I always start my blog posts in the Needs’ Year with a personal story. Partly it’s because I want to examine how a specific need manifests itself in my life. Another purpose has been to try to capture the reader’s attention. A personal story often conveys something that strikes a chord in the reader. Pure facts are objective and rarely intimate, while personal stories engage and awaken interest.
I’ve been thinking about what story to start this blog post with. My first thoughts have been to write something connected to physical intimacy. Then I thought this was way too obvious. When it comes to intimacy, most people’s thoughts go precisely to physical intimacy and specifically to sex. I wanted to open up to other perspectives, and then my thoughts went to stories about emotional intimacy.
However, I have decided to refrain from a personal story this time and instead let these paragraphs introduce the blog post. It is something paradoxical about sharing memories of intimacy. An analogy could be a meditator who strives to “let go” – if you strive you don’t let go. In the same way, I find that if I tell my intimate memories, they suddenly become public and not private – they lose (at least partially) their intimate character.
I associate intimacy with vulnerability, or rather the potential of being vulnerable. It’s about getting physically and emotionally close to someone else. (In preparation for writing this blog post, I read about other forms of intimacy such as experiential and spiritual intimacy, but I will not focus on them.) I can be physically close to someone without being either intimate or vulnerable, but in my experience, I cannot experience intimacy without letting go of my mental defences.
I find it hard to imagine intimacy only through physical closeness. I believe emotional intimacy needs to be present to experience deep physical intimacy. But on the other hand, I can experience intimacy without physical contact. I’ve had many intimate encounters with others without physical closeness.
When it comes to physical intimacy, it’s also about my zones or levels of personal space. The closest of these personal zones is the intimate one. When people other than my closest ones come inside my intimate zone, I often feel uncomfortable and awkward. My personal space is of course affected by the circumstances. Being in a crowd in front of one of my favourite punk bands will get me very close to strangers, without it being a specifically intimate event.
Emotional intimacy is about opening up to my thoughts, feelings and needs. It’s about being able to express myself freely and to be listened to without judgement. To give and receive. To share joy and sorrow, dreams and disappointments. To be able to share my entire emotional life and expose my inner being.
Sometimes I’ve been able to be intimate with someone I just met. Especially in NVC settings and other similar contexts where there are joint agreements on how to be with each other, this can occur. But for the most part, intimacy is something I build over time with my partner, family members and friends. To cultivate safety and trust, I need to devote time, energy and commitment to long-term relationships.
This was probably my most challenging need to write about during the Needs’ Year. Maybe it’s not that surprising. I don’t experience intimacy with everyone I meet. My intimacy is reserved for a few people and very specific circumstances. Sharing my innermost self with people I don’t know, such as some of you reading this blog post, becomes vulnerable. When writing about intimacy I notice that I am less open about what I want to share. At the same time, I am grateful to discover this. I have found out that I value and honour relationships that are important and meaningful to me, by the strategy of keeping them private.
Who has access to your intimate space?
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Joachim Berggren (CNVC Certified Trainer)
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On 13 December at 18:00-18:45 CET, you can participate in a Zoom Talk with me and Mary Mackenzie. We will talk about the need for intimacy.
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