Intimacy; at a time like this?

'Intimacy' is often used as a euphemism for sexual experience, usually penetrative intercourse, with another person, & it can have that meaning.

The word 'intimacy' is often also used to mean emotional &/or physical closeness in relationship, but it is often mistaken for something that should feel good & pleasurable, this is unfortunate as it perpetuates the idea that we should constantly strive to seek pleasure, especially in relationships, & that anything else is not what we're made for or less than the goal of 'intimacy work'.

As the quote below alludes to, intimacy is not solely that which feels good & pleasurable, intimacy is the capacity to accept, not necessarily like nor try not to change, that which actually is; the truth. The real, gritty, delicious devastating, divine, beautiful, scary truth, in all it's shapes, forms & flavours. The closer we can come to truth, the more truth we can be open to & contain, consequently the more intimate we become with life, with each other & with ourselves.

For many people around the world, certainly not all, it is a challenging time. Mostly, in the northern hemisphere, we are currently struggling with the serious consequences of a virus that has devastated some regions of some countries, the various after effects of which are likely to be with us for many years, economically as well as personal & collective grief.

I want to say here that there is no singular global experience of this situation, there are countries, 19 at time of writing, that have zero infections & others that have very few, so what is being experienced is not universal. Of course, economically, there will likely eventually be some global impact, to a greater or lesser degree, for most people in most countries. Obviously, other countries have been living & struggling with devastating hunger, poverty, climate change, war & famine while most of us, in 'the west' have lived our lives in, relative, ignorance of the reality of the lives effected by those events, which are, of course, ongoing.

So, let's get intimate with that truth, with your truth, with mine, let's get up close with what is real & true for us in the knowledge that no one else will be feeling exactly the same way as us for the same reasons. If we want, we can use our own unique experience to not only become more intimate with ourselves, with the truth of who & how we are, but also more intimate with others, to listen to & really hear their truth without imposing ours on them & to share ours with them, if that's what we both want, not to look for answers nor for anything to, necessarily, be 'fixed', but simply for the experience & opportunity of deepening intimacy.

What does it mean to become intimate with the truth? Practically, what does that mean & look like? 

It begins with the self.
We cannot share our truth with another, therefore be intimate with them, if we don't know ourselves in order to share that, so, the first step is to be honest, open, undefended & truthful with ourselves.

In my work as a therapist the best outcomes always happen for clients who are most undefended against themselves, what this means is that they are open to the idea that who they are might not be who they think they are or perceive themselves to be.

In other words, we all have beliefs about ourselves, about who we think we are, about how we are perceived by others & about how we want to be perceived by others, about our purpose in the world, our values & personality & much more. The self inquiry process is, ideally, a way to lift the bonnet (hood) on who we think we are to see into the engine of who we really are, complete with oil spills, damaged parts, parts that are working at full throttle to make us look like something we're not, to both ourselves & others. I quite like the engine-in-a-vehicle metaphor, how about you?! 

How can we inquire more deeply & truthfully into who we are?
There are a number of ways to do this, here's two....

Journaling is a great way to allow the mind to roam freely. Let it go wherever it wants to go, don't censor or hold it back, try not to judge your own thoughts & feelings (this is key), there are parts of us that we don't like, parts we are unaware of that the unconscious mind has exiled because the conscious mind deems them so awful, unattainable, terrible or too 'good' to be for us. Journaling without censoring what's being written is a great way of allowing the unconscious mind space to roam & speak it's truth.

Simply spend 10 or more minutes free-writing, write whatever comes to mind, forget about grammar, spelling & punctuation, just write. For some people first thing in the morning is the time when thoughts flow most freely, for others it's late at night, do it in a way that works for you & keep your journaling to one book or file on your computer.

Counselling or therapy is also a great way to self inquire. The purpose of counselling & therapy is to support the client to know & understand themselves more clearly & deeply. The therapist is a prism through which the client can see, feel & experience different sides of themselves through the therapeutic process.

One of the ways I encourage clients to do this sort of inquiry is to ask, ''what am I getting from this? what is this giving me?''. It's a question that can be applied to anything, to a relationship, an experience, a belief. Don't forget, though, that ''getting'' or receiving something is not necessarily a 'good' thing, we might be continuing to 'get' or experience feelings of a lack of self worth or value, failure or lack of success, we may 'get' to continue to feel angry or better than others in some way because that's what's, unconsciously, comfortable for us. 

The question, ''what am I getting from this?'' or ''what is this giving me?'' needs to be asked about that which feels good & that which does not feel good. Be honest, and I mean really honest, with yourself about the answer. No one else is going to know, unless you tell them, what the truth of the answer is so don't censor yourself even if it feels uncomfortable, even if it feels like it's not who you think you are or want to be. Allow the truth of the thought to simply be there.

What's vital to remember here is to try to engage in this sort of inquiry with an curious open mind & a compassionate heart, to hold your findings lightly in your mind rather than grasping onto them as permanent & having immediate meaning. Often when we inquire into our own actions, in-actions, words & silences in this way we find aspects of ourselves that we don't like, that are unpalatable or that are surprising in some way, perhaps confusing too.

Be compassionate with yourself.

We hide from ourselves for good reason, often patterns of behaviour are laid down in childhood as mechanisms of self protection or in order to 'get' what we want or need from our primary carers. When we see them, though, we can then take adult responsibility for them, evolving & adapting as we go, to become happier healthier human beings who are true to ourselves as well as those around us, engaging deeply & intimately with life as it is rather than how we want it to be.

Last updated: 14/04/2020