I just finished reading "Intimacy and Desire" by David Snarch. I met Dr. Snarch decades ago at a workshop when I was in my 30's. He is a relationship and sex therapist with an emphasis on self-differentiation (more on that later). I had read his book “Passionate Marriage” back then and was amazed at his insights and wisdom.
Self-Differentiation was a big concept applied to leadership back in the day when I was a pastor of a local church. It was very helpful in learning how to be self-defined and stay open and connected.
Some people are very self-defined and autonomous but very rigid and closed to being influenced by others. On the other hand, there are folk who are not self-defined and are driven by the anxiety to people please and avoid conflict.
His goes on to define the Solid Flexible Self by stating, "The more solid your sense of self, the more important you can let your partner be to you, and the more you can let yourself be truly known. You can change you mind when warranted. You can be flexible without losing your identity."
His book Intimacy & Desire is less about technique and method than it is about exploring how natural it is for folk in committed relationships to get stuck. Getting stuck is a call to grow, expand and find yourself.
David wrote this book in 2009. I was sad to see he had died suddenly. He was a great asset to the therapy and relationship community. His concept of The Four Points of Balance is very helpful. Here is the link if you would like to read about these four points in more detail than I am offering here or without reading the entire book.
Here they are, but I recommend clicking on the link to go into what seems simple but is full of profound wisdom and insight. Click Here
The Four Points of Balance™...
1. Solid Flexible Self™ - "the ability to be clear about who your are and what you're about, especially when your partner pressures you to adapt and conform."
2. Quiet Mind - Calm Heart™ - "being able to calm yourself down, soothe your own hurts, and regulate your own anxieties."
3. Grounded Response™ - "the ability to stay calm and not overreact, rather than creating distance or running away when your partner gets anxious or upset."
4. Meaningful Endurance™ - "being able to step up and face the issues that bedevil you and your relationships, and the ability to tolerate discomfort for the sake of growth.
Dr. Snarch goes on to give examples of how difficulties in the Four Points of Balance™ create an emotional gridlock in relationships. He describes one couple’s difficulty in the Four Points of Balance.
1. Difficulty staying clear about their value and worth in the face of criticism from their partner.
2. Difficulty calming their anxieties and soothing their emotional bruises.
3. Difficulty staying grounded and not overreacting when their partner was anxious or on edge. Attempts to calm themselves down consisted of avoiding conversation or clinging and arguing.
4. Difficulty confronting themselves about what they were doing or not doing. They wouldn't tolerate frustration or put forth the sustained effort required to achieve their goals.
In my own relationship, I have found that working on my Solid Flexible Self, Quieting my Mind and having a Calm Heart, avoiding overreacting and having a Grounded Response. and facing my issues with Meaningful Endurance has been very effective.
I tell myself and my clients that if you are way over a 5 on a 1 - 10 scale (10 being the highest distress and 0 no stress) then other memories and wounds are most likely dog piling onto your current situation. We are wired to be at a 10 during life and death situations. But our brain can take the past or our fear of the future and spin them in such a way that we react to our partners as if it is life or death.
I hope you will click on the above link and dig deeper into Dr. Snarch's Four Points of Balance™. I believe you will find them very helpful.