Reflections On the Nice Quiet Man

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Dave and Raluca Jacono (Raluca is a wonderful therapist/ friend of DK): We both responded similarly to the Nice Man video. ( See video “What Nice Men Don’t Say To Nice Women” from previous post on  9/5).

We simultaneously appreciated and disliked it. Why? Videos of this sort tend to simplify things, but that is always a problem in representing human relationships. It is difficult to capture relational complexity thus reductionism is needed. Hidden, veiled, erotic fantasies are likely only one bit of the “existential” libido living in the cellar of each human. They are not out in the open. Sexuality is merely a part of a bigger picture including eroticism and love. The three go together. In the inclusive bigger picture they are simultaneously interactive and always destabilizing on multiple levels. The video is too focused on hidden sex fantasies, too much Freud-colored simplification, too much psychoanalytic pseudo-clarity and causality. Too much linear cause-effect thinking.

We will try to do an augmented multi-dimensional view, but it will be over-simple in its own way. We are working on a relational perspective of the Nice Man.

We think it is part of our job as therapists to spread some psychoeducation too, and in fact this video is a great piece of psychoeducation. Looking at it more times helped us like it better. So it is important to pay attention to the dynamics of this kind of repressed/suppressed inner life. But what is its more dynamic dialectic?

unknown-2The video suggests that when his erotic fantasies are made known, hers will appear as well and that will lead to greater relational satisfaction, more vibrant relationship rhythms and intimacy. However in the film each appears to have concealed fantasies involving domination and submission; that is “control”. Here is something interesting from Paz’s excellent, but not transparent book, The Double Flame, Sex and Eroticism. He says, “Unlike the libertine, who simultaneously seeks the most intense pleasure and the greatest moral insensitivity, the lover is constantly driven by contradictory emotions…like all the great creations of humanity, love is twofold: it is the supreme happiness and the supreme misfortune….”

The lover is driven by contradictory emotions. Why? Love is fire, a passion, pressuring outside of control. Desire destabilizes. Thus emotional control requires the suppression of desire.

Sex, Eroticism and Love are dynamically linked and interactive. Sex is about procreation. Eroticism about pleasure, ceremony, playfulness. Love connected to both, is about finding the spirit of the other, enjoying the spirit of the other. Growth results in a freely creative responsible person, in being a freely playful person. A person who knows how to be crazy, open to surprising himself. A person whose involvement helps others be more fully engaged. There is where it starts again and it becomes interesting.

Initially, I (DK) voted against posting The Nice Man because I thought it too simplistic, the nice man sits on dark erotic urges and fantasies. Sure he does, but also the nice man can be a man who is afraid of sex, afraid of the larger category of intimacy. Why afraid of images-3intimacy? Because we might get lost in it, lose track of who we are. Our learning about intimacy comes from being in a relationship in which we are small and the other(Mother) is large. Too much. Mother is too big and she will swallow me. The nice man may be frightened of unleashing another of her demeaning rage episodes Or, he may end up overwhelmed by feeling responsible for her unsatisfied emotional hunger. Remember Amy Begel’s post Create The Partner You Desire (March 25)  where she pointed to how we create the partner we need.  See if you can factor that idea into the Nice Man.

So the sex eroticism love spiral has something to do with intimacy. But what is “intimacy”? We can take the easy (and/or truthful) way out and say it is not definable, or we can play with possible definitions, all valid in their own way. Narcissism and Intimacy (Marion F. Solomon) is an excellent thoughtful book about marriage and marital therapy; it has twelve chapters. Five chapters discuss Narcissism in detail from several perspectives. Of interest, intimacy is mentioned three times in the book (once in the title) but never defined.

The point is that intimacy is a subjective experience, not easily represented in a word construct. Likewise the word “love”. “Intimacy” is one of the most powerful symbols of interpersonal relationships. But its meaning is elusive. Intimacy might be the ability of two (or more) to maintain enough distance so that closeness is facilitated. And the other way around. This kind of intimacy is most of the time mutually enriching. Sometimes intimacy is mistakenly thought to appear with a certain kind of soul stripping, of pornographic (self) analysis or disclosure. Freedom of speech, for instance, does not necessarily facilitate intimacy. Intimacy is beyond language.

images-3What is a way to be intimate amidst sexual alienation? The solutions are problematic. Disclosure is often sado-masochistic. Voyeurism does not allow the experience of relationship, it stares at relationship. Nakedness alone does not induce intimacy, while intimacy clothes nakedness with the personhood of the people involved.

Some definitions or descriptions of intimacy:

  1. The world goes away in relation to you.
  2. Naked together.
  3. Defenses at rest, crazy together.
  4. I am fully me in relation to you being fully you. The intersubjective view of maturity goes something like this: we have a need to recognize the other as like us, but distinct. I am the center of a universe, and you are part of my universe. But I understand you to be the center of a different universe of which I am but a part (Jessica Benjamin, Bonds of Love). I love the mystery that is my intimate partner.

This is a bit of a tangle.  We hope there is sufficient sense in it.




One comment

  1. I like your ideas about intimacy and the relational dynamic perspective on the Nice Man. Focusing merely on the inner life of the Nice Man is not enough. Where is his Mother? A new ironic and slightly absurd interpretation of the Oedipal Complex. I like that.

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