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Muddle Intimacy, Emotions, Attachment Style, Sex

Uploaded 11/6/2022, approx. 14 minute read

This is your favorite professor of psychology, minus the hair.

Yes, I have sifted through all your complaints, observations and goodwill suggestions as to what to do. But I'm afraid this is a hairy situation, and here, as soon as I am, the only solution is to wait. Time heals everything.

And my hair is a strange propensity to grow with time. So there's still hope for you, if not for me.

Today we are going to discuss the God Almighty confusion between intimacy, emotions, sex and attachment.

You see, when we were teaching our young to decouple sex from emotions, to engage in emotionless, meaningless sex, to think of sex as the antithesis, the opposite of intimacy. When we did this, we did them a disservice. This created an enormous confusion in the minds of the young, as well as in the minds of the old, the minds of laymen, as well as in the minds of scholars.

As to what exactly is the linkage between intimacy, emotions, what's the connection between sex and intimacy, and how does attachment and especially attachment styles, how do they fit into this convoluted picture.


My name is Sam Vaknin and I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited. I'm a professor of psychology and your guide into the darkest corners and recesses of the netherworld of the human mind. Stay with me on this tour.

So let's start with intimacy.

There is no situation more intimate than psychotherapy.

In psychotherapy, you encounter a relative stranger and you tell him everything about yourself. You tell him your deepest secrets. You share with him your sexual peccadillos and foibles. You seek his advice as to how to conduct your life.

There is no equivalent level of intimacy with your spouse or even with your best friends. Your therapist is by far the most intimate person in your life.

Similarly, how many times have you gone to a bar or to a party and you poured your heart out? You're confided in a total stranger exactly because he is a stranger and you're never going to see him again.

So it seems that intimacy is not necessarily connected to emotions as we were taught to believe early on.

And so intimacy is a state of affairs. It is not a state of mind.

Intimacy has nothing to do with emotions. Of course, intimacy can be accompanied by emotions. It can be coupled with emotions.

But there is intimacy without emotions, emotionless intimacy. Someone suggested to call it called intimacy and there are emotions which do not lead to intimacy.

For example, negative emotions. But even positive emotions such as love don't necessarily lead to intimacy. They could lead to hurt and pain.

So the connection between intimacy and emotions is spurious. It's wrong. It's not true.

People, for example, can have sex with total strangers without any emotions except maybe some mild affection and modicum of trust. But trust is not an emotion.

And there is a big debate whether affection is an emotion or a state of mind or a state of affairs.

So but you can have sex with a stranger without any emotions whatsoever. Sometimes you don't even know the name of the stranger.

People have sex with strangers and sex is the ultimate in intimacy. There is nothing absolutely more intimate than sex.

You let someone into your body if you're a woman and you enter someone else's body. If you're a man, is there any deeper, more profound form of intimacy? If there is, I'm not aware of it.

And yet, and yet sex often comes unaccompanied by emotions, unaccompanied by intimacy, not linked to anything except the physical release and the act itself.

Intimacy means doing things together, sleeping together, talking, eating. There could be a huge intimacy in a lunch or a dinner, making love. All these are forms of intimacy and they all involve actions, sharing in action, doing something together.

But none of these situations necessarily implies, imply or demand the presence of an emotion or an affect. They do not require any effective or emotional correlate.

There is intimacy in prison where people are crowded together. There is intimacy with a prostitute. There is intimacy in a hospital between a patient and her doctor. And as I mentioned, there is intimacy in psychotherapy. All these are intimate but emotionless states.

Intimacy in a clinical sense is a state of affairs involving proximity, physical proximity, vulnerability, a display of vulnerability, not being afraid to show vulnerability. In other words, trust and joint activities, life.

So these are the three components of intimacy, proximity, vulnerability, joint activity.

Do you hear the word emotions? Do you find the word emotions in this list?

You don't. And for good reasons, they are not necessary. There are no strong emotions attached with intimacy necessarily. They can be, but it's not a precondition.

And so this is the first confusion.

I must say that the young people under age 25 or even 35 are the most confused about these issues because they have been taught by us, by my generation, by the baby boomers. They have been taught that sex, intimacy, attachment, emotions, these are totally disparate categories and that they should try to detach one from the other. They should engage in sex without emotions. They should have emotions without sex. They should have intimacy without both. And they should attach to people without demanding sex or emotions or intimacy.

And this is mayhem. This is total chaos.

While intimacy does not require emotions, emotions, positive emotions, such as love, do require intimacy. So it's unidirectional. Emotions should lead to intimacy. Intimacy is not necessarily attached to emotions nor does it often lead to emotions.

Same situation, same confusion exists with attachment.

People confuse mate selection with attachment style, but these are two separate things.

For relationships to work, the attachment styles of both members of the couple ideally should match.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Opposites do not attract. If you end up being in a dyad or a couple with your diametrical opposite, with someone who doesn't share your values, with someone whose behavior grates on your nerves, the relationship will not last for long.

If you can't reach an understanding regarding certain beliefs, certain goals in life regarding what's appropriate and what is not, your relationship will not survive.

Opposites don't attract or if they do, it's a seriously bad idea.

Attachment styles, like everything else, should match. Your values should match. Your beliefs should match. Your life goals should match.

The stage in life that you're in should match and your attachment styles should match.

So attachment style has nothing to do with mate selection. In pair, it should inform mate selection. In other words, when you select a mate, you'd better select someone whose attachment style matches yours.

But attachment style is not mate selection, nor is it an integral part of mate selection, actually.

Impaired mate selection means that you keep choosing the wrong partners and then you keep going on to having horrible relationships.

Freud called it repetition compulsion, Adler called it diathesis. These are very old ideas and this is the core problem.

Choosing the wrong partner repeatedly, consistently and very often the same type.

And so it is typically the outcome of bad parental programming. Attachment styles are fostered by and gendered in childhood and adolescence.

You witness an attachment between your parents and then you emulate it somehow. The attachment between you and your parents is a major influence. If it is bad, if it is dysfunctional, you're likely to develop a dysfunctional attachment style, an insecure attachment style.

In our most modern approach to attachment, we divide all attachment styles to two groups, secure and insecure. Most insecure attachment styles are avoidant. Even someone with an anxious ambivalent attachment style is still avoidant. An anxious ambivalent attachment style leads to avoidance. This kind of person avoids relationship and intimacy, destroys relationships and intimacy because of anxieties and doubts, including self-doubts.

So we have secure and insecure avoidant attachment styles. These are the two families.

And the attachment style informs, they inform mate selection in an ideal world, but very often doesn't. So mate selection is an autonomous process. It has to do with archetypes in a way, has to do with the internalization and introjection of parental figures and other influential role models, including peers.

Mate selection is also influenced by evolutionary considerations. For example, women are more likely to choose mates who can provide for them. That's a fact. That's not misogynism. It's supported by every single study in the field.

Similarly, men are more likely to choose good looking younger women. That's also a fact. I'm sorry. Chauvinism is a fact, regrettably, a scientific one.

And so mate selection is focused around modeling, around types, around archetypes, around economic exigencies, around evolutionary considerations.

Mate selection has very little to do with attachment style. Attachment style comes into play much later if you are very, very self-aware, if you're educated in psychology. And of course, if you listen to lectures by Professor Dr. Sambaknin, you would know to choose your mate based on your attachment style, but most people don't, as my viewership numbers show.

My contribution to this field was to suggest the addition of what I called, or what I call the flat attachment style.

Everyone has an attachment style, but some people have flat attachment. They are incapable of any kind of bonding or any kind of relatedness to other people at all. Flat attaches regard other people as utterly interchangeable, disposable, replaceable, indispensable. Other people are objects, other people are functions, and flat attaches don't attach to objects and functions.

Actually, very few of us do.

When a relationship is over, people go through a period of latency, mourning or grieving the defunct bond, what could have been, and processing the grief.

And then there are withdrawal symptoms associated with a breaker.

But the flat attacher has no latency. He or she transition instantaneously, smoothly, abruptly, and seamlessly from one insignificant other to the next target. They don't grieve. They don't mourn. They don't withdraw. They don't avoid. They don't reconsider. They don't analyze. They don't seek closure. They simply move on. They fully substitute. They can fully substitute a newly found boy or lover or mate or intimate partner in quote unquote, or spouse for the discarded one to discard you. And they move on to your replacement.

The discarded person is considered the equivalent of an expired product, something that whose shelf life is over, something someone who is no longer useful.

And so it's easy for them to move on, because they're focused on goals.

In many respects, flat attaches are a bit psychopathic.

Indeed, many narcissists, almost all psychopaths, are flat attaches.

Borderlines, on the other hand, tend to sexualize attachment. As far as the borderline is concerned, sex and attractiveness are proof of attachment. Sex as which is abandonment, anxiety. Sex reduces ameliorates and mitigates the borderline's separation and security.

She forces and prompts her partner to tell her how attractive she is, how amazing, how unique, how irresistibly sexy. That's her way of kind of testing the waters. Do you still love me? Are you going to abandon me? Am I going to be rejected by you?

And of course, attachment has nothing to do with intimacy. Intimacy has little to do with emotions. Emotions don't have much to do with sex. Sex doesn't have to do anything with mate selection or has very little to do with mate selection, etc.

This is a god awful confusion.

Confusing this, even in scholarly literature, has led to the blaring of lines and to completely wrong consequences and conclusions.

Most of the field of gender studies is founded on these misperceptions, misapprehensions, and utter conflations and confusions. A lot of sexology is similarly founded on these wrong, simply wrong pseudo facts and wishful thinking.

We need to look, we need to take a hard, long, cold look at the realities of life and how men and women make choices, mate selection choices, sexual choices, attachment choices.

Attachment style is considered to be the hand of God, unalterable, and indeed it's very difficult to change one's attachment style. It's lifelong throughout the lifespan, but it involves choices.

While you can't control your attachment style, you can control your behavior and you can modify it.

So to conflate attachment style with sexuality, for example, leads to disastrous consequences. To conflate sexuality with intimacy similarly degrades intimacy, reduces it into a physical release of physiological state to confuse or mix emotions and intimacy, renders many intimate situations impossible beyond the pale and wrong while actually intimacy is always good.

There's no single situation of intimacy that involves intimacy and that is wrong for you.

And yet we avoid many intimate situations because we perceive them to be somehow unethical, socially unacceptable, etc.

And this is because we associate intimacy with sex and we associate intimacy with emotions.

And many emotions are forbidden. For example, you're not supposed to love anyone besides your spouse. You're not supposed to have sex with anyone besides your spouse if you are in a monogamy or an exclusive relationship, etc.

These are all confusions. This is all salad and it borders on word salad, to borrow a phrase from the study of schizophrenia.


Okay, I want to read to you something, I want to read to you a comment by Lynn Shaw, this poster today, and it captured my attention and my eye. I think it's brilliantly written and encapsulates many of the insights in modern psychology.

She wrote, vulnerable women revisit to punish themselves to bask in the dangerous, nonspecific place that is offered to them, thinking that maybe they will be the one to tame the uncommitted. It's not a heartfelt space. It's possibly unresolved trauma. There is no way in for change, just a vast space that is decorated in maybes, almost in could-bees.

Each time yourself batter, reducing yourself into yet another unnamed game, starting from scratch each time as if nothing has been previously shared between the union.

The need for being seen goes unnoticed because there will always be another, another that will tantalize with their veil of perfection. As they search and search, they leave debris, excusing cold behavior as uncertainty.

The other is too much to demanding, not quite evolved. Throughout the new search, previous ties are never broken. Freedom doesn't come because the desire to remain bonded in any capacity doesn't allow others to move on.

Grow. Letting go is not permitted, and the means to draw you back in with ambiguous stories and bold statements means the link continues.

But it's a jaded link, an unnecessary reunion that renders you stuck, repeating and rehashing the nothingness that unveils.

No change, no direction, just enough to imagine or reimagine that there's something in the union that may flourish.

The freedom of letting go is rich in reality, rich in realizing fully what is and what is not.

No longer do you hope or idealize, you simply see, feel and understand the subtleties, that invisible thread that leaves you perpetually trapped.

Breaking free, says Lynn, is cathartic, forgiving is freedom, and then you're released from tardy bonds and imagined connections.

Reaching this point is when you experience self-love and eventual freedom, a space where your once disorientated heart finally acknowledges authentic honesty and you lovingly begin to trust your worth again.

Amazing. Extremely well-read. I could have said it myself, and I'm pissed at myself that I haven't.

Okay, Shoshanim, this was today's vignette. Look it up.

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From Insecure to Flat Attachment: Narcissists, Psychopaths Never Bond (Compilation)

Sam Vaknin proposes a fifth attachment style called "flat attachment," where individuals are incapable of bonding or relating to others at all. They view others as interchangeable and dispensable, transitioning seamlessly from one person to the next without mourning or processing grief. This style is common among narcissists and psychopaths. Vaknin also discusses the confusion between intimacy, emotions, sex, and attachment, emphasizing that intimacy does not necessarily involve emotions, and emotions do not always lead to intimacy. He highlights that attachment styles are stable across the lifespan and are influenced by early caregiving experiences, shaping one's expectations and beliefs about relationships. Vaknin's work suggests that individuals with cluster B personality disorders, as well as those with complex trauma, exhibit insecure attachment styles, which can manifest in behaviors like stalking, and are often rooted in dysfunctional early relationships with caregivers.


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