When we hear the word intimacy, all sorts of images maybe conjured up in our minds. The word intimacy may stimulate a visual image of sexual encounters, or it may project an idea of deeply fostered relationships, but the truth is, intimacy can occur on the most primitive of levels. Yet, the types of intimacy vary depending upon the depths of the relationship in question.
WHAT IS INTIMACY?
Intimacy is the ability to share an emotional and physical connection with another. Such connections can occur between couples, friends, families, and within a variety of relationships. Intimacy involves a level of cohesion that unites the very essence of our person. It is a connection that can occur on the very basic of human emotions, conditions, and attractiveness.
Intimacy occurs when we have a bond between ourselves and another person. Intimacy does not have to occur on a sexual level alone, it can occur between persons who are simply seeking to be connected. We can be intimate through our verbal and nonverbal gestures, facial expressions, touch, and through the words we choose to use.
Again, it is important to recognize that it can occur beyond a couple’s relationship, it can occur through friendships, familial relationships and through a variety of close knit avenues and environments.
COMMUNICATION AND INTIMACY
A healthy level of intimacy begins with healthy communication. We have all desired strong and healthy relationships. Rarely have I met a person, who deep down desires anything opposite than a healthy and constructive relationship. As children, our communication skills are established through our familial and community environments. If we live in an environment of dysfunction, then our ability to communicate effectively is diminished. Effective communication begins the cycle of healthy intimacy and relationships.
“As children, we learn to bend to others’ needs and are not encouraged to ask for what we really want. Rather than speaking freely, we learn to hold back our truths, listening for clues about what others want to hear. Our real stories, with secrets both wonderful and awful, are hidden from others’ judgements by years of denial. Healthy intimacy is impossible in such a state.” (Wall, 2004, p. 41) It is this approach to relationships that we find ourselves at a roadblock. We may feel unworthy of becoming the persons we would choose to be. We may feel limited by societal pressures and constraints. Or, we may feel at odds with the ideologies, morals, and ethical parameters instilled in us during our childhood.
Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung explained that the human persona is derived from one’s basic components: the ego, the personal unconsciousness and the collective unconsciousness. In many familial environments, the parental figureheads often construct the prime archetypes with which children will construct their overall psyche. It is through our rearing as children that we model ourselves after our parents, our community leaders, and our educators.
Relationship intimacy occurs between two people who hunger for substance, physical contact, and an emotional connection. While relationship intimacy may be desired; it often fades with scars, wounds, and relationship trials and tribulations. It is through the life of the relationship that people become stagnate, stale, and disinterested. Unfortunately, once a relationship has entered this phase, it is rare that the couple returns to more pleasant days.
“We’ve all heard it over and over again: Men and women communicate differently. The king of communication between the sexes, John Gray, goes so far as saying that men access love through sex, while women access sex through love or feelings.” (Paget, 2000, p. 12) For many, the expression of intimacy is directly correlated to their sexual experience. However, one can be intimate without ever having physical contact or physically romantic relations.
Interestingly enough, the more intimate we are through our verbal and nonverbal gestures, facial expressions, and words; the greater the probability that our physical intimacy will increase. It is manner with which we behave and interact that can either ignite or deflate a relationship.
REACHING A HEALTHY LEVEL OF INTIMACY
Whether your are seeking intimacy through friendship, relationships, familial or other, it is important to recognize that deep levels intimacy will not occur overnight. It is through life’s personal struggles and successes that we will reach deeper levels. It is through our experiences that we will become closer and it is through our closeness that we will reach a deeper level of intimacy.
Reaching a healthy level of intimacy in any relationship involves paying close attention to the person with whom you are communicating; offering verbal and nonverbal responses that acknowledge your recipient’s communication; choosing not to be offended by his or her communication, rather recognizing his or her right to individuality; and acknowledging the person as being important to you.
Author: Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., N.C.C.M.
Block, J. D. (2003) Naked intimacy, How to increase true openness in your relationship. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill
Hendrix, H. & Hunt, H. L. (2004) Receiving love, Transform your relationship by letting yourself be loved. New York, NY: Atria Books
Paget, L. (2000) How to give her absolute pleasure, Totally explicit techniques every woman wants her man to know. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.
Wall, C. L. (2004) The courage to trust, A guide to building deep and lasting relationships. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA