Searching the internet for guidance on intimacy leads to a bombardment of articles and think-pieces – referencing everything from God to sex! But is all this over-thinking just part of the problem?
Finding better intimacy is actually about learning how to feel more, and think less.
Better intimacy requires more feeling
But what does it mean to feel?
Some people would characterise feeling as emotions. Others might say that feeling is all about sensation.
Actually it’s both: in his work with Sentics neuroscientist Manfred Clynes found that the same emotion in people all over the world produces the same kind of muscular, rhythmic, and vocal body response (watch a demonstration here). Our bodies are actually the key to how we feel.
Here are 4 important ways you can enable yourself to feel more… and experience better intimacy:
1. Don’t confuse sex and intimacy
Sex is often portrayed as the pinnacle of intimacy: a physical, emotional, and spiritual union with another person, that we should all be striving for. But it’s not quite that simple…
Many people would consider a one-night stand to be a perfect example of sex without intimacy. But it could also be argued there’s nothing more intimate than the vulnerability of physically offering and trusting yourself to a person you don’t know well.
Conversely many people in long-term relationships have found themselves sexually ‘stuck in a rut’, going through the physical motions without much real intimacy.
Whether it’s with a life-partner, or someone you just met, allowing yourself to access the vulnerability that comes with sharing yourself is what can really make the difference to an experience feeling intimate or not.
2. Allow yourself to be seen
Vulnerability is about shedding the mask and allowing yourself to be seen – truly seen. But how can it be possible for someone else to see you, if you’re unable to even see yourself? Kate Maree O’Brien, an inspirational coach observes that often
“We’re not willing to go deeper into ourselves. Instead we sit on the surface, skimming the top layer of who we are, and what gets reflected back is a surface relationship that’s afraid to feel”.
If you’re afraid to feel then you can end up sending out mixed messages: ‘I want intimacy with you, but I’ve been hurt before, so don’t come any closer’. The same wall you build to keep people out, can also keep you stuck inside, separated from the possibility of intimacy.
So how do you get to a point where you can feel safe enough to be seen? Communication is a vital part of intimacy. This doesn’t have to be verbal. Learning to interpret and communicate in non-verbal ways can be just as valuable as using words.
And good communication isn’t just about being the one expressing something. Being able to create, for someone else, the space of witnessing – truly hearing, and seeing them, without judgement, however they reveal themselves – is just as important for creating intimacy as being heard or seen yourself.
4. Be in the present
Intimacy (rather like great sex) works best when everyone is fully in the moment. As with dancing, there’s a joy that comes when you’re able to effortlessly navigate split-second interaction, to embrace flow and change.
We make assumptions – both about others and about ourselves – based on our past experience. Often something you experience in the present is being coloured by your previous experiences of it. If those have been negative they may trigger feelings, like anger, which (in Sentic and body terms) inhabit a blocked space, and are resistant to change.
Being in the moment is crucial to being able to feel. This allows you to access emotions like empathy, understanding and compassion, which are essential to intimacy.
Our current world model teaches us that winning out over others is the key to being successful. In this model intimacy is dismissed as weakness – not something worth learning how to do.
But as Adam Wilder, an intimacy and human connection expert, points out:
“It’s the key to being freer, happier and more alive and it could change not only our personal lives, but the political decisions we take as a society.”
That’s huge! No wonder intimacy is the thing we’re all desperate for but also so terrified of…it’s powerful stuff.
Get in touch to discuss how I can help you move towards creating more fulfilling experiences of intimacy.