I read Steven Carter's books about commitment phobia. I wanted to explore more about the issue of intimacy struggles and I found this book. Unlike Steven Carter's books which are targeted for mass market, this book is written for professional therapists, nevertheless, as a lay person, I find this book easy to read. The mass market books describe the behaviour patterns of the intimacy-handicaps, while this book investigates the psychological process, the dark hidden side of the fear.
Firestone explains that "the major problem in interpersonal relationships is each person's psychological defences based on destructive voice processes and the distortions each partner introduces into the relationship". Firestone introduces two major concepts: the FANTASY BOND and VOICE.
The fantasy bond is the primary defense a child formed in facing pain and anxiety. Children who are deprived of emotional sustenance compensate themselves with fantasy gratification, by forming an imagined fusion 'fantasy bond' with the mother or parenting figure, and later in life, the adult continues to make fantasized connections in intimate associations.
The voice, a secondary defense, functions to support and confirm a person's retreat into an inward fantasy state. For example, the person imagines: "I can take care of myself. I don't need anyone else. I am my own parent." And later in life, some of the destructive voices which adult couples bring into their relationships like "You're unattractive and uninteresting. Why would he(she) want to go out with you".... "Don't fool yourself. He doesn't care about you."....
I need to put down the book from time to time while reading it. I need some pauses to reflect about my own inner voices. I agreed that it is a long journey, and there is no quick fix. Self-awareness is the first step to rectify our own repetitive destructive patterns, and reading this book can be a good starting point.
I heartily recommend Fear of Intimacy to women, men, and couples, who are courageous enough to face the fact that their relationships suck, that their behaviour can hurt the ones they profess to love the most, and who want to experience the joy of healthy love so much that they are willing to sweat it out. No quick fixes here. It will get worse before it gets better. Fear of Intimacy is neither a conventional self-help book, nor an academic publication that might be too specialised for a general readership. It does, however, require the reader one very important thing - to let go of the victim mentality, the willingness to go deeply within and face squarely the most painful issues that prevent us from loving and being loved in a healthy and nurturing way. I read Fear of Intimacy with a 15-year track record of trying in earnest to "rewire" my emotional processes. A myriad self-help books, short-term therapy, meditation were the bill of fare. I learned incredibly useful social, communication, and life skills of the sort that ought ideally to come from school and family in growing up. Despite numerous formidable accomplishments, my relationships with men were still an unmitigated disaster. Dedicated as I was to do better, none of my previous tools seemed to work. More precisely, they worked up to a point - helping me cope with problems that, it later turned out, were but the tip of the iceberg of horrendous "relationship dynamic". Fear of Intimacy helped take my search for understanding and healing to depths of feeling - and pain - I had not previously experienced. It was gut-wrenching to feel, for the first time, the power of the unhealthy emotional attachment internalised in childhood and imprinted in my every cell - and subsequently on all my relationships with men. Through the book's narrative analysis and real life examples I was able to identify with the core problem, and then crashed. My first response was profound shame for all the ways I'd hurt my "loved ones". I felt I knew nothing, that all previous learning had been in vain. This phase was followed by a sense of liberation: OK, so it is like this, and it's not OK, but let's try again to make it better! Fear of Intimacy gives some beginning tools for couples to help them build healthier relationships. My husband and I are working with these tools, and find the process very rewarding, as well as tough and painful at times. As a result, we're beginning, after 8 years (!) of acrimonious fighting, to get a more real picture of who the other one is - as a flesh and blood human being, rather than a fantasy of who we'd previously projected them to be. It hit me like a bolt of lightning: he's not what I'd dreamed him to be. Not my mother, not my father, not my ultimate rescuer. Just a regular guy. Likewise I for him, a regular gal. Horror of horrors: WHO have I been "in love with" all these years? It's hard to believe but it's true: in our ninth year together, we are beginning to get to know each other for the first time! It is fun. It is deep. However annoying it gets at times - It is definitely better than ever!
Fear of Intimacy is the first book of which I am aware that gives clear insight into the cause and manifestation of negative thinking that is the backdrop for the destruction of close relationships. The verbatim recountings of real-life couples vividly illustrate how the inner voices, internalized from childhood experiences with emotionally immature parents, compel individuals to act out in a manner that is perversely targeted to the defeat of real intimacy. I have read most of Dr. Firestone's books and in my view there is nothing in the current market of psychological publications that comes close to matching Dr. Firestone's elucidation of the causes of emotional suffering, paramount among which is what he calls the "fantasy bond". This book is a must for anyone really committed to changing their relationships with friends, family and lovers.
The information presented in this book was truly an awakening for me. I realized long ago that something was wrong with my marriage. I am a strong believer that once you identify the problem you're all ready halfway to solving it. The information presented, using case studies and common sense language, ushered me gently to the understanding that I (and my husband) have a fear of intimacy that needs to be squarely faced and resolved. I found the case studies interesting but the author's direct style was even more helpful. Thanks to this book we're all ready halfway to solving our problems and healing our marriage and ourselves. I highly recommend it.