Oftentimes, when we hear the word intimacy, we think “sex.” Somehow, and especially in our culture, these two terms have become synonymous. Yet the truth is that so often, the sex we westerners experience is void of any true intimacy. Intimacy – the ability to fully be with ourselves and others – is an inborn quality we all possess. For many of us, this capacity to be with ourselves – our thoughts, feelings, sensations – without judgment or damnation, has gone underground as a protective response from those people who have dismissed, shamed, or scared us. Many of us have been conditioned to avoid being with our own uncomfortable feelings because we haven’t had adequate support and role-modeling in how to experience fear, for example, without the dread of annihilation. In order to cultivate intimacy with others – to really be with them and their experiences, and then experience a deep connection with them – we must increase our own capacity to be with ourselves. To sit alone in a room and actually feel our body and the sensations coursing through it, observe our thoughts and decipher those that are based in reality vs. those based in fantasy, and experience our emotions, the lightness of joy and the heaviness of sorrow.
In his most recent book, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Resolves Trauma and Restores Goodness, Peter Levine offers a simple way to increase the intimacy we have with ourselves. He writes, “Befriending one’s internal sensations through pendulation (the intrinsic rhythm pulsing between the experiencing polarities of contraction and expansion/openness) allows the person to access this rhythmic flow within. Therefore, ‘infinite’ emotional pain begins to feel manageable and finite. This allows an attitude shift from dread and helplessness to curiosity and exploration.” In other words, when your body feels tight, notice where else it might feel less tight and move back and forth between these two sensations. The more we can become curious, rather than aversive, about our own experiences in life, the more we can fully engage and genuinely connect with others.
I’d like to encourage you to increase your capacity for intimacy and closeness, not only with others, but more so with yourself. Below is an excerpt from the book Undefended Love, by Jett Psaris, Ph.D. & Marlena S. Lyons, Ph.D. This has recently inspired me to meet my own fears head-on and cultivate a deeper level of intimacy, both with myself and others:
“For undefended intimacy to unfold, we must not only develop the ability to be close to another in a healthy way, we must also develop the capacity to relate to ourselves in a healthy way. This fulfills the other basic yearning of the human heart–to realize and live from the profound and responsive core of our being…when we have developed the ability to be present to the entirety of our inner experience, can we be fully available–and emotionally open–to our partners.”