PS 035: Irrelationship: How We Use Dysfunctional Relationships to Hide from Intimacy

In this episode of Psych Sessions, I speak with the authors of Irrelationship:  How We use Dysfunctional Relationships to Hide from Intimacy. 

Irrelationship is a jointly created psychological defense system that two or more people maintain to avoid awareness of the anxiety that’s part of becoming intimate with others, especially feelings about letting people see and know us for who we really are.

Mark B. Borg, Jr., (PhD) is a community and clinical psychologist and a psychoanalyst practicing in New York City. He is founding partner of The Community Consulting Group, a consulting firm that trains community stakeholders, local governments and other organizations to use psychoanalytic techniques in community rebuilding and revitalization.

Grant H. Brenner (MD) is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City, specializing in treating mood & anxiety disorders & the complex problems arising from developmental childhood trauma. He works from a humanistic & integrative perspective, incorporating evidence-based approaches as well as innovative techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) & neurofeedback.

Daniel Berry (RN, MHA) has practiced as a Registered Nurse in New York City since 1987. Working in in-patient, home care and community settings, his work has taken him into some of the city’s most privileged households as well as some of its most underserved and dangerous public housing projects in Manhattan and the South Bronx.

During the podcast, we discuss how people in irrelationship can generally be described as falling into the category of either Performer or Audience. The Performer is driven to caretaking of the Audience while the Audience hangs back, allowing the Performer to continue and even escalate efforts to “rescue” or “fix” him or her. Paradoxically, by hanging back, the Audience is covertly taking care of the Performer allowing him to act out his need to be a rescuer. For both parties, this process fends off anxiety, but in so doing, they jointly eliminate the possibility—or risk—of developing a genuine, meaningful relationship.For most people, intimacy is likely to be both desired and feared. This conflict is at the heart of irrelationship, which develops as a result of a break in the development of a secure attachment as children.

Listen in and learn how to tell if you’re affected by irrelationship and what you can do about it.