While human beings need to experience intimacy, it doesn’t mean that this always take place. In fact, one might be in a position where it is not part of their life and never has been.
This means that some people are used to experiencing intimacy and this is ‘normal’, and others are not used to experiencing it and this is ‘normal’. Each person’s life is then being influenced in different ways and their experience on this earth is not going to be the same.
What this all comes down to is that human beings are interdependent. Each and every one of us needs other people and this is not the same as being dependent. When one is dependent on others, it is likely to mean that they haven’t developed a sense of self.
Their level of emotional growth probably reflects that of a young baby or a child and one is then looking towards other people to fulfil their unmet childhood dependency needs. And as these needs were not met during these formative years, one is unable to act like an adult.
Here, one could have the outlook that other people are there to meet their needs and that this is something they are entitled to. As they are not willing or not able to give, they are going to end up in relationships that are out of balance.
Physically they are an adult, but emotionally this is not the case and unless this changes, it is going to be more or less impossible for them to have an adult to adult relationship. In order for one to have an adult to adult relationship, it will be important for them to see other people as separate beings and not as extensions of themselves.
The Other Extreme
This doesn’t mean that one will end up being dependent if they are unable to embrace the fact that they are interdependent, as they could go the other extreme. Here, could end up being someone who comes across as needless and tries to do everything themselves.
This is likely to mean they feel ashamed of having needs at a deeper level and so they do everything they can to come across as being self-sufficient. And while one can do some things for themselves (this is part of being interdependent), they can’t do everything.
The Next Stage
The person who is dependent will need to grieve their unmet childhood needs, as it is not going to be possible for other adults to fulfil them. It will then enable one to be able to give and to receive.
When it comes to the person who is out of touch with how they need others, it will also be important for them to grieve their unmet childhood needs. As this happens and one no longer feels ashamed of their needs, they will be able to embrace their needs.
Through grieving one’s unmet childhood needs and being comfortable with one’s adult needs, it will put them in a position where they are able to share who they are and for others to do the same. If one can’t share who they are, then it is not going to be possible for one to experience intimacy.
If one is playing a role for instance and therefore hiding who they are, it won’t matter if they are in a relationship as they will feel disconnected. One is not being authentic with the people around them; they are interacting on a very surface level.
So their intellect is being engaged but their emotional brain (limbic system) is being overlooked. Saying and doing the ‘right thing’ or what one thinks other people want them to say and do will then take precedence.
However, if one does hide who they are and how they are feeling, there is going to be a reason for it. One side they will have the need to open up and to share who they are and on the other, this is not going to feel safe.
What feels safe is playing a role and being around people who also play a role. So not only can this relate to one’s partner (that’s if they have one), it could include their friends. This is because one can experience intimacy in their primary relationship and with friends and family.
Even though it might be normal for one to avoid intimacy, they are going against their true nature. What feels comfortable is not healthy or life affirming, it is actually having a negative effect on their life and wellbeing.
Keeping people at a distance is then a way for one to protect themselves and while they might realise this, it could be something they are unaware off. If they are unaware of why this takes place, they could feel like a victim and as though something external is stopping them from getting close to others.
Yet, based on how they feel on the inside, it is not possible for them to experience intimacy. If another person gets close to them, it is likely to cause them to feel smothered and overwhelmed. The only way for them to maintain their sense of self is to avoid intimacy.
However, this might not be the only thing that is causing them to sabotage intimacy, as they could fear that other people will only abandon them once they get close to them. One could feel as though they are inherently flawed and worthless, and that no one would want to be with them.
This is going to mean that one is carrying toxic shame and unlike healthy shame, it has no benefit. It simply causes one to feel less-than human and separates them from others.
The reason one feels this way is likely to be the result of what took place during their childhood. During these years, one may have been physically, verbally, sexual and/or emotionally abused. Although what happened is ‘all in the past’, the emotional experiences of the past have remained trapped in their body.
To move on from this and to finally embrace intimacy, one will need to grieve their unmet childhood needs. As this takes place, they will gradually begin to open up to people and to life. The assistance of a therapist or a healer may be needed here.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.