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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: In Search of Emotional Intimacy

Monday, August 15, 2011

In Search of Emotional Intimacy

So I am taking a detour from talking about anger. Lately, folks who have been here with me in the office, on the couch, talking, are talking a lot about emotional intimacy in its many forms. Seems we humans are constantly seeking it - in our marriages, families, friendships, work relationships even. We need deep connections on a feeling level. Some of us need a lot of emotional contact, others less so, but we do seek it out. And when we do not have enough of it, we suffer.

We need to be and feel close to others. We need to feel understood, supported, appreciated and connected. Of course we know that we cannot have all those feelings all the time, but we have to have enough to keep us, to sustain through the ups and downs of life. We especially need to have enough emotional intimacy to hold us through difficult times. And if things are going south, or seem to be in one relationship, or part of life, we need to have a strong dose of emotional intimacy in other parts of our life, in other relationships, to carry us through.

Emotional loneliness is only tolerable for limited periods of time. And we can turn to all kinds of ways of coping when we are suffering. For some it's drugs, or alcohol, or food, shopping, gambling. Others get into relationships that may seem like they will provide relief, but turn out to cause more trouble. And some dive into work, or a hobby. There is of course, a broad range of ways to cope.

Some of us are more readily able to experience emotional intimacy, or to build it, be open to it and cultivate it. Some of us are more afraid, more frustrated, more confused. It's not like anyone gives us lessons. And we are, after all, all a mixture of our own biology, culture and experiences.

The search for emotional intimacy is so universal; it never ceases to amaze me though, how difficult the search can be, not just to find or create it, but to maintain it, especially in our primary relationships, where we often hope it will just maintain itself. So much of the day to day stuff of life gets in the way, as do our histories, our feelings, our assumptions. I see here, though, in the process of therapy, that things can get worked out. We can get much more of the sometimes elusive feeling we need. It takes time; it may take a bit of talking, a bit of exploring, a bit of unpacking what's blocking us, but it pays off. We don't have to be deprived. We just have to be willing to search.

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