This series on emotions would not be complete without discussing emotionally-unavailable people. In this episode we discuss:
The Seductive Power of Emotionally-Unavailable Partners
Debra Maldonado, Robert Maldonado
Debra Maldonado 00:07
Welcome back to another episode of Soul Sessions with Creative Mind. This is wrapping up our series on emotions. One way to wrap it up is to talk about people that hold back their emotions. The title is the seductive power of emotionally unavailable people. I wish I heard this episode when I was single because that was my life — always being seduced by that person you can't have that doesn't want to get close. Why does that happen? Why does that keep happening to a lot of people?
Robert Maldonado 00:44
Certainly an interesting topic. All the topics we've been talking about in the series about emotions have been incredibly interesting for us. Jung himself says, without emotion, there is no transformation. It's a pivotal part of human development. If we can’t access our emotions, we're not able to express them, to work with them. We're stuck.
Debra Maldonado 01:10
Doing personal development for so many years, I really didn't see a change until I got to the root emotion I was working with. We all try to read books and think logically, look back and connect the dots and think “If I can figure it out rationally, I can make a different choice.” But everything we do, every decision we make has an emotional component, that emotion is usually unconscious. Let's talk about unavailable people, I'm talking about someone who wants to get close to someone, whether it's a parent, whether it's a lover, a friendship that you feel like you can't really get to them, you can't reach them, they're shut down. Why does that happen? How would you describe emotionally unavailable?
Robert Maldonado 02:07
It is essentially someone very dependent on their logical brain, their left hemisphere, the reasoning, the logic, the linear type of thinking. They have little access to their emotional life, to the imagination, to their body, to the creative part often. Because in order to be creative you need to access the emotions.
Debra Maldonado 02:37
Is it because they just think their problems can be solved in a practical, logical way, and emotions don't really play a role in what they do in their life?
Robert Maldonado 02:50
Part of it, but if you notice, in our culture we're very biased towards cognition. What do they teach you from elementary school all the way up to high school? Memorize, learn, read, think, all based on cognitive processing. No one teaches us about emotions, how to deal with them, what are they. I'm not talking about just men, women have a lot of difficulties accessing their emotions and expressing their emotions in a creative way.
Debra Maldonado 03:26
We've all been children being emotionally clumsy. We've been shamed for the emotions we have, like crying in front of our friends, or a parent saying “I'll give you something to cry about.” Don't show your emotions, act a certain way when you're in public, don't act out in front of others. We tend to want to keep that persona of “I got it all together, everything's fine.” I find for professional women, a lot of times because they're working in a man's world still, we have to be like men, we have to be stoic, we can't be too emotional because, God forbid, we make an emotional decision and not get the board room to be happy with us. We have to hide everything. Do you think most people are emotionally unavailable?
Robert Maldonado 04:29
To some extent, I'd say so, because the culture in general is emotionally stunted. People are not really able to express the full richness of their emotions. I mean in a creative, positive way, not necessarily screaming or acting out aggressively, but being able to express joy, happiness, just the joy of living.
Debra Maldonado 04:59
Do you think that it's easy to express anger, anger is easy to get out because it almost takes over. But for the most part, it's just that numbing of life and trying to keep your head above water.
Robert Maldonado 05:16
It works at a lot of levels because biologically our neocortex, the new part of our brain that has evolved recently, in the last 200,000 years, most of it is operating in dampening our emotions, keeping things under check. It tries to keep everything under control, under wraps, internally, not show our emotional life to others.
Debra Maldonado 05:51
When it comes to relationships — I have a question for you — because of just the way society has changed, when our parents were getting married and mating, and our grandparents, people really weren't thinking about “I'm in love”, it was more like a contract, more of a practical decision. There wasn't this expectation that the man should be so romantic all the time. Maybe a little bit but not to the extent it is now. It's this over expectation of what love is and how it should look all the time.
Robert Maldonado 06:30
I think it's changed a lot, the sitcoms and romcom have influenced the culture a lot to think that love relationships or romantic relationship should always be this lovey dovey very romantic expression, and that's the only way it should look. But it's really a phase of love that's important of course, the courting and the bonding that happens. But it's supposed to move on into more mature kinds of relationships. It's an evolution, it's taking responsibility, becoming part of the community where the couple now takes on bigger roles, not only between themselves, but part of a family and part of that larger society.
Debra Maldonado 07:27
I think maybe it is a good thing that rom coms came about because our parents and grandparents just basically settled. My parents had a good relationship, but I didn't really see it behind the scenes, but they were very close, open, and intimate. But you hear a lot of people that have been married forever, they have told me they’re 80 years old and thinking “I spent my whole life with this man. I never really loved him or I never got close to him.” The expectation was lower. Now that the expectation’s higher, I think there's more of this “My partner's unavailable.” As if we're pulling the veil off and saying “Look what's really happening here, we aren't really connecting the way we are because of this evolution of dampening that passion and evolving into this stoic human being that's holding it all together.” We've lost that part of it. Maybe art is telling us go and run after the airport, feel that love, that passion because it’s missing a lot in relationships. When we talk about emotional unavailability, there's a certain way people are. Jung talked about the puer aeternus and the puella aeterna. Let's talk about that.
Robert Maldonado 08:54
The puer aeternus simply means forever boy, or the eternal boy. This is a boy or a man who refuses to grow up. In popular culture they call it the Peter Pan syndrome. I think there was a famous book back in the 80s. The puella is the counterpart, the eternal girl who also refuses to grow up but of course, they trigger each other. A poor won’t necessarily be attracted to a puella because they project on each other.
Debra Maldonado 09:37
Maybe for a short amount of time, but they can never really stay. They have that passionate off and on but they can't really stay together because they're both non-committal.
Robert Maldonado 09:45
Von Franz, a student of Jung’s, predicted that in our culture there was going to be a massive amount of people with this syndrome. Because of the culture of basically worshipping youth, worshipping this romantic phase of relationships without really going into the deeper, more responsible parts of it, without emphasizing the difficulties of establishing a good relationship, and also without establishing that you need to be emotionally mature in order to be a good partner in a romantic relationship. Sure enough, I think we've seen it or we're seeing it now that a lot of people don't know how to commit to a relationship because of that emotional unavailability either in their partner or in themselves.
Debra Maldonado 10:50
The biggest misconception about emotional unavailability is that people think it means you don't feel anything inside. I think emotional unavailability means you feel a lot of things but you are unable to share it with another human. It's more about sharing that inner experience with another person, that's what love should be. I always thought I was available. I was out there looking for love and falling in love with the eternal boy every five minutes. What I didn't realize is that it was all my projection. It was the projection of my shadow, persona wanted a commitment but the shadow was terrified of commitment and opening up. When I realized that, something clicked in my brain, I said “I'm the one who's unavailable.” I didn't see that because I felt so many emotions. A lot of my clients I talked to feel so much emotion. They cry when someone breaks up with them. They are excited when some new person comes along. But they say he's the one who's not available, he’s the one who ghosted me, he's the one who left, who didn't want the commitment, here I am with my heart open. But when we look at it, there's still a little bit of guardedness in us to not share that experience, a shared emotional experience.
Robert Maldonado 12:18
Talking about the shadow, let me ask you a question. When you see people that complain that their partners are emotionally unavailable, how do you work with them?
Debra Maldonado 12:34
I first gently tell them, maybe that is pointing to a part of you. Gently because I know if someone told me that, I'd say “No, you're crazy.” But they come around eventually, it takes a couple times. They come around, “I think I'm the one who's emotionally unavailable. I'm the one who's holding back.” You can tell this by how you feel when you're around someone who's really pursuing you. Emotionally unavailable people love the seductive power. We're seduced by them. But we never ever want to be fully in it. We fall in love with this idea of this person. In our minds, we create a beautiful image and project it onto this person. We create this whole relationship in our mind, we sing those romantic songs. When we're with them, we don't share that part of us. We feel like they're not reaching us. But we're also holding back. When you're around someone who's totally available, I know I would run. He's so nice to me, there’s something wrong, I gotta go. I really like this guy but he keeps texting me all the time. If you want a relationship, isn't that what you want? With the ones that are unavailable, it's “Why isn't he calling?” You could tell how you respond to someone who's pursuing you. The fear that comes up, people talk about claustrophobia. He wants to see me every night this weekend. Isn't that a good thing? We just get into that fear. I was there too, so no judgment. But we just don't even realize what we're doing to ourselves. We think “It's just not the chemistry with that person, they’re not the one for me, I want to feel that chemistry.” But we only feel that chemistry with the unavailable person. It's because there's a part of us that is like that. It feels comfortable, like someone else playing out that playful role.
Robert Maldonado 14:42
Ultimately, it is a defense mechanism, we protect ourselves because most of us have been hurt in the past. We've had our heart broken by those early romantic relationships. Our mind says “Don't let this ever happen again, protect yourself.” That defensive strategy’s always operating. People don't know how to open that part up. Like Rumi says “The broken heart is meant to crack you open.” The real you is able to emerge from that, it’s willing to risk. It is a risk because no one can guarantee you that going into a relationship you're not going to get your heart broken, it's almost part of the deal because even if you stay with that person, you're risking losing them.
Debra Maldonado 15:47
They can get sick, they can die, you're mourning them when they're gone. Getting close to someone is hard. It's scary. I want to ask you, we learn usually from a parent to be unavailable ourselves. What about the emotionally unavailable parent? Let's say you're the daughter or son, you really want to get close to your mom or dad, you are getting older, you're like “I feel like I can't reach them.” What would you say? They're really showing you yourself, because you had to learn it usually from your parents.
Robert Maldonado 16:25
It has to do with identification and rejection. The child either identifies with a parent and says “I'm going to do the same and adopt that strategy of being emotionally closed and protected.” The opposite side of the coin is that somebody will say “I don't want to be like that, I want to be the opposite, I'm going to be very open and really express my emotions and create good loving relationships.” But either way, that part of the parent you reject goes into your shadow, into your unconscious mind. What ends up happening is you end up attracting that part that you reject in a partner.
Debra Maldonado 17:17
Just because you reject it, we think we get away with it, we say “I don't want that.” Then we think “I keep seeing the things that I don't want.”
Robert Maldonado 17:27
Jung says, whatever you push away into the shadow, you end up running into it as soon as you walk out the door. In relationships especially, you're going to create a relationship that's going to put you exactly in the situation that you're running away from. Instead of seeing it as a curse, we encourage people to see it as an opportunity, here is my chance to rework my childhood.
Debra Maldonado 18:01
Part of the work we do in Jungian coaching is not to get rid of things, or to make the negative parts of us positive, or the unavailable parts available, just flip, swap it. But really, it's to understand and accept that part of ourselves. It's not that the unavailable part is right or wrong, just don’t judge it and have compassion for ourselves. Because as kids, we don't make a decision we want to be unavailable, we are adapted to that pattern for survival. Jung said that the most terrifying thing for a person is to accept oneself completely. We have to first accept ourselves, accept that part of ourselves that may be a little hesitant to open up, maybe a little hesitant to share how we feel. If we can accept that part of ourselves and get to know that shadow part and say “Tell me more”, I guarantee you when you're in a relationship with someone who feels emotionally available, it's like you know from the inside how you'd want to be spoken to, how you would want to be approached, you'll be able to basically have more of an affinity with that person and understand where they're coming from. It's hard for us to open up, it'd be easier to have that conversation. You have to examine your own unavailability first so that you can have those experiences with another person.
Robert Maldonado 19:33
This is going to be highly unpopular because if you've seen this pattern in your life, you keep attracting unavailable partners or emotionally unavailable partners, the answer isn’t changing your dating patterns or moving to another town. It's about looking inside yourself. That pattern has persisted because of your own unconscious pattern. The external is simply reflecting that unconscious mind in you.
Debra Maldonado 20:14
I have this little diagram I used to draw at my little dating events I did back in the day when I had my book come out. It's two bubbles. There's two people, they're in their little comfort bubble. When you're pursuing someone, and the person's moving away, it feels you're still in your bubble. If they're pursuing you, and you're moving away, you're still in your bubble. The most terrifying thing is for us to actually integrate and be together. When we think we're pursuing someone, we're open, but we're really staying in our bubble still, there's no fear of them coming in. It's when someone comes towards you, if you don't move away and stay, you allow that person to get close to you, that's what makes you available. It's terrifying for some people because maybe a time in their life, a very important person, like a parent or a loved one has let them down, they opened their heart and got crushed. It's a natural normal human response to protect yourself. It's not a wound, it's more of a sign of a healthy mind. It's a part of you that said “Let me protect you.” If we can look at that — not the event of the parent — but look at that protective mechanism and examine it a little bit, we can understand why we did it. We could dismantle those defenses, because now we could really understand no one can ever harm us in any way.
Robert Maldonado 21:39
A lot of it has to do with understanding that of course, those experiences stayed with you, we're not denying that, but your parents didn't do those things to mess you up, those things didn't damage you permanently. They're there to teach you how to drop that resentment against others, that everyone is acting out of their own past conditioning. They're doing the best they can with their own genetics and epigenetics. When you understand that principle, you're able to drop any resentment towards your parents, grandparents, things that happen in the past, and move on. That moving on is what Jung is talking about. You're able to enter a relationship now without that emotional conditioning baggage from the past, but you're able to enter and really be present with somebody in a relationship in a new way.
Debra Maldonado 22:50
Most of the time what we're doing if we're not conscious of our own patterns, ourselves and our shadow is that we're projecting old expectations onto that partner that aren't necessarily about them. I've heard about looking at people with hard eyes, you're going to hurt me, I know it, I should be careful versus fresh eyes where it's just openness, let me see who this person is before I bring all my armor to the date, I could just be present with that person and see who they are. I think we'll be more relaxed when we're together. When you open up, another person feels comfortable opening up. But if two people are guarded, it's like a game of chicken, who's gonna back out first? No one wants to make that first move.
Robert Maldonado 23:46
I would say though that it’s more than expressing your emotions, it’s looking at yourself in non judging way. Doing that self inquiry, really going inward and asking those early experiences with the parents and the attachment patterns “What message did I come out of that experiencing? What were the subtle undertones of that?" If you haven't examined it, they're going to play out in your current relationships. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong. That's the way the mind works. It expresses its past experiences.
Debra Maldonado 24:36
If you want to see your patterns you're not aware of, look at your history of relationships, you'll see why they're there. If it's a parent you're trying to get close with and resent because they weren't open with you, they influenced you in some way. You have to look it within yourself and say “How do I deal with that?” Some people deal with bosses. The boss is shut down, or colleagues at work. This happens in all relationships. I think human beings are messy beings, we're defensive, we’re trying to survive. We're imperfect in a lot of ways, the human part of ourselves, we're trying to get through the day, keep our persona intact. We sometimes inadvertently trip over other people, say the wrong thing. If we can be okay with our own foibles and missteps, things that aren't the best about ourselves, that we need to improve on, and just be more compassionate toward ourselves, that will help you invite someone in to get close. But if you're trying to keep up this perfect persona, you're never going to get anyone close because on the inside, it’s a mess in here, I better keep people out. If you think of a house, the guard dog is your ego, a new relationship is coming in, and the dog doesn't know the difference between the mailman and a robber. The dog is going to react the same way to whatever person comes up. You're not even seeing that person, you're seeing it through that defensiveness, that guard dog. That leads to emotional unavailability. I love what you said, just get your heart broken. It's not gonna break, it feels like it in the moment, but it's not going to break you as much as the payoff that happens is when you can really fall in love and really get close to another human being and become emotionally available.
Robert Maldonado 26:50
The good news is this. I really learned it the hard way, because I was completely shut down emotionally for a long time. But Jung's work says you can change, it doesn't matter what your patterns have been. If you're willing to do the internal work, the inner work, there is an opportunity to change those patterns.
Debra Maldonado 27:15
It's not a life sentence. Those of you who are experiencing those patterns, ask yourself why. Ask yourself “How do I hold myself back?” Look at your own emotional state. How much do I share myself with others? I bet you, you'll be surprised when you ask that question. This is our last episode of the year of 2021. We thought 2021 would never end but it's ending. We're taking a quick break over the holidays but we'll be back in January for Soul Sessions again. What’s the topic for the next series?
Robert Maldonado 28:05
I've been wanting to do something on mythology for a while. We were talking about the power of myths and archetypes to live by. What do these myths that have persisted throughout the ages teach us? Why are they so important? As Joseph Campbell says, the myths are like our humanity's dreams, they're our visions, our aspirations, in these ancient stories that have come down throughout the ages.
Debra Maldonado 28:42
They have so much symbolic meaning in our lives, telling us where we are in the process. Myths influence Hollywood, television, movies and superhero movies. A lot of times when we work with clients, I'll see someone who has never heard the myth before, but it’ll play out in a dream, it'll be so symbolic. You'll say “That reminds me of this myth of Osiris.” It's interesting how on a deep collective level, we have so much knowledge about myths, patterns, archetypes. We’re going to talk about that in the next series. I'm very excited about that. How to apply it in a practical way. What do we do with it in our life?
Robert Maldonado 29:37
How do we apply them, live into them and live by them.
Debra Maldonado 29:44
Thank you, everyone, for joining us this year. We hope you have a happy holiday season and a happy New Year. We hope you all stay safe and sound and spend time with people you love. Whatever holiday you celebrate, if you're with people you love and feel everyone's holding back, I invite you to take that risk. Tell someone how you appreciate them. Tell someone something different than you normally would say. Be willing to stretch yourself because I promise you every time I've done this in my life with my family, if I reached out, like my dad, I just went out on a limb, “I’m gonna do the opposite”, it just came back as such great reward because everyone is really craving that connection. All of us are afraid to make that step. You as the empowered person that you are, make that step in your holiday adventures this year.
Robert Maldonado 30:48
Thanks for watching, and we'll see you next year.
Debra Maldonado 30:52
Take care, everyone. Have a happy holiday.