Updated: Sep 23, 2019
Contrary to the popular societal belief that defines intimacy as a sense of physical and emotional closeness and connection with another human being, I have come to believe that intimacy is in fact, first and foremost, a process of profound self-discovery and deep understanding of our own psyche and soul.
The lack of intimacy is at the heart of our addictions, fears, and many of our emotional pains. Whether we can recognize them or not, we all carry a level of discomfort with these elements. When I talk about addiction, I’m talking about many of our behaviors, or distractions that keep us habitually disconnected from our present self and others. We're of course familiar with the stereotypical addictions such as alcohol, drugs or sex, but in many subtle ways, addictions also show up in our work, relationships and in our general day to day behaviors. For many it can be the relationship you carry with your phone, social media, TV or other generally enjoyable activities such as sports and hobbies. For some it's the bottle of wine while trying to celebrate, connect or enjoy time with others. Career wise, it can involve work or the responsibility to provide more. At least more than what we didn't have growing up, more than the expectation, more than the "other guy" at work, more to be able to show our worth, or more to make someone happy. For others, these addictions can be even more obscure, such as the desire or behaviors to find the “right one”, or belief that families or its members must have the right components or be subject to proper familiar, dogmatic, or cultural behaviors. Perhaps a quick self-check scan to see how subtle this can be may shed some light on whether any of this applies to you.
The problem of course may not be any or all of these directly, but often it's the inability to stand alone in their wake. The need to connect is so important to us, that we often fail to see how often we stumble through our desires, expectations and avoid our true nature. We fear losing these external structures and narratives even at the cost of creating more pressure on ourselves. We avoid discussing our emotional pain and seldom consider the reality of who we are. We'll use everything from alcohol, a deity, to our cars in an effort to adjust to our external comfort levels, but avoid talking about the internal parts of who we are. We avoid discussing our feelings, pressures in life, our own self-awkwardness, financial concerns, sex performance, love fears, etc.
To expand further on this, let me show you what this looks like in reality. We get into romantic relationships to avoid the fear of facing the world alone or escape the aching pangs of loneliness. If you don’t believe this, consider dining at a fine restaurant alone or going to the theatre alone. While comfortable for some, I’m sure you can now picture how difficult this can be for many, if not you, maybe a partner, friend, parent or mother-in law. The desire to externalize our connection is so great, that we use external validators in an effort to return to love and attempt to connect with others.
The need to connect to the external is so vital to us, that it permeates all us, ultimately keeping us distant from our sense of self and ability to build true intimacy. So what is intimacy and why is it so important? Intimacy is the process of getting deep within yourself and becoming comfortable with every bit, every space, every experience and feeling within yourself and your existence. True intimacy is about fully accepting yourself without judging yourself or your feelings and developing a familiar, warm, and loving personal relationship with yourself. As a therapist, I specialize in intimacy and have closely observed the interactions between innumerable couples and families. As a part of my work, I have come to recognize that intimacy actually begins with oneself and requires that we patiently build a relationship of empathy, self-understanding, and compassion for ourselves. When you are able to create such deep intimacy with yourself, you become capable of not only fully knowing yourself but also fully and unconditionally accepting your true self. As a result, you become capable of sharing life’s richness with significant others, family members, friends, colleagues and anyone who is present into your life.
I often reference intimacy as to “INTO ME YOU SEE” helping my clients recognize the importance of expression. It is through this transparent process that we teach our significant others how to have the courage to see beyond the surface. It is only then, that two people can begin connecting at the highest frequencies of love and become ready to accept themselves and others unconditionally. From my experience of working with individuals over the years, the process is difficult and an incredibly scary one to begin and undergo. Individuals facing this process naturally tend to adopt more doubt and self-judgment, fearing what others might think or say. When these fears take over, we become vulnerable to more doubt and even lower levels of intimacy. However, as we begin to understand this vulnerability and fear, we begin to become more comfortable with its existence. We become more present and aware, ultimately much more in-tune with ourselves and compassionate to someone else’s process or life.
If you’ve been wondering why this process is scary, let me elaborate further. One of the major reasons why most people consider emotional intimacy to be scary lies in the way we have been raised. Most people are taught very early on in life that love comes along with hurt. As a child, when we first encounter negative experiences such as abuse, neglect, abandonment and/or rejection. Often those closest to us project their personal problems directly on us. We then begin to close our hearts in order to feel safe and to protect ourselves from being hurt. I call this ‘pseudo safety’ because it leaves us in the realm of loneliness and consequently, our spirit and our soul begins to suffer immensely. In this suffering and alienation, our inner child experiences complete starvation and hunger for the soul food that it longs for: intimacy and love.
In order to avoid being hurt, we stop trusting ourselves and our ability to love without getting hurt in the process. When we stop trusting ourselves and consequently, we naturally resort to distrusting others as well. When we find that we can’t trust anyone including our own self, we stop loving unconditionally becoming fear-based beings instead of remaining love-based beings. Receiving open love with barrier of fear around us, becomes increasingly difficul