Though depression, shame, fear, anger, pain and the things that cause them (abuse, abandonment, loss) keep me in a job (some of you know I think it my job to put me out of a job), another thing that keeps me in work are ideas and terms that are ill-defined. One of these terms is “intimacy”.
I was told once of a rumor that someone had asked Confucius what he would suggest doing to help society, and he replied “I would revamp the language.” A lot of my work is about what we speak about, how, and how we define things between one another. According to Alexa.com, Facebook is currently the number two most visited site on the internet. For many years before that, MySpace was most frequently visited website. It seems to me that these are about two things- being known and knowing/connection others. Intimacy and community. I think we all want intimacy and community, and the presence of these sites are great evidence to support this idea.
As I started to mention above though, the terms we use are rarely common between us. At the suggestion of my partner, the woman I call “The World’s Most Dangerous Librarian”, I use Wordnik (www.wordnik.com) as my internet reference source for words. “Intimacy” is most frequently/commonly defined as (using Webster’s here): “n. The state of being intimate; close familiarity or association; nearness in friendship.”
What’s “close” though? Association? Friendship? Am only tackling “close” here though, and think I can offer something that might be a helpful principle. When describing intimacy to my clients, I suggest that intimacy is “me having feelings about your feelings about your life”. Frequency, disclosure, and intensity of course mediate the depth of that intimacy, but I think this is a pretty principled way of defining that closeness or “intimacy” we’re most often talking about.
As Tom Waits said though, “The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away.” This capacity for depth in closeness is largely dependent on both parties being in touch with their own feelings to begin with (see my previous blog “You Can’t Heal What You Can’t Feel“). How clearly, presently, and transparently we both have our emotional experience affects our ability to be intimate with one another.
These also obviously affect our capacity for community. Without a sense of my place and my purpose on this planet, a sense of purpose and community, we all suffer. Absence of this breeds shame (low self worth/low self esteem), loneliness, sadness and depression. As confusing and difficult and even painful as it might be, us having our own feelings, giving others access to them, a willingness to risk and be intimate with one another, seems to be our best shot at avoiding these things.
You can find out more about Petar at: April30th.org