“Irrelationship”: Subconscious Patterns That Start in Childhood

Irrelationship is a jointly created defense system that two or more people maintain in order to avoid awareness of the anxiety that’s a natural part of becoming close to others — especially anxiety about letting people see and know us for who we really are. Irrelationship happens outside of awareness, working well to protect us from anxiety, intimacy, and emotional investment while blocking mutually satisfying relationships from developing. Authors of Irrelationship: How We Use Dysfunctional Relationships to Hide From Intimacy

Even though the above may be hard to grasp, above-cited authors Mark B. Borg, Grant H. Brenner, and Daniel Berry seem to be on to something important in their new book.

And, not surprisingly, it all starts “in early childhood with primary caregivers who were emotionally distressed for prolonged periods,” they state in Psychology Today, where the authors have a blog on this topic. “This, in turn, was so distressing to the child that she or he developed behaviors intended to make the caregiver feel better so that the child could feel safer. Ultimately, this gives rise to a dissociated state between the child and caregiver that we call irrelationship.”

More elaboration on the book and its ideas from their website:

…(T)he authors explain the development of brainlock and irrelationship using the histories of numerous individuals and couples. Analysis of these histories draws the connection between early childhood experiences with dysfunctional caregivers and the anxiety that drives affected individuals (and couples) to devise roles for themselves (‘song-and-dance routines’) to protect themselves from the risks inherent in close relationships; namely, empathy, intimacy, emotional risk and emotional investment.

But readers aren’t left wondering if they’re fated to repeat this pattern forever: the book takes us through the DREAM Sequence, a carefully crafted set of tools that guides us in the process of exploring the anxiety we experience when we find ourselves attracted to others…

What is brainlock? On Psychology Today:

The idea of being seen and loved ‘as we really are’ is profoundly unsettling because we can’t control the other’s feelings toward us or what that may mean in our lives. The response is emotional exit. If both parties are subject to brainlock, both will begin ‘lockdown’ of feelings at the same time to avoid intimacy. For this reason brainlock may be understood as a type of dissociation.

The authors’ DREAM Sequence stands for the following:

  • Discovery–the key realization
  • Repair–allows joint healing
  • Empowerment–realistic optimism about changing together
  • Alternatives–newly perceived options
  • Mutuality–is enhanced as the process continues

Carolyn Parkhurst, author: “Irrelationship is an invaluable user’s guide to the care and maintenance of adult relationships. It shines a light on challenges we often choose to ignore—the adoption of roles that limit us, the replaying of damaging patterns formed by our earliest experiences—and offers insightful and concrete advice on how to do the work necessary to build stronger and happier partnerships.”

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