Sharon Stone is Smart and What the Hell is Neurotic Interlocking?
Sharon Stone was interviewed on Ana Faris’ podcast, Unqualified (one of my favorites) and she said in response to a young french girl who called in to report on her lackluster sex life that the girl was hopelessly entangled in “neurotic interlocking.”
I’d never heard the term before and I’ve read at least five Refinery 29 puff pieces about the psychology of relationships, so this struck me as a potential gem to add to my not-so-vast lexicon of layman’s relationship advice. The girl was struggling with something that I often do; she gave unbridled support to her boyfriend at the expense of her own needs, because he had potential and she needed the validation. This has been a favorite move of mine in past relationships. I propped up the photographers, the writers, the artists, the incense salesman (yes, I dated an incense salesman) to ensure that they knew exactly how much potential they had. I helped them write artist statements, I helped them style photo shoots, I stood on Bedford Avenue for hours talking people into buying palo santo sticks because of their sacred anti-inflammatory healing properties. These acts of generosity, creativity and unabashed belief in a cause, came well before applying any of the same logic to my own talents and endeavors.
It’s lovely to be loving, but not without doing the same for yourself. Turns out one of the things I wanted desperately was to be creative myself. So I did everything but believe in my own creativity. It took me $1,000 dollars worth of ceramics classes, 3 years of therapy, a dozen naked photo shoots and a yoga teacher training to figure out that connection.
I STOOD ON BEDFORD AVENUE FOR HOURS TALKING PEOPLE INTO BUYING PALO SANTO STICKS BECAUSE OF THEIR SACRED ANTI-INFLAMMATORY HEALING PROPERTIES.
I also wanted to be the kind of person who could appreciate their own worth. I wanted to be comfortable in my own skin. And because I identified so deeply with people struggling with the same things, I bent over backwards to convince people I loved that they were brilliant and well worth the self love. And guess what was going through my mind the whole time? “You have nothing to offer,” and other choice phrases to that effect that will only depress you to hear out loud. Hi, that was a bit neurotic.
If you haven’t heard the Unqualified podcast, I recommend it both as a source of entertainment and also as a template to practice listening compassionately when others are struggling to make sense of what their relationship patterns are telling them. Ana and her co-hosts don’t know the callers personally but they respond in a way that takes seriously the desire to feel fulfilled that our relationships bubble up for us. Also, Sharon stone is a Buddhist? Did you know that? Furthermore, she seems to be some kind of psychic guru. Listen to the episode. Holy shit Sharon Stone.
Google searching “neurotic interlocking” turned up a bunch of textbook excerpts and christian marital counseling websites as it seems that this term is used almost exclusively within the context of marriage. I will proceed with fashioning my own definition for those of us who aren’t married, nor christian, but are still neurotic.
What this term seems to represent is the often inevitable reality that two people who are struggling with their own neuroses and who aren’t on a supported and healthy path to overcoming them (and sometimes even if they are), are magnetically compelled to create a perfect storm of complementary, self-perpetuating “neuroses.” This is why we often read things like “get your own house in order” before you can truly and compassionately care about another person. Most of us are struggling, suffering, growing in some way, and many of us are in relationships, so that necessitates the reality that many relationships dissolve under the pressure of trying to undertake mutually generous love and respect before cultivating it within themselves. Duh. Neurotic interlocking.
Some research has got this down to a science. I read an LA Times article about how scientists were able to predict divorce in happy couples 7 out of 10 times based on simple interviews with the individuals. One of the findings was that “The way a husband handles problem solving--notably whether or not he withdraws during an argument--is the most important predictor of divorce”. Well, fuck, one of my boyfriends left the apartment to “buy seltzer” for 20 minutes after we had just started a potentially healthy argument about my friendship with a past hookup. I threw away two fabulous polaroids of me and this friend half naked at a roof party to prove my love, and we didn’t even get halfway through a decent argument. When he finally came back he spite ate the rest of his dumplings and we finished watching Tropic Thunder, only making conversation about the dog. I miss my polaroids.
I WILL PROCEED WITH FASHIONING MY OWN DEFINITION OF ‘NEUROTIC INTERLOCKING’ FOR THOSE OF US WHO AREN’T MARRIED, NOR CHRISTIAN, BUT WHO ARE STILL NEUROTIC.
Avoiding arguments is merely a symptom of larger anxieties and faulty beliefs about the self and others. Pile this on top of the fact that I wasn’t pushing for an argument. I voiced my defense, but let it go easily when I experienced the fear of potentially losing this person who made me feel “partnered up” and taken care of. This feeling assuaged some long held beliefs about my own inadequacy and I swiftly trashed my individuality for it. There you have it, a recipe for “neurotic interlocking.” It’s like you’re both getting exactly what you don’t need.
None of this is damning of course, it’s just one way to go about prioritizing the most important work which is to start questioning our rote behaviors and examine how our lives have conditioned us to play out roles. The Buddhist spiritual teacher Ram Dass says, “Unless we understand how we are conditioned by our desires, we remain stuck in the illusory reality they create, like a television program with a subliminal message that you are your desire repeating over and over.” We have to play out these stories and then take the time to look at them with a critical eye. Then maybe we can start to act more authentically, and less neurotically.
The reality is also that people aren’t just their neuroses. They are simultaneously the funny, romantic, sexy weirdos that fall in love with other people’s funny, romantic, sexy weird parts and create all kinds of beautiful laughter and conversation together. We spiral into the negative usually only after diving deeply into our partners’ positive qualities. Polaroid jealousy guy was also brilliant and probably the funniest person I’ve ever met. Having him around meant I was essentially watching an HBO comedy special of Louis C.K. caliber at all times. His rap was poetry and it was beautiful to watch it pour out of him. He was passionate and exciting and made a simple trip to the grocery store fun. I was convulsing with laughter 95% of the time and that seemed worth the risk. We brought out a childish playground giddiness in each other that never went away.
It’s just not always built to last and grow at the same rate each individual is growing. I think the tattoo that I (and every emo teenager on Tumblr) have really says it best, “This too shall pass.” Guess who designed this tattoo? An artist I used to date. I’d hold him in my arms while I convinced him that he was lovable and talented and everything was going to be ok.