Intimacy: The Alchemy Of Fear

What a privilege it is to witness the hearts and minds of the couples I see in my therapy practice. It’s humbling to be in the presence of two people sincerely plumbing the depths of human experience: How to see and be seen, how to understand and be understood, and how to love and be loved? Our hearts are eminently delicate even when they appear calloused and hardened, and so all the more delicate. When I experience two hearts/minds struggling to both give and receive, my heart opens and my humanity is replenished.

Couples therapist Dr. David Schnarch writes, “Intimacy is not for the faint of heart” and yet I also believe that deep intimacy takes courage; courage that always contains fear. Fear is intrinsic to human experience (
and essential to human survival) and is the very expression of our fragile and vulnerable hearts (also the root of our anger and defensiveness). When we acknowledge and accept our vulnerabilities as human beings, tenderness and compassion naturally arise and fear need not confound us. Just being human is a profound experience itself. What a blessing to be reminded of all this through the people who reveal their lives to me every day. --Doug

Stopping The 'Blame Game' In Relationship

No matter what the specific complaint, many couples first arrive at my office repeating a structure that goes something like this: “I could relax if s/he would just (fill in the blank).” When the inevitable disappointments in relationship feel overwhelming many of us are quick to blame our partner for the relationship’s problems. It reminds me of Rex Harrison’s character Professor Henry Higgins in the musical “My Fair Lady” who asks, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” For most of us the question is simply “Why can’t you just see it my way?”

One famous family therapist, Carl Whitaker, put it this way: It’s crazy to expect you and I to think about and experience our relationship in the same way. Many variables contribute to an individual’s unique life perspective. Relationship combines differing perspectives.

From this vantage point, blaming each other for problems in your relationship makes very little sense. Blaming is a convenient way to not take responsibility for yourself, for your personal habits, and for your idiosyncratic perspective. And, blaming discounts your partner’s unique perspective, much of which you have less understanding of than you may think because her/his point of view encompasses the totality of her/his life. Learning how to
self-soothe your own vulnerable feelings can help stop the blame game as you relate differently with the emotions that feed the blame. Soothing yourself (and therefore respecting and trusting yourself) also provides a foundation for empathy and inquiry; an ability to be curious about your partner’s perspective while simultaneously relating with your own
--Doug