Taken from The Relational Soul – Our attachment pattern contributes to the level of closeness that makes us feel safe. For some closeness creates anxiety. For others separation creates anxiety. This learned level of closeness in which one feels safe is called the “proximity principle” or one’s “learned level of intimacy.” The proximity principle functions much like the thermostat that regulates the temperature in a house. When the temperature drops the thermostat registers the drop and starts the furnace to bring the temperature back up to the thermostat setting. When the temperature climbs the thermostat registers the increase and starts the air conditioner to bring the temperature back down to the thermostat setting.

When it comes to the thermostat of our learned level of emotional intimacy there are three things to keep in mind [third one in the next post]. First, the early setting becomes one’s normal. No matter where our attachment pattern sets the thermostat it becomes our emotional “comfort zone.” Others may feel us as too hot or too cold, too close or too distant but for us it is comfortable and exactly where we want the temperature to stay.

Second, the setting on the soul’s thermostat ranges from icy cold to boiling hot, from detached to enmeshed ways of being with others. The extremely detached person is emotionally disconnected, unavailable, avoidant, unaware, uninvolved, and relationally clueless. He (or she) feels aloof and snobbish, acting like he doesn’t care. He keeps others at arms length in order to feel safe and in doing so his emotional “coolness” becomes his comfortable normal. In fact, his way of attaching is to be detached! At the other end of the spectrum is the enmeshed person. She (or he) is emotionally needy, overly involved and dependent, exaggerated in her caring giving, protectiveness, and closeness. She feels invasive, smothering, meddling, prying, intrusive or interfering.

Taken from The Relational Soul by Richard Plass and James Cofield. Copyright (c) 2014 by Richard Plass and James Cofield. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.com