Social Penetration Theory Applied
Social penetration theory asserts the concept of metaphorically, peeling back more and more layers of an individual’s emotional, psychological, and deeply personal psyche, through the journey and active pursuit of constructing a strong foundational base; therefore perpetually solidifying the orientation phase by progressing and assuming the opportunity and risk of beginning the exploratory affective stage. We, as individuals, begin to slowly merge our individual worlds into a combined effort of seeking out the deeper layers in our significant other by beginning to broach topics previously considered unacceptable to discuss.
This theory is about the development of a relationship through a gradual exposure of one’s self, beginning with socially acceptable levels of self-disclosure and moving towards the most intimate level of full disclosure between two people.
Social penetration theory appealed to me because I have experienced some events in my life that have affected the way I socially connect to others. Long story short, I married at 26 and after a long heart-to-heart with myself, I chose to leave and filed for divorce.
The relationship I fell into after that resulted in a detrimental threat to my health and personal well-being. With both relationships, I had allowed my counterpart into the innermost level and freely offered full disclosure under the blind assumption that my dedication to the relationship was being reciprocated. Unfortunately, in both relationships, self disclosure was not reciprocated. The voluntary permission I had lovingly and willingly offered without question slowly became a weapon against me. Due to these relationships, specifically the one that ended with a traumatic life-altering event, I chose to construct and establish my layers of security and self-preservation. As a result, I emotionally shut down. I had shut everything off because it was the only way (from proven experience) that I could blindly convince myself that I could prevent being manipulated or abused again. Unfortunately, I had convinced myself that going to the complete opposite end of the spectrum was the healthy thing to do and in turn, resulted in complete alienation because I refused to allow myself to reciprocate emotions.
After approximately one year of focusing on me and learning who I was again, I felt like the healing process was finally beginning to show improvement. Thankfully, one day I realized that by allowing these situations to affect me so drastically, I was giving the negative memories power. Nobody was forcing me to feel this way but myself. That was the day I made the decision to start over. I went through all of the negative and hurtful memories taking up precious real estate in my head and I simply dumped it all out behind me and chose to dedicate my energies from then on to positive thoughts and actions. I became proactive in creating, maintaining, and improving who I am and who I have the potential to become.
I chose to reflect on past experiences and learn from the decisions that I was responsible for. I learned that by taking responsibility, not for the entirety of the negative experiences, but for my part and decisions that resulted in negativity, there is no regret. There are only life lessons learned and the best course of action to take next, I decided, was to focus on success and achieve it.
Later, I met someone whom I began to spend an increasing amount of time with. We initially began our acquaintance as running buddies and began to spend more time on outdoor activities to include mountain biking and hiking to the summit of Pike’s Peak. Our relationship had been strictly platonic for several weeks. I had been upfront, honest, and direct in my intention to stay single. My security walls were still holding strong and I feared allowing them to open at all.
After several weeks, I began to notice that his walls were beginning to come down and he had begun to develop emotions that were more than platonic friendship. This realization caused me to ask myself why was I hanging on to my security walls so tightly? I was not allowing even the exploration of the first level of reciprocity.
After confirming my suspicions of his feelings, I continued to ask myself questions and realized that I had no answers. If I can’t answer my own question for something, then I concluded that it must not be a valid fear or concern and I forced myself to adapt to the situation in a mutually beneficial manner. After several talks and more time spent with each other, he won me over. My walls of security began to shed quickly.
We agreed from that point on to begin a relationship on the basis of full disclosure. I have learned that I have the power to change the way I feel or my place in a situation and, I choose to be AWESOME.