Searching for intimacy in relationships is elusive to people who grew
up in a dysfunctional family, but not beyond their grasp. Below I've
used Steve Karpman's Drama Triangle to diagram the roots, roles, and
dynamics of relationship dysfunction vs. true intimacy.
You may want to review the pages listed before this one (at the bottom of this page) in order to get a basic understanding of the Triangle if you have not already done so. Attempting to define intimacy can be somewhat complex -- but the triangle simplifies it by adding a visual perspective.
Searching for Intimacy & The Adapted Child Triangle:
In Transactional Analysis, the Adapted Child ego state is the part of the child's personality that adapted to the dysfunction of the family. Within this ego state are embedded three more ego states -- The Angry/Defiant Child, The Critical Parent, and The Vulnerable Child.
Lets start at the bottom of the diagram:
With intensity and repetition that pain accumulates and creates abandonment issues such as fear of abandonment, fear of intimacy, and fear of failure. When the fear comes true again it makes the wound of abandonment deeper and more painful. This ego state is forever searching for intimacy in relationships.
The LP is responsible for helping the child to survive by searching for intimacy with what have become known as survival roles & skills. As a result of growing up in a less-than-nurturing family, the Little Professor is infected with shame, and so becomes shame-based.
It is useful to think of the Little Professor as the Conductor who orchestrates the three corners of the triangle. The music is not so good because the shame-based Little Professor makes life decisions and develops survival roles & skills based on experiences that created limiting beliefs, emotional woundedness, & existential positions grounded in shame..."I'm not Ok, others are not Ok, and/or the world is not okay".
The Little Professor consolidates these new defenses into the Angry/Defiant Child ego state and decides when, where, and how to activate it for the "perceived" benefit and safety of the vulnerable child.
When the contempt is internalized the Angry Child inwardly persecutes (P-) the Vulnerable Child (V-) in an attempt to control the Vulnerable Child. When the contempt is externalized the Angry Child outwardly persecutes (P-) others in an attempt to control others, get revenge, or "show them how it feels".
The externalizing Critical Parent carries contempt for others and judges them harshly with a sense of shamlessness -- For example, "If all these other stupid people would do things my way this world would be a much better place". Blaming others is an attempt to rescue (R-) the Vulnerable Child from more shame by dumping it elsewhere.
The internalizing Critical Parent carries contempt for the Vulnerable Child and judges it harshly, heaping on more and more shame -- For example, "I'm so stupid! I should know better than to trust her! People just can't be trusted!"
This may be an attempt to subdue the Vulnerable Child and drive it into hiding, or it may be a re-enactment of parental relationships, or both. The "rescue" (R-) here is in the intention to protect the Vulnerable Child by making it learn how to not need or want anything from others -- This happens when the Little Professor believes, "If I don't need you then you can't hurt me".
Searching for Intimacy & The ACA Recovery Triangle:
Adult Children of Alcoholics and Other Dysfunctional Families (ACA) is a 12-Step Recovery program that help those with Adult Child Syndrome (diagrammed above) who are also searching for intimacy in their relationships.
Below I have used the Drama Triangle to diagram what recovery from dysfunctional relationships looks like. This I call the ACA Recovery Triangle.
Lets start in the center of the diagram:
These qualities of the Little Professor are complimented by the experience, wisdom, and Potency of a Healthy Adult ego state through engaging in a recovery process and creating and strengthen new neural networks as a result of the intensity and repetition of recovery activities.
In recovery, the emotional wounds are healed or healing and all parts are working in harmony with each other -- without the pain of abandonment, shame, and contempt -- True intimacy is now possible. Just as with anything else, it takes practice and growth.
There are many more new variations on the Drama Triangle... they can be found in the pages below. I recommend that you study them in the order they are listed: