For a moment, picture a man who hallucinates, believing that the television contains threatening voices that demoralize him in the most harrowing of ways. Feeling that his life is threatened, he begins to act as if the outside world is a threatening place that he cannot enter and stays within the confines of his home. The internal stress that he feels, though it is not shared by others going about their days, is more or less immobilizing.
Now, envision an individual who, while seeming to be well-functioning in most regards, is unable to develop healthy relationships on an intimate level due to expectations that the pursuit of a romantic relationship will lead to pain and suffering, even though this cannot possibly be the absolute truth in every case. What causes individuals to not only hold such potentially damaging beliefs, but also to act upon them in ways that can alter their lives for the worst? The answer is actually quite simple: subjective perceptions of life and the world at large.
Subjective Perceptions and Stress
As concrete as they may feel, our experiences of the world around us and even our own selves are entirely subjective. Biased and fallible as they are, these subjective perceptions guide us during the course of our entire lives and shape our views of the world, whether consciously or unconsciously. The man in the first example believes that his life is threatened due to the voices he hears while hallucinating, thus creating internal stress that causes him to change his lifestyle to accommodate his fears. This accommodation then leads to further issues, such as social isolation and the inability to live a full life due to being consistently home-bound.
The individual who is unable to sustain a healthy romantic relationship has most likely formed subjective beliefs that create a personal belief that all interpersonal relationships are threatening, rather than healthy and beneficial. Such views often stem from either past negative intimate relationships or from destructive or even abusive relationships formed during childhood, particularly with parents or parent figures. When repeated over time, such negative experiences can lead to the development of intense internal stress that reinforces this negativity and leads to the individual forming a skewed perception of relationships in general. This perception may present itself as the individual expecting abuse or abandonment from a relationship with another person and then responding to that expectation - internally or even externally. This is the case even if no personal insult exists in the relationship. This belief system can ultimately lead to behavior from the other individual that does indeed fulfill the negative expectation.
Confronting Our Beliefs
As creatures who have the ability to learn and adapt at any age, we can choose to confront our internal stresses and repair the problems in our external environments that have shaped our conscious and subconscious perceptions. We can start by simply looking within, realizing that our past experiences may have skewed our current perceptions, and seek help in changing our understanding and our views of the world we live in.
For example, if you would like to improve your chances of developing a healthy intimate relationship, you can work through your past experiences to begin to realize that you had little, if any, control of the way that the adults in your life treated you as a child. Then you can gain the new understanding that you do have the power to choose to work toward the creation of more satisfying and productive relationships, intimate or otherwise, as an adult.