Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Merging vs. Engulfment

In response to a blog posting today by Miss Model Behavior ("Why Are You So Sensitive?"), I posted the following response:
Kilroy here, from Las Vegas. By defining this as a male/female problem, I think MMB is missing the point. This isn't a matter of Mars vs. Venus but more of a fundamental human conflict: merging vs. engulfment. This is something that applies to all sexes equally: male/female, gay/straight, eunuch, celibate, etc. Males and females may have different ways of expressing it, but merging/engulfment is a basic conflict in all of us and is the main reason early romances don't usually work.

Let me give you the Cliff's Notes version. We are all the product of two warring forces: the "urge to merge" -- that is, the desire to join with someone else -- and the desire to be an independent and self-sufficient being. When you're alone and lonely, merging becomes your primary concern, and you tend to hopelessly idealize the other party. But once you start merging with someone real, idealism is quashed by reality, and the opposite inclination kicks in: "Oh my God, I'm drowning!" Hence, the desire to pull away.

It takes a great deal of maturity and self-knowledge to balance the two. It also takes time, in any relationship, to negotiate a balance, no matter how mature the parties may be.

Your opponent in this case may be a dick, but he's a gender-free dick expressing the same cycle we all go through: "Oh my God, I'm alone!" alternating with, "Oh my God, I'm drowning!" It's no mystery that most people haven't yet found a balance.