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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Too Distant or Too Intimate: Which Are You?

I remember when I was a young teen in Canada, a group of friends and I decided to play a game of Truth where if you lost, or if it was your turn, you had to tell the others some truth about yourself that you would normally not tell. We all had to be 'it' and tell our truth, but one of the girls present told something so private  and of such intimacy that all of us were - much more than shocked - embarrassed to be hearing it. It was one of those things that you can tell a mother, or a very close friend, but not a group of people (especially young teens) playing a game.

In that same game, I remember one of the boys absolutely refusing (in my mind) to participate, because when he was 'it', he told us something inane, something so obviously not a truth about himself that he would normally not share, that I knew he was avoiding it. I obviously didn't know if he was avoiding it simply because he was too embarrassed to share, or if because he was too closed.

But there was no doubt in my mind that the girl was too open. Too intimate. Even back then I recognized it.

What is being too intimate and open?
  • telling someone you've just met (a new colleague at work, a friend of a friend to whom you've just been introduced, your neighbour's sister, etc.) about details of your life that would normally only be told to people you are very close to
  • ditto but with the person you are talking to being someone you have just begun dating
  • sharing intimate information about you or your life openly at a party or other social event where everyone present has obviously been invited by the host or hostess, giving them a sort of trustworthiness credential, but you don't actually know them all
What does it mean if you are too intimate or open? Among other things, it connects to having poor boundaries because in the same way someone with poor boundaries allows another to behave in unacceptable ways, so does the person with poor boundaries let out too much intimacy unacceptably (towards themseves) with people that are not in some kind of inner circle. And of course I don't mean this in a social way, this is not a social rule I'm describing here, but a pattern of behavior that may allow you to understand yourself better.

Why entrust others you don't really know with information about yourself that is so personal? Why open yourself up to that degree of scrutiny by individuals who don't have the whole picture, the way the members of your close circle do? In some fashion it is connected to a need for intimacy that is not being accomplished on other levels and therefore is sought artifically - or in somewhat infantile fashion (only because this is something that children often do with people they do not know well) - this way. The need for intimacy, which is not being addressed in a mature manner, is such a need because the person described has some kind of difficulty with emotional intimacy. This almost always has its roots in early childhood, and while it need not be something horrific, nor does it need to be remembered in order to resolve it, what it means is that your emotional reaction to intimacy is somehow that of a child because the person got stuck back there on that level.

And what does it mean when you are too closed? When you rarely share anything about yourself at all, in this case, even with people you know well? Again, among other things, it is connected to a fear of intimacy, a fear of opening up to potential vulnerability that intimacy brings with it, and a potential fear of rejection. Being too closed, by the way, is not necessarily related to being emotionally inaccessible because the latter may be - under certain circumstances - very intimate, but simply does not engage, whereas the former, the person who is not open, not only does not engage, but also does not share intimacy about him or herself.

So we could say that the person who is too closed shares a difficulty with emotions with the person who is too intimate too soon. Both struggle with emotional expression, both do it in ways that are detrimental to their psycho-emotional health and well-being.

If you have recognized yourself in either of these brief descriptions, or conversely, if you have recognized your partner, and in order to gain a greater understanding of the human psyche, you may wish to have a closer look at my book Rewiring the Soul: Finding the Possible Self, available at Amazon globally in print or e-book for Kindle. Click here to download the first chapter.

Some Early Reviews:

"Rewiring the Soul is one the best introductions to the spiritual life I've ever read. Not esoteric but real-world & practical. The implications are profound."
Peter Shepherd; Founder Trans4mind.com; author: Daring To Be Yourself

"The human being's directory to the soul. A breakthrough for those seeking practical assistance, those of a more mystical bent & every soul awaiting discovery." Toni Petrinovich, Ph.D.; author: The Call: Awakening the Angelic Human  


Photo: Monastery of Montserrat near Barcelona, Spain


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