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This week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions tackles one of my most frequently asked questions: What is intimacy? As humans, we need, desire and seek intimacy. We also, however, engage in patterns of behaviour and thinking that sabotage and block it. It’s easy to give ourselves a hard time about not knowing what intimacy is or having behaved in ways that we recognise were our defence mechanisms against the past. Still, we must remember that we did not learn about how to have relationships or even take care of our emotional needs as children. We’re all learning as we go. Let’s cut ourselves some slack and start where we are.

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Nuggets from the episode

  • What we do most of the time dictates how intimate we are. Only being intimate in certain situations or on an ad-hoc basis isn’t going to lead to genuinely intimate relationships. We’re not consistently showing up.
  • Intimacy is sharing ourselves. It’s about being ourselves. Intimacy within relationships then means that you have two people who share of themselves emotionally, intellectually, physically, including sexually depending on the nature of the relationship of course, spiritually and experientially (shared experiences).
  • Intimacy is what we experience as a consequence of being vulnerable. We risk allowing ourselves to be seen.
  • Self-sabotaging and, yes, intimacy-avoidant habits not only interfere with our relationships but also with the relationship we have with ourselves.

Intimacy requires us to allow ourselves to be seen and known. We also have to be willing to see and know others and to be open to them evolving over time.

  • Intensity is pseudo intimacy. We’re trying to fast-track our way to intimacy.
  • Fear of intimacy is about fear of the consequences of vulnerability. We’re afraid that if we allow someone to get close enough to us that we are seen, that it will hurt too much if they were to disappointment, reject us or leave.
  • To love someone is to know and understand them. Intimacy is about allowing ourselves to be seen and known and also being willing to allow us to see and know others. We also have to be open to them continuing to unfold and evolve.
  • To share ourselves is to be emotionally available.

Emotional availability is about our willingness to experience intimacy by being vulnerable–and showing up over and over again.

  • Fear of intimacy is fear of the consequences of being vulnerable. We fear that if we allow someone to get close enough to us that they see, that it will hurt if they were to disappoint, reject us or leave.
  • Conflict is a part of intimacy and intimate relationships. Without it, you’re not being honest enough. You’re not willing to run the risk of being yourself to the degree that it might cause a difference of opinion, perspective, desire, etc., that leads to conflict.

No boundaries, no intimacy. Creating healthy boundaries reflects the honesty and intimacy levels of the relationship but also of the person or people creating the boundaries.

  • If we’re asking us whether it’s safe to be ourselves then we’re not already being our authentic, real self.
  • Lack of physical intimacy, including sex, becomes a problem because it’s tied up with a lack of communication and emotional intimacy. Something isn’t being expressed.
  • Loneliness is not about how many friends you have or whether you’re a ‘loser’. Loneliness is the emotional state we experience when we lose emotional connection to ourselves and others because we are not expressing our innermost feelings and thoughts.
  • We don’t need to wait to be in a relationship to be our real self or have an intimate relationship with ourselves.
  • Water seeks its own level. Being in an unavailable relationship brings us face to face with our fear of intimacy and emotional unavailability.
  • One of the traps we fall into is assuming that because someone is confiding something in us that it must mean that we are in an intimate relationship with them. Or, we assume that it means that they are capable of intimacy and that we are ‘special’. And this may well be true. But it also might not be. Some people wheel out the same story again and again precisely because they’re avoiding intimacy.
  • Our close relationships, especially ones we consider to be intimate, require a high level of intimacy in order for them to be mutually fulfilling and healthy.
  • Our why may reveal that we are actually quite anxious about intimacy.

With intimacy, context matters. The why behind our actions and intentions tells us whether we’re fostering intimacy or avoiding intimacy.

  • We don’t need to be perfect about intimacy. We need to start from where we are. Noticing where we’re avoiding being honest and ourselves is a great starting point. Catching ourselves in habits like people-pleasing, perfectionism, over-giving, over-responsibility and overthinking helps us have a more honest relationship with us and others.
  • Sometimes our fear of intimacy is our fear of our greatness. We’re afraid of our potential, purpose and discovering more of who we really are.

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