Taken from The Relational Soul – When it comes to the thermostat of our learned level of emotional intimacy there are three things to keep in mind. First, the early setting becomes one’s normal … 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 third thing to note about the thermostat is this—the thermostat is defective (as if we didn’t have enough to worry about already!). Mind you, God’s design of the thermostat is not at fault. We were created for relational connection. But our thermostat has a flaw that makes intimate relational connection elusive. The flaw is found in an existential mistrust that leads to exaggerated fear, shame, and guilt in relationships.

Our mistrust and ensuing exaggerated shame, fear, and guilt are not just isolated feelings. These feelings are connected to our learned level of emotional intimacy. Depending on how close or distant we feel we need to be in order to feel safe, these feelings will activate behaviors that reinforce our learned level of emotional intimacy. They will move us (often unconsciously) into ways of doing life that keep the thermostat where it was set. These deep, primitive emotions help explain why we can want our relationships to be different and consciously think of ways to change and yet find ourselves repeating the same, old, unhealthy relational patterns.

Christianity has an explanation for our mistrust and these three exaggerated emotions in the soul. We will explore the Christian story in subsequent chapters [posts] and its answer to the relational problems we all face. But for now the point is that our mistrust is the enemy of intimacy. It corrupts our God-given design for relational connection. It makes the thermostat unreliable. So if we are to connect well we need help outside ourselves. We cannot reset the thermostat of our souls on our own. And even if we could the truth is that our thermostat is defective.

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