How do we practice intimacy with others?
No, this isn’t a post about sex. I want to know about your emotional intimacy and what makes you feel safe enough with your loved ones, friends and even yourself to be vulnerable and truly open up. “I’m fine” only works the first 1,000 times you say it.
I went to therapy this afternoon and it has me cogitating on how there are few occurrences I can recall where I’ve truly felt safe around others. Safe enough to open up about my feelings, the worries in my life, or even my past. I’m sure my therapist wrote in their notes that this a trauma response due to emotional neglect, but my million-dollar question is: As humans, why is it easier to suppress than let go? There is a level of risk in being emotionally intimate with others, but any perceived risk has more to do with the other person than it does you.
I read a self- help book a few years ago where the author wrote, “people can only meet you as deeply as they’ve met themselves”. I continue to find that statement to be true the more I engage in conversation and actively listen to those who share with me. I don’t think people not meeting you exactly at your level is inherently negative. I view it as an opportunity to engage in playing a life-size game of emotional chess: where there is a level of risk to each move, but ultimately better to take the chance and lose a few pieces than remain stationary. There are no losers in this scenario. Just two humans sitting across from one another, vulnerable and without expectation. Sounds like a beautiful fucking moment if you ask me.
But how do we get there? To reach emotional intimacy and get our one-way ticket to board the Transparency Train? Honestly, I don’t have the answer; but I know it isn’t through suppression, which takes far more energy from us than letting go does. Letting go of the pit we feel in our stomach every time someone asks us, “how are you?” or truly taking a deep breath once you’ve shared an emotionally intimate moment with someone and the world didn’t come crashing down around you like you expected.
If we choose to deflect, to suppress our feelings, we are shutting the door halfway on not only ourselves, but with the people we choose to connect with.
I acknowledge that sometimes we aren’t ready and that’s beautiful, too. Our time on earth is equal parts illusory and tangible and time that we do have is a privilege. We will open the door to vulnerability when it feels right – no need to knock it down.
Safety is not guaranteed in our relationships with others, but we deserve to feel safe within ourselves above all. To have a safety net we can fall back on when we need and can jump out of when we feel ready to share beyond the “I’m fine,” the “I’m okay,” and my personal favorite, “same shit, different day.”
My hope for myself is to continue opening the door to those who knock and want to stay a while. All I ask is you BYOB as all I have are days-old chocolate chip cookies to offer. My hostess skills need some work.