What Is Intimacy?
Intimacy as defined by a dictionary: ‘a close familiarity or friendship’ which makes it sound so banal and easy to create. But I have not found this to be the case and this is not the intimacy that I think we all yearn for.
Intimacy is about speaking our truth, the truth that is deep, so deep that we may have lost sight of it under the layers of protective and distractive devices we have found. The truth that is often unsaid. It is the emotions behind the narrative of a difficult childhood or an emotionally abusive marriage. The truth of having been rejected or hurt countless times. So often that we are certain that it must be our fault and no one else has ever been hurt this much or as often. We feel separate from others, our pain separates us from others. A separation forged from the silencing of all our hurts. The gap between us widens throughout our lives until it is difficult to really know what true intimacy is and to wonder if it will ever be possible to forge that gap between wounded adults.
Sex, that most intimate act between people, is often purely a physical act, with the goal of pleasure in an orgasm and a physical connection that alleviates the pain of the emotional separation. It is often not about intimacy. It is search for connection, but it often results in physical connection only.
In an age where sex is so commodified that there are apps where sex is the currency. A consumerist approach to finding a partner with the idea that there is a surplus of potential partners out there and you only have to keep looking. This is a reflection of our consumerist culture that has relinquished connection for progress. It is the antithesis of connection and intimacy.
I have mistaken sexual connection and the intensity of a sexual orgasm for intimacy, I craved the physical dance of sensuality as it was safer than truly becoming intimate, and it gave me respite from feeling alone. Sex is gratifying and pleasurable, but it cannot in the long term replace intimacy and the feeling of belonging and acceptance that humans require. Connection is a biological necessity. Sex is a form of connection, but it can also be the distraction taking us away from true connection.
Masturbation and porn are distractions from our pain because to feel the rawness of our own self-hatred is too much. We masturbate for release, but it is not the release we long. We want to be held and told that it was not our fault and we are truly loved, flaws and all. This is not a diatribe against masturbation, it is about the awareness behind the desire to touch ourselves. Are we giving ourselves genuine pleasure or are we hiding behind the walls of a physical release? Masturbation can be beautiful to learn about our bodies and connect with our own personal power. However, it is easier to give to ourselves physically than to tune into our feelings.
Alcohol, drugs, food and technology are other ways that we use to distract ourselves from intimacy; from intimacy with ourselves and with others. We have to be intimate with ourselves and to know ourselves before we can begin to know others and to hold space for their intimate truths. The power to be our true authentic selves requires the study of the self.
The gender roles that we assign to people whether male or females also squashes real intimacy from developing as people feel stuck in learned patterns and behaviours that are socially accepted. This begins in kindergarten and continues thought out life. These patterns become so embedded that we are often unaware how much they run us. They are difficult to change because we are scared, everything we do we do out of fear of loneliness. Because to be rejected is a primal biological fear and we will do anything not to be rejected and become old alone. We live in a culture that sees emotions as a sign of weakness and has not taught to really communicate and listen.
There can be relationships based on love where intimacy does not exist. It is possible to be in a romantic relationship for a long time and not feel true intimacy. Because real intimacy can be scary for both partners.
I have learned that it’s possible to recount the past, so that it sounds as if I am being open but the felt rawness is not there. The felt rawness of real intimacy is not there. Real intimacy would mean admitting that I felt that I deserved to be treated this badly. And no one wants to admit that, it is too shameful to admit that we feel so inferior that we deserved to be treated with contempt and even humiliated.
We need to feel emotionally safe to find true intimacy and to be truly intimate with someone. We have to know that, at the most basic level that we won’t be criticised, dismissed, devalued or even given advice about how to fix ourselves. We need to be heard in a held space where we feel fully accepted. Emotional safety is not easy to come by, it has been elusive for me.
Intimacy requires vulnerability. Vulnerability is being prepared to speak up and to put yourself out there despite the fear. It is the quiet subtle conversation we have first with ourselves when we are in solitude. Then it becomes a conversation with another when our own inner conversation has evolved enough to become outspoken words.
Intimacy may break open our hearts but only after the work is done and we have spent time in self-study. Self-study is the path to true intimacy where we can truly own ourselves and our emotions and our patterns. Softening ourselves to allow intimacy into our lives. It requires a slowing down. The journey to self- discovery is not an easy but it may be essential for a fulfilling life. Intimacy is our last sanctuary.
I am, finally, finding a new way of being, which would not have been possible if I had not embraced my meditation and yoga practice and allowed the floodgates of feeling that needed to be felt. The tears and pain have been the path to truer intimacy with myself. But it is only in relationships that you can truly put your awareness and practices to the test.
By Amanda Wiart founder of Yogi Spirit