Beyond child – parent relationship
In the former post I described the role of early child-caregiver relationship as the first fundamental relation shaping child integration with the world. This relation importance diminishes in adolescence and is replaced by new intimate relationship with another adult person (see also here).
This new relationship will have the crucial role in sustaining integration with the world during the rest of the life. The partners will be the main interfaces to the world for each other.
Both, parent-child and adult-adult, intimate relationships, share common elements: physical and emotional, vulnerable intimacy.
- In the parent-child relationship, physical intimacy expresses itself in cleaning, changing diapers, breast feeding. Emotional intimacy is manifested by child by sharing deepest emotional troubles and joy with the caregivers.
- In the adult person’s relation, physical intimacy expresses mostly in the sexual act. Emotional intimacy is evidenced by sharing with each other intimate aspect of emotional life.
A healthy sexual intimacy
From the integrated world theory perspective, the role of sexual intimacy is to keep, to renew and to reinforce the bond between partners and through the partner with the world itself. Hence, people often describe the feelings of the very deep connection, even oneness, during sexual act.
Physical and emotional components
The primary sexual drive is purely physical. The emotional component that I’m describing here is the second, separate layer. It regulates the physical component, reinforcing or lessening it.
The emotional component is not essential to feel the physical, sexual desire and sometimes is indeed absent. The physical sex drive is present since the protists appeared on earth – over 1 billion years ago. Much earlier than emotions.
Adult intimate relationship in personality disorders.
Sadly, people with personality disorders, cannot experience the healthy adult relationship benefits.
a) They are emotionally immature and cannot make deep bonds with an adult partner. They left relationship with parents unresolved and they will futilely try to repeat and resolve it in this new relation.
b) The connection patterns, they were taught as children, are malignant ones (among others, the pattern lets the brain feel, which partner is good for us and how the relation should look like). They were embroidered from rejection and engulfment. They bring the feeling of connection from being humiliated or humiliating, by being hurt or by hurting, by being owned or by owning others. It may work for a short term but will eventually provide disastrous.
Sexual intimacy in personality disorders
a) wicked emotional connection in sex
The personality disorder sufferers, feel disconnected from other people, so they are mostly able only to enjoy detached sex without emotional intimacy. The aforementioned patterns of humiliation, hurt and possession, may bring short term sexual pleasure but cannot be a foundation of long term healthy relationship.
Unresolved child – parent relationship may lead the sufferer to search for parent-like, perfect, larger than life, partner, and be repelled by real partner normality or real parent resemblance. They may desire narcissistic or psychopathic partners as they emanate omnipotent traits.
These problems may also lead to compulsive searching of the intimate relationship by frequent, shallow, never fully satisfying, sexual encounters.
The feeling of healthy sexual desire may be altogether impossible because rejection’s anxiety or by fear of engulfment. The sexual act is very close and intimate, so these fears are especially magnified in the face of it.
The innate desire to achieve real intimacy, combined with above mentioned disabilities and lack of satisfaction, may lead to pornography addiction and sex in a fantasy world with satisfaction achieved only during masturbation.
b) lack of emotional connection in sex
Psychopaths and (partly) sociopaths, lack the emotional part of sexual intimacy. They can however still feel the physical part and therefore enjoy sexual pleasure. The emotional detachment removes the inhibitions, that cause so many problems for other personality disorder sufferers, but it also removes whole important emotional aspect of sexual intimacy. Psychopaths may tend to have many, frequent, sexual partners, but it is different from previously mentioned sexual compulsivity. Here the sex is pleasure seeking and a frantic escape from painful boredom.
Sexual fantasies may have an important role in the insight and recognition of the nature of the mental problem, as they often reflect early learned connection patterns. However, there may be other components corresponding to the sexual fantasy content, so the interpretation may be difficult and needs to be done with caution.
Number of partners
There comes interesting question what is the “right” number of adult partners in this intimate relationship. Today’s societies mostly cherish monogamy, but there are different approaches, e.g. in the Islamic cultures.
The criterion is, that relationship must be deep and intimate. The chances of being deep and intimate, diminish when number of partners rise, so the monogamy is definitely a good choice. Still, it may be not the only right choice – I don’t know the answer and it’s not me to decide the quality of other people relations.
Unfortunately, some personality disorder sufferers can also become sexual predators.
Sometimes it is caused by severely damaged integration that creates a combination of emotional detachment (no empathy for the victim) with the wicked integration, causing, for example, compulsive need to engulf or to own the victim.
Sometimes it’s just the cruel entertainment of the bored psychopath/sociopath.
Sometimes both combined.
For the victim, the sexual assault is much more than physical abuse, it’s the direct attack on victim’s relation to the world. The effect can be disastrous, with victim feeling not only deeply hurt, but also totally used, engulfed or rejected. It may be especially devastating, with life lasting consequences, for the child victims – by damaging integration process, it may be the substantial component of subsequent personality disorder development or other mental problems.
The importance of sex is not to be underestimated. It’s not only some strange, very pleasant activity (with “child making” as a side effect). It has the crucial role of sustaining our emotional connection to the partner and to the world. That’s why it is so desired, so beautiful, bringing so much positive feelings and causing so much turmoil in our lives.