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The goal of trust in a relationship is intimacy, which is achieved through the intimate sharing of self-disclosure. Intimacy is experienced individually but achieved symbiotically.


Vulnerability is a concept related to emotion and intimacy. Vulnerability is the state of emotional risk inherent in attempting to meet one’s basic intimacy needs in an attached relationship. Prager (2000) connects vulnerability to intimacy using self- disclosure as a descriptor of intimate behavior. She notes that “…the risk of vulnerability…complicates people’s efforts to attain satisfying (intimacy)…” (pp. 231- 232).

Coop-Gordon, Baucom and Snyder (2000) hold that vulnerability is considered necessary for intimacy, and suggest that this may be achieved by creating safety for each partner by exploring past relational injuries, and grieving unmet needs.

Vulnerability, then, is a required risk that is a necessary complication of intimacy. Vulnerability requires mutual self-disclosure in order to fulfill a basic need of close attachment to another.

Relational Anxiety and Stress

Stressful situations activate the attachment system: Mikulincer, et al. (1993) note that observations of attachment systems should be made under stressful conditions that activate the attachment system. When the attachment system is challenged or traumatized, anxiety occurs both within the individual and in the relationship wherein the challenge is experienced, (Hill, 1996). Hill discusses this anxiety in terms of the ways it is experienced and expressed, and how the various means of expressing anxiety affect the conduct of relationships. Mikulincer (1998) discusses violations of trust as relational stressors, citing Scharfe and Bartholomew’s (1995) characterization of trust violations as, “potentially destructive acts committed by romantic partners” (p. 1211).

Johnson and Whiffen (1999) draw connections between attachment bonds and emotional distress, considering a tie between attachment styles and the working models of self and other. They assert that when the attachment bond is challenged in adults, through unavailability or inaccessibility of the significant other, they will experience a host of negative emotions, such as sadness or fear, which may give rise to anger.

Relational stress and anxiety activate the attachment system. This may occur through violations of trust, or an unavailable or inaccessible partner, and may result in the expression of fear, sadness or anger.


Attachment injury is considered a traumatic event. Johnson (2002), citing Atkinson (1997), notes that attachment theory has been called a “theory of trauma” (p. 182). Johnson describes attachment theory as providing emphasis on “…the extreme


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