person does with our disclosure is a third and hidden rail in the intimacy train. and the other person treating our disclosure as rubbish creates a sort of threat which can shut us down.

Which is where your illustration gets very elegant. You did not give up. I think this is where sheer will and determination (or stubbornness) may have a bigger pay off than pragmatism. Xi and FTN (and I)are pragmatic guys married to women who are pragmatic in their own way. Might be time to keep at it in spite of observed results which may entail a bit more faith.

Well done!

D.