In a world where we lose ourselves to the transient, illusionary constructs of connection, where social media and now, virtual reality, offer us manufactures forms of connection, taking the place of in-person real, nourishing presence, there is such a need for the healing of Intimacy.
Intimacy is defined as having a close, affectionate relationship, a deep understanding, a quality of being comfortable and familiar with others. In the ZEGG Forum, a deep and intimate process of group sharing, a space of trust, openness, and familiarity is created through a beautiful practice of personal sharing and community listening, and mirroring.
At the ZEGG Forum Facilitator Training with Kelly Bryson I attended recently, one individual while mirroring offered a play on words with “intimacy”.
“In-to-me-see!” he exclaimed.
Yes, I thought to myself. It’s in-to-me-see, not into-my-masks-see.
We all share a core desire for connection, and to be seen. And yet, we live in a world that can be morbidly addicted to the sorrow from separation. In the face of that separation, we wear masks that provide a cushioning from the pain. We follow the societal scripts of “should do” and “musts” and perfectionism that have been ascribed to us, even when to do so can hurt us. But in so doing, we too often miss seeing one another, and we loose the very intimacy we so deeply crave.
Sharing a transforming and inspiring experience together can create a sense of intimacy with others; when we watch an inspiring movie, travel to an exciting new place, or embark on a weekend of personal exploration, intimacy between people can be experienced. There is also the very potent feeling of intimacy that arises through physical touch and connection- the oxytocin highs of platonic cuddle parties, as well as the rush of sensations and hormones released through sexual interactions, can create incredibly compelling experiences of intimacy.
Limited to only these experiences though, such intimacy is transient, momentary, and driven through a hormonal high. This doesn’t mean it’s not real or valid. In fact, those shared experiences are incredibly important: they open the door to lasting, long term intimacy. In those moments of shared experiences that bring us closer together, we form a kind of trust, and shared context for understanding one another.
These are the two things I believe can heal our loss of intimacy: learning how to see, appreciate and understand others, and trusting ourselves to be seen by them in return.
When we aren’t seen, the following things can happen:
- We get louder and/or more forceful with our story (this can lead to anger or acts of oppression against others, either physical or emotional/mental).
- We start whining- I call this the “Eeyore Complex”, after the sorrowful donkey in the Winnie The Pooh books. Essentially, we allow our story to go into Victim gear and don’t feel we can take action in it, because we aren’t being seen. You might hear this as the “Poor me” story.
- We self-silence, and try to pretend we are someone else, or that we have a different story from what is really true for us.
It is so painful to feel unseen in the world, and there are many ways that feeling can affect our choices in life. To counter that, however, some beautiful things can come about when the reverse is true. Here are some things that happen when we feel seen:
- We get to find softness with ourselves around our stories.
- We step out of being victims of circumstance and can become survivors and thrivers.
- We regain our voice and sense of self in the world.
- We can approach relationships from a space of internal abundance.
So, what can we do to support others in being seen, to be seen ourselves, and to create more intimacy?
The first is to learn how to listen, without projecting our own story onto the person sharing. Notice where in your world you respond, and where you react (the latter being an action from a space of being triggered in your own personal story). ZEGG Forum and non violent communication can help with this.
If there is someone you specifically want to create more intimacy with, here’s a little 20-30 min check-in process I recommend. I’ve offered this to clients and colleagues, and have used it with my own friends and loved ones:
- Sit with the person you wish to share with.
- Without interrupting them as they answer you, offering yourself as active listener, invite them to share the answers to the following questions:
- Where are you today, in your relationship to your Self?
- Where are you today in your relationship to the world around you?
- Where are you today, in your relationship to me?
- When they have finished sharing, thank them. You can respond to ask more questions to clarify, but try not to react to what they share, and do not try to give advice or ‘fix’ any problems they expressed.
- Ask them to ask you the same questions, inviting them to hold the space of active listener.
- Try practising this daily with a partner or colleague if you are struggling to connect, or weekly with a close friend. It helps to create a regular time to do this practice, a time free from distractions or other commitments. In person is better, but phone/skype can work too.
True Intimacy asks for more than eye-gazing; it calls upon a kindness with one another’s shadows and gentleness with all our imperfections. As we reweave the narrative of scarcity and perfectionism into one of abundance and embrace of imperfections, the art of being Seen, and allowing ourselves to be seen, becomes the foundation for a more loving world.
Moving from the momentary intimacy of shared experiences to the long term intimacy of deep knowing and familiarity, opening ourselves to more kindness, we create the possibility for profound bonding and camaraderie. Chosen family flourishes, and communities can be born, wherein we need not experience that pain of separation and disconnection.