Intimacy. Say the word and watch the walls go up and people scatter! Some crave intimacy like chocolate. Others avoid it like the Black Death. By definition intimacy is personal and subjective. For example, that you bought a dog is not intimate information; why you bought that particular breed may be.
There is much misinformation about intimacy. Our culture has really confused the concept. There’s a lot passing for intimacy on the social media and television, when in reality it’s just another form exhibitionism and voyeurism. Real intimacy will form bonds and connections that knit us together as a human community. Real intimacy will serve the common good, and not just “my personal agenda.”
There are several major categories of intimacy in human experience and many degrees or levels within each category:
- Physical Intimacy. This is very dependent upon social and cultural standards. It ranges from seeing someone in a bathing suit enjoying nudist recreation. It includes any activity that involves the body, from contact sports to sex.
- Intellectual intimacy. When we share our ideas, beliefs, thoughts, and research we are being intellectually intimate. Despite what passes for intellectual sharing on the media, here we are considering ideas and information based on objective norms. It is this kind of intimacy most often shared in job settings.
- Spiritual intimacy. This is not just about religion or our higher power. Spiritual intimacy is our sharing of our deepest-held values and perspectives regarding that which defies explanation or empirical understanding. We are called to be spiritually intimate with ourselves, as well, as we internalize our insights and allow them to affect our behavior and thoughts.
- Social intimacy. When we get together with others in order to enjoy company, food, light conversation, humor, and individual personalities we are engaging in social intimacy. This would include phone calls, letters (what are they?) and emails. It also includes posting on social media.
- Emotional/psychological intimacy. This realm strikes the most fear in many. In emotional intimacy we share a wide range of feelings with those we trust. We may reveal deep secrets as well as our darker side, our wounds, our anger and fear, and our love and tenderness. Emotional intimacy may unveil our wondrous inner child, the core of who we are, but also our most vulnerable self. We open ourselves to the possibility of the most profound hurt and greatest joy in this realm.
Where are you with intimacy? Do you crave it or avoid it? Maybe you don’t ever think about it. From whom do you seek intimacy? Are you safe there, or are you giving away your power? Intimacy can lead to profound growth or utter frustration. Which is dominating in your life today?
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