What is Intimacy?
A form of communication between persons which involves their whole being: physical sensations, emotions and cognition, spiritual experiences. Expressed in plain language, intimate communication stimulates the main zones of the body: head, heart and sex. In friendship, communication usually includes gestures that manifest affection without explicitly including sexuality while intimacy between lovers includes physical, emotional and sensual-sexual interaction. Intimacy is based on the desire to receive and to give.
The other is perceived as attractive in the sensual and sexual sense but he or she is also defined as possessing cognitive, emotional and spiritual powers. Initially a person feeling attracted to another hopes to receive a warm welcome, to be understood, appreciated and cherished.
To this other person who is defined as highly desirable, the would-be partner is quite ready to reciprocate in answering the other’s expectations.
Altered States of Consciousness
When such expectations are at least partially fulfilled in an encounter, one or both of the partners enter into a state of communion which is difficult to describe. This may be characterized by the impression of oneness that goes beyond the immediate experience. Both are united by something that is very special, better evoked by poetry and certain religious texts (for ex. in the Bible, The Song of Songs) than scientific papers. The partners may then experience states of consciousness reaching from mild elation to orgasmic trance or ecstasy. Trance is a state of boundless excitement while ecstasy induces an impression of deep inner calm and serenity, of being outside the bounds of ordinary life beyond time and space. Someone experiencing trance or ecstasy is in another world but remains conscious of the real, ordinary one. Both trance and ecstasy lead towards an experience of the sacred, in the sense of the extra-ordinary, a connexion with forces well beyond what is felt in day to day life.
Before it really happens, intimacy in friendship or love is oftenan imagined event whichfinds its origins in primary moments linked to the beginning of life as illustrated by the intimacy of the foetus with its mother, of the newborn child, infant or child in close contact with a meaningful, respectful, affectionate adult. In that sense, an experience of intimacy in adult life is in a certain way the accomplishment of all our previous life stages.
That intimacy is fervently desired and highly desirable andcan be observed in the immense quest of partners that occurs over the whole planet as illustrated through the media, including theInternet, which has becomea virtual meeting place full of searchers. The present times just like the preceding periods are characterized by a quest for intimate relationships. What is new is the possibility for millions of people to find places where they may retire out of reach of inquisitive ears or eyes.
(Parenthesis on the evolution of couple relationships, from 1850 to present times.)
The quest for intimacy may stumble upon a major obstacle. Theillusion that the other as an incarnation of the ideal partner will bring the answer to the need for intimacy may bring one to obsessively seek the proper partner, trying one after the other and ending up disillusioned withfeelings of isolation andbitter disappointment.
Major Obstacles to Intimacy
- Infantile expectations about the partner: “Be my good mother, my good father, whom I never had, or from whom I received too little.”
- I want to dominate. I command, you obey.
- Great fears
- Common to men and women: abandonment, treason, unfaithfulness.
- Mostly feminine: abandonment, violence, rape (the man as ogre).
- Mostly masculine: to be absorbed by the female partner, to be affectively imprisoned by her, dominated, reduced to powerlessness (woman as a dangerous sorceress).
Factors Conducive to Intimacy
- Interiority, introspection. Self-knowledge. The ability to explore one’s darker aspects without falling into negative judgements: becoming aware of fears, emotional deprivation, psychological wounds andanger.
- Engagement into activities oriented towards personality development and openness to others. Such engagement includes the following:- Insuring as much as possible physical fitness by adequate food and sleep, plus well balanced breeding and muscular exercises.- Developing personal talents by concrete action in one or several domains: sports, arts and crafts, techniques, arts. In other words, developing the expressive aspects of one’s personality.
- Communication skills- The ability to listen to what the interlocutor tries to express by
* eye contact
* facial expression
* actions- The ability to express oneself according to the interlocutor’s capacity to accept what is expressed.
- Developing one’s competence as erotic partner. What is meant here goes way beyond soft pornography, which draws the viewer’s attention onto sexual anatomy and forms of contact. We are speaking about the power to communicate by giving and receiving pleasure within an aura of total communication, cognitive, emotional, sensual and sexual. As mentioned earlier, this may bring partners into orgasmic trance, and/or a whole variety of ecstatic states. Shared love may be considered a path to the divine whatever faith or ideology one entertains.
In this domain, abundant written, recorded and visual documentation is available. Education to eroticism may also be obtained through workshops marked by profound respect for everything related to love. Careful choice of workshops and those who lead them is required to avoid disappointment.
Yearning for eroticism is probably innate but erotic competence is acquired through conscious education and well guided self-education according to each personality, style and background. The objective is to become able to establish intimate contact with a chosen other or others in a relationship marked by reciprocity, over and above a series of obstacles linked to personal history and education. The woman is invited to abandon herself to erotic pleasure both as receiver and giver. The same applies to the man. However, he must maintain adequate control over his impulses while remaining concentrated. In both cases, intimate communication requires simultaneous concentration on theself and the partner.
Intimacy is somehow an emotional Eldorado with the difference that unlike the mythical region, it is reachable. Once attained, continuity or repetition of the experience is not guaranteed. The experience of intimacy is shrouded in mystery, to be approached with hope, humility and respect. Hopeful partners require an attitude of acceptance of the other person as he or she is, of going over and above excessive obligations or taboos related to desire which might beinherited from education or surrounding culture. Thus it becomes possible to enter into an atmosphere of pleasure and intense communication leading to fusion in the adult sense (as differentiated from mother-child or father-child fusion). In such circumstances an extra-ordinary phenomenon takes place: two free energies join together in an encounter that may lead to trance, ecstasy or both.
As an introduction to approaching intimacy, a few simple experiences are proposed to the audience. Some people will accept to participate directly while others may prefer to be observers. To the latter is proposed an attitude of interest and empathy for those who engage in experiences. After a few experiences, comments will be shared by all.
Towards Intimacy. A Few Simple Experiences
Activities Favouring Intimate Communication
- Non verbal. The group is divided into 2 rows facing each other, separated by about 3 meters. At a signal, members of row A slowly walk towards their partners, looking into their partner’s eyes. Members of row B adopt a welcoming attitude and also keep looking into their partners’ eyes. Each member of row A approach the partner in row B, stopping at a distance perceived as “safe” by the person walking. Both partners stand looking at each other in the eyes for about 10 seconds at which time the walker goes backward to the point of departure, keeping eye contact with the partner. Change of role, row B reciprocates with the same procedure.
- Non verbal. The group is divided into duos. A, eyes closed, is a substance to be sculpted by B (eyes open). According to his or her inspiration, B creates a sculpture with A, who adopts every posture suggested by B’s manipulation of A’s arms, legs, head, etc. After about 2 minutes a signal is given. The sculptures freeze, becoming objects of art in an art gallery. The sculptors then make a round of all sculptures. Change of roles: A becomes the sculptor, B the sculpted.
- Seeing through the eyes. Each participant chooses a partner. They stand facing each other at close range. During 3 minutes they look at each other in eyes, breathingdeeply and slowly, as if their partners’ eyes were windows through which scenes can be observed. After 3 minutes both partners take turns in describing to each other what they have seen through the partner’s eyes.
- The question who are you? and developing listening skills. Each participant chooses a partner. A and B sit in front of each other and decide who will ask and answer the question, who are you? Once this is agreed upon, the first question is asked by A to B. B gives a first answer. A gives a résumé as precisely as possible of B’s answer and then repeats the question Who are you ? Same procedure with B’s answer. A third time A asks Who are you? B answers and A gives an exact résumé of the answer. Change of roles. For a few minutes, A and B comment on the experience they have just gone through.
- Talking with hands. Two partners, A et B. Both close their eyes and silently communicate with each other by touching and stroking their hands. Duration: about 3 minutes.
- Blind exploration, a non verbal activity. A and B are blind and take turns in exploring each other by very light and respectful touch all over the body, from head down and feet to head, touching replacing seeing. A explores B first, then they change roles. Afterwards the partners comment on their experiences, concentrating on describing what they felt in both exploring and being explored.
Note: the bibliography has been initially prepared for a French speaking audience but contains a number of documents in English or translated from English to French.
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