15 Jun 2007 01:09 pm

INTIMACY INVENTORY

In this, the final chapter, we will take a brief inventory of some of the attitudes, experiences, skills, qualities and stances which contribute to and form intimate existence. Most of the following terms are inter-related on a number of levels, yet for the sake of clarity and brevity I will leave it to you to make the necessary correlations.

Success and Accomplishment

Accomplishing our goals and successfully meeting our desires is an important aspect of an intimate life. Through success our efforts are rewarded with a sense of attainment. This sense of accomplishment provides our life with increased direction and purpose.

Success is never a final state, but only a temporary resting point. Our feelings of accomplishment are a point of departure, a home base, from which we devise our next objective. The moments of contentment following one success and preceding the next task are vitally important to our self-esteem. These calm moments of personal satisfaction give our life needed perspective. This firm home base gives duration to our lives allowing us to separate our experiences while at the same time placing them in a continuous whole.

Without success our lives are denied the feelings of accomplishment which allow us to develop an optimistic course of action. An adventure or quest without success can only lead one to feel empty and lost.

The crucial aspect of success is that its goals and priorities are based on our most intimate needs and desires. Success that distances us from ourselves or others (such as in victories involving deceit) are less than satisfying. Successes garnished through mastery over trivial matters hold no enduring sense of accomplishment and eventually degenerate into feelings of emptiness and futility.

Success in important matters energizes us and ignites our enthusiasm, giving us added resolve and a revitalized sense of purpose. Through success we gain a deep appreciation of the process of life and take great joy in our every adventure. A successful person is a confident person, open to and excited by every challenge presented.

Through success and our attempts at being successful we gain an increased knowledge and understanding of all those things which interest us. With the increased familiarity comes an increase in intimacy, and each success motivates and encourages us to become intimate with more things in our lives. The more one’s accomplishments coincide with the cultivation and refinement of their deepest needs, the more fulfilled and comfortable a person becomes. An intimate life only seeks success in things which draw them closer to their needs while remaining sensitive to the needs and desires of others.

Pleasure

The experience of pleasure is usually related to sense experience or perception. One’s strongest memories of pleasure usually involve the feel, smell or sight of something treasured, or the warm feelings these objects elicit. Yet, one can have pleasurable experiences without being overtly active or physical. One can derive pleasure from an idea or intellectual insight, just as easily as from the touch of a loved one.

We can derive pleasure from a number of experiences and activities, and the range and intensity of pleasure is likewise extremely diverse. Our pleasure can be subtly conveyed through a fond memory or warm sentiment, or be emblazoned into our physical existence through passion and ecstasy. We can delight in the pleasure of a soft breeze or a gentle caress, or become intoxicated by the thrill of white water rafting.

Our pleasures run the full range from relaxed calm, to frantic excitement. The diversification of our needs and desires are more than adequately matched by the full range of pleasing thoughts and sensations available to a person in love with life. Whatever our need may be, or whatever fascinates or compels our attention, is able to be approached in a pleasurable way.

Pleasure, though diverse, has its limits and needs to be utilized wisely. Since pleasure is so attractive and can be completely overwhelming, we have to be sure to make pleasure a means to intimacy rather than a goal in itself. Pleasure unguided and purposeless can quickly degenerate into dependency and addiction. Addiction and dependency occur when pleasure, rather than heightening, becomes the total goal and complete function of an habitual experience.

The relationship between pleasure and pain also sheds light on the proper role and use of pleasure. Pleasure and pain, though opposites, are highly related. Many intense pleasurable experiences have a threshold which once crossed result in the experience of pain.

We’ve all had the experience of laughing so hard that it hurts, or of being tickled to the point of extreme irritation. Many athletes know just how far to push their bodies before they cross over the threshold to pain. With this awareness they reap the pleasures of physical exertion, maximizing the pleasurable sensations of health and strength without incurring injury and pain. Recent bio-chemical studies of the human body strongly support an organic relationship between pleasure and pain, through demonstrating the similar and reciprocal chemical processes employed by both sensations.

A pleasurable experience in itself is not fulfilling or intimate. The proper role of pleasure is not to create, but rather to fill out and enhance intimate experience. It is pleasure which has one feel close to a desired object. Without pleasure an intimate experience would be cold and lifeless, but through a response of pleasure we are able to embrace the object of our desire and feel enriched by its presence in our lives. Pleasure is a vital payoff, enriching and enhancing our experience, allowing us to feel emotionally connected to and rewarded by intimate experience.

Pleasure is one of the most seductive and powerful components of human experience. It is only logical for us to gravitate towards a force as rewarding and compelling as pleasure. There are two common ways to avoid having pleasure degenerate into addiction and dependency. One is to avoid pleasure through living a repressed Spartan-like existence; the other is to vigilantly monitor our pleasures, keeping them diverse and purposeful.

Since repression often leads to inhibition, and a life devoid of pleasure is relatively empty, an individual yearning to be intimate with the world will seldom choose to avoid pleasure. This strategy is more conducive to a person afraid of the world, or overly concerned with it’s pains, who seeks equanimity and safety over everything else.

An intimate person, open and excited by the prospect of experiencing life in all it’s diversity, will choose to monitor rather than ignore pleasure. Such a person will delight in the pleasures available without becoming obsessive about any particular sensation or experience. Pleasure, being itself dependent on intimate experience, will never become the sole object of desire. Only a lost and empty existence seeks to replace union and familiarity with pleasure. An intimate person does not mistake pleasure for fulfillment, but rather uses pleasure as a means to enhance and validate their growing understanding and familiarity with interests and desires.

Love

Love, as we stated before, is a word which has been distorted through overuse. The word love has been demeaned and abused by its popularity, being associated with the tritest of human emotions. Once the pinnacle of human ideals, love now has become as common and as plain as sand. One now is supposed to love everything, from a puppy dog to their enemies. According to the romantic and the mystic, all of life is love.

People now talk about unconditional love, where one loves everyone and everything regardless of their impact on our existence. I personally find this definition of love distasteful and an insult to the dignity of human existence. If a person loves me unconditionally, that means they love me no matter what I do or say. Whether I be kind and caring or a mass murderer makes little difference, I am still entitled to unconditional love.

Unconditional love strips life of its meaning and purpose by making no experience or quality better than another. In unconditional love there can be no preferences or desirable behaviors, for any preference would put conditions (priorities) on love. Unconditional love suspends all reality and denies the existence of any other emotion. Worst of all, unconditional love destroys the process of life, replacing intimacy and adventure with a stagnant and lifeless ideal.

An intimate person enjoys the challenge of life, and desires to become closer to the world. An intimate life is filled with priorities, tasks and accomplishment. Love, like intimacy, is something earned through care, compassion and insight. Love is not predetermined but attained through successfully removing obstacles, cultivating and becoming more familiar and united with interests and people.

If you love me unconditionally it has little affect on my self-esteem. Yet, if your love for me is a vital and meaningful expression of your respect and appreciation of who I am, then my self-worth is validated by your love.

Love is a bond, a feeling of inner affinity with the love object. Love is a deep respect for the integrity of another, it is our highest stamp of approval. The thought of ascribing love to things which cause us pain, manipulate or hurt us is absurd from the viewpoint of intimacy. Love should be a feeling reserved for the things in life which we are most united to and for which we have the deepest respect.

This is not to imply that we should hate things which hurt us or bring us pain, but only that our love should be a high honor bestowed only upon things and people who most deserve our highest esteem. Our goal is always to gain the greatest understanding and respect for all we encounter, but it is sheer stupidity to embrace something which causes you pain. An intimate view of life suggests that we embrace those things in life only to the degree with which they enhance or affirm life. Yet, if love is unconditional we have no selectivity, neither looking for ways to get beyond obstacles or develop a stronger bond.

The goal of intimacy is to become closer and more understanding of the world around us. Love is the name we give the feeling of being bonded to a worthy object or person. An intimate person loves those things which contain the highest and noblest ideals of man, and which bring the most fulfillment and meaning to our lives.

Professing love to someone is saying that their existence benefits you and everyone else, that their principles and values are worthy of respect, and that their very existence enriches and inspires your life. Love demeaned is a petty emotion of dependency or infatuation. Love exalted is an overflowing emotion, based on our highest principles and created in our most treasured and profound experiences.

The quality and potential of many people’s lives are severely restricted when they mistake dependency for love. Abused, in tears, or in perpetual pain, these people claim to love the person who is responsible for their suffering. Seldom happy, and forever empty, such people often portray themselves as victims of love, imprisoned by a devotion to the person that fate and their heart has chosen.

A quick reflection of what love is dispels any notion that such a relationship is based on love. Love is a feeling of being bonded to (of having an inner affinity with) another. While pleasure draws us towards an object, pain causes us to flinch and draw away. A relationship filled with pain and tension is incapable of sustaining love, for every moment of pain and tension is a moment creating distance. Clinging to something which occasionally gives us pleasure which normally makes us feel empty or in pain is an addiction, not love.

A person demeans both himself and love, when he accepts an abusive or generally combative relationship. A loving relationship is not necessarily devoid of all tension or pain, but it should be one in which growth and increased union are common. An intimate existence demands that love change and grow like every other aspect of intimacy. If in a relationship arguments never change or reach resolution, then, by definition there is no growth. Staying in such a stagnant relationship for its underlying love, is like a junkie who keeps getting high despite the fact that he feels empty when the high is over. Whatever pleasures are offered through such a partnership do not deserve to be called love.

In close unions, such as a life partnership, intimate love is not experienced as a straight progression devoid of conflict and setbacks. Every experience we have potentially calls into question or validates our feelings of love. Inherent in every discovery we make is a new perspective and a host of new possibilities. When put into context of our relationship these new perspectives can be a source of increased union, or of doubt and conflict.

These new discoveries are just a part of the endless dance of intimacy. Without these we would never be able to expand and clarify our feelings of unity. Yet, what distinguishes an enduring loving relationship from a stagnant one is the ability of the relationship to grow and adapt with each person’s expanding reservoir of experience and perspective. In an intimate loving relationship, personal growth is not a threat to, but an integral part of the relationship.

Intimacy, just as it does in the case of pleasure, monitors love and prevents it from degenerating into over-dependency. Intimate love is a love focused on and replenished in real experience. Love is guided by intimacy. Love’s highest ideals and potential are cultivated and protected by intimacy. Intimacy spurs our love on, demanding it to grow and change with us and our loved ones. It promises to keep love a vital and life affirming aspect of our daily existence.

Happiness

Where pleasure is predominantly a physical\sensorial experience, happiness is generally experienced as an emotional state. Happiness is a state of contentment and satisfaction. A happy person is at home with the world, optimistic and generally at peace with himself and others.

Happiness is probably the most revered and sought after emotional state of man. Parents who are asked what they most wish for their children typically reply that they want their children to be happy now and for all their life. Accomplishments such as wealth, fame and power pale in comparison to happiness. A wealthy person’s life can be filled with personal pain and sorrow, whereas a happy life is its own reward.

Even love and pleasure are viewed as being potentially dangerous, often resulting in tragic lows along with the highs. A person in love is bonded to and dependent on the person they love. Healthy love, though relatively open and devoid of obsession, still contains elements of dependency. No matter how well we monitor our loves and pleasures, death and loss are still very painful experiences.

Happiness, on the other hand, is able to spontaneously play with life, remaining free from preferring any one object. Where pleasure and love feed off the continuity of specific objects and experiences, happiness is an emotional free agent, able to capitalize on the moment. Happiness, in contrast to love and pleasure, demands little of life and puts forward few expectations. It is this freedom, this open acceptance of life, which has made happiness such a revered ideal.

The above idealistic view of happiness, though containing much truth, also harbors a couple of misconceptions. In reality, a happy person is not devoid of expectations. One’s happiness is always based on something and without intimacy and meaning, one would have little to be happy about.

Without the familiarity and knowledge acquired through intimacy, how could one achieve the “at home-ness” with the world which fosters our happiness? Our loves, pleasures and successes connect and anchor us in the world making our lives more than just random moments. Without these dependencies, there would be no substance to our happiness, and its free stance towards the world would lose its charm and benefit.

Our loves and pleasures are subsets to our happiness. The positive feelings we get from love and pleasure add to our happiness, but do not encompass our happiness. Happiness is much broader than physical pleasure or love. I can laugh and find joy in things which serve no importance in my life or are not particularly physically pleasing. Happy and joyful feelings often allow me to see the value in things I am not particularly interested in, or ignite an interest in something which I previously ignored.

Happiness, like all positive experiences, fosters intimacy. I will most likely form an intimate relationship with something which is a frequent source of joy (happiness) in my life. My good feelings will increase my curiosity inciting my desire to become more familiar with what makes me happy. This is born out by the fact that many life partnerships begin as friendships, with little or no physical attraction or fervent love. The ensuing physical attraction may be directly born out of how happy the person makes them feel, rather than relying on some innate infatuation.

An intimate person uses the feeling of happiness to help identify when pleasure and love have degenerated into addiction and dependency. If an object of love or pleasure no longer makes me happy, then I can be reasonably assured that my current interest is unhealthy and steeped in dependency, not intimacy. Likewise, the happier and more content I am in a relationship the more assured I can be in the quality of the relationship.

Yet, moments of happiness or pleasure never fully testify to the quality of intimacy. Only thorough reflection of the overall tenor of an intimate relationship can I properly determine its suitability. Happiness, though an important element of any beneficial union, is too narrow of a concept to be used as a sole indicator.

Though no one will argue that we generally want to be happy in life, it is untrue that we should strive to make each individual experience a happy one. A generally happy life is a full one, and there are many experiences which add to the fullness of life which are not happy ones.

Some of our most fulfilling and treasured moments and memories are ones in which we are sad. Our favorite movies, songs and stories are often very sad, a sadness we cherish and which fills our lives. Sadness and other types of emotional distress often are beneficial and make us more appreciative of life. Much of life’s beauty is in its diversity. There is far more to life than happy moments.

Many of life’s most fulfilling moments are ones of determination and mastery when we overcome a great challenge. Difficult and adverse times are not happy times, but they harbor as much opportunity for fulfillment as any moment of joy. An intimate life often forsakes the joys of the moment to work on or attain a long term goal of great personal meaning.

An intimate life looks to happy times to provide the energy and enthusiasm needed to support an optimistic and productive attitude towards life. Though not the only experiences worthy of an intimate existence, joy and happiness are central to constructing a self-fulfilling life. A happy spirit seeks laughter and good times and finds joy and solace in even the most difficult times. Such is the attitude of a determined spirit whose life seeks intimacy in a realistic and rewarding fashion.

Freedom and Dependency

One of the ironies of being human is that we all want to be free, and yet we all want to belong. We want to be recognized for our unique talents and qualities, but also yearn to be associated with people or groups with which we identify. We want to be free and independent individuals, but desire to love and be loved by those with whom we feel an inner bond.

The desire to be the confident toddler who leaves mom only to return to her comforting smile, is as part of being human as eating and breathing. We all want recognition and acceptance, to step out on our own, yet be appreciated and understood.

Each exploration we make of the world opens us up to new possibilities and options. At one moment we may be struck by how unusual or foreign something is, while at another moment we may discover new associations or similarities. All that we find in ourselves or the world around us that is foreign or unique reinforces our feelings of individuality. Likewise, all that we find which is echoed in our hearts has us feel more united and secure.

An intimate person refines and improves the quality of his life by exploring all the options life has to offer. Each moment he studies himself he further defines and distinguishes himself from the world he perceives. Yet, each discovery he makes has him gain a clearer understanding of the world. Increased understanding leads him to feel closer and more united to this world both foreign and familiar.

The life of every man is filled with options and possibilities, limitations and dependencies. Man is neither totally free, nor completely bound, and it is through intimacy that he is able to keep his life balanced. An intimate individual works with life’s limitations and uses them to his benefit. Accepting his dependent nature (through the drive to become closer), an intimate individual uses his experiences as a way to make his life interesting and meaningful.

Addiction and over-dependency are averted by careful reflection of one’s needs and payoffs. An intimate person effectively monitors his dependencies by ascertaining when a union is no longer a reliable source of joy and happiness. Whereas a healthy attachment to an interest stimulates one’s interest in the world, an unhealthy one draws one away from other pleasures and interests. Over-dependency replaces adventure and anticipation with fear and mistrust, placing an unrealistic expectation on one object or activity to satisfy all of one’s needs.

It is through man’s dependent nature that he develops a sense of community and is capable of such experiences as love, friendship, compassion, empathy and understanding. Without the desire to bond with others and the world around us, our lives would not only lack meaning but any impetus to continue living. Our dependencies give us both a life to experience and the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment which sustains our interest and joy.

The dependent component of human nature is well complemented by our sense of freedom and possibility. The perception that we are an individual is founded on the fact that our lives are filled with options and choices. Our lives can either be meaningful and fulfilling, or empty and futile. Life is both a privilege and a responsibility able to be enjoyed or wasted. The challenge to each individual is to make his life fulfilling, and it is through an intimate existence that one succeeds in maximizing their potential.

In an intimate existence one neither denies their dependencies nor exaggerates their freedoms. An intimate individual accepts life with all its limitations and guides it with their ability to anticipate, predict and imagine. Instead of fleeing life through ideals and fantasy, they use their gifts of invention and creativity to immerse themselves in their experiences.

An intimate person seeks to be close to himself as well as to the world. Our desire to know and appreciate ourselves as individuals has us explore our options, unique qualities and potential. Our quest to be intimate with and understand ourselves balances our tendency to be dependent on things outside of us.

Just as a confident toddler balances his dependency on mom with his curiosity for the world, an intimate person balances his dependency on others with self-discovery and adventure. In the world of intimacy independence (freedom) and union (dependency) are not opposed, but rather two distinct yet inter-related fields of investigation and fulfillment.

Knowledge and Meaning

A lack of confidence causes a person or group to become conservative in their views and actions. A person who is afraid protects himself by being closed and inflexible. In the field of knowledge this is reflected in the number of people who passionately cling on to eternal truths and incontestable scientific facts.

Confident individuals in love with life have little need for eternal truths. Open and optimistic they look forward to the future while clinging less to the past. Knowledge to an intimate confident person is an endless process of adventure and reward.

Fearful individuals are wary and distrustful of any challenge or new event. Their insecurities force them to seek security in a stagnant world view, where everything is already known. Truths rather than guiding and directing, dictate all human behavior for now and forever.

An intimate person uses his current knowledge to understand the future. Secure and enthusiastic, a confident person is excited by the prospect of change and vigilantly seeks a more accurate picture of the world around him. With each new intuition and discovery his knowledge of the world is not threatened but clarified.

What we know and consider to be true constructs the meaning in our life. Since knowledge for the intimate individual is a never ending process, meaning in life, too, changes. Meaning, like all other aspects of human existence, is able to grow and be cultivated. A life in the process of becoming more intimate becomes more meaningful each and every day. This highly rewarding view of knowledge and meaning is difficult to attain in a stagnant world view predicated on eternal truth and fact.

Knowledge becomes meaningful when we assign it a purpose or recognize a way it impacts our lives. In a stagnant world view the meaning of our lives is predetermined and unchanging. In the world view of intimacy, meaning is something to be gleaned from and verified by our ever expanding field of knowledge. Meaning is alive, growing and changing along with us. This does not imply that meaning is arbitrary, but only that it unfolds and becomes clearer through time.

An intimate life is guided and inspired by knowledge and meaning. All we know and the meanings associated with this knowledge are validated and refined through reflection and experience. There is no truth beyond investigation and no fact which is exempted from evaluation. In an intimate life all that we experience and discover is vitally important and valuable, for it directly effects the very meaning of our existence.

Reflection and Intuition

During our exploration into intimacy we have employed a very broad definition of reflection. In this view, reflection occurs whenever we consciously interrupt the spontaneous flow of thoughts, feelings, actions, perceptions and sensations which comprise mundane existence. Reflection need take no more than a moment’s time, but one is free to spend an entire afternoon reflecting.

Reflection is an activity creating understanding and meaning. Through reflection we gain insight into our experiences, adding to our understanding of ourselves while infusing meaning into our lives. One can reflect in repose or during the most strenuous activity. Any time our awareness evaluates or assesses what we are doing, or have done, we are engaged in reflection.

Intuition is the component of reflection which projects forward into the future. Filled with insights and theories, intuition gives perspective to our lives by exploring the possible. Intuition is our capacity to postulate a future course of action, or gain insight into our behavior or those of others. Intuition is the father of creativity and invention and helps us understand reality through revealing all that is possible or ideal.

Through reflection and intuition we are able to identify, assess and prioritize our needs. Goals become articulated and accomplishments get recognized as our lives forever convert reflection into meaning. Our desire to be intimate with the world guides our reflections and inspires us to design plans and activities which verify our intuitions.

An intimate person yearns to convert all intuition and knowledge into fulfillment. This inspires an intimate person to be a disciplined and caring explorer. Through discipline a persons talents are cultivated and his dreams clarified. One’s appreciation of life grows with the development of each skill, and the fulfillment of every dream.

Reflection and intuition, though potentially very rewarding, aren’t inherently beneficial. As in the case of any human endeavor these skills are able to be misused or wasted. One is free to reflect on the most destructive or trivial of matters, or be intuitive about inconsequential things. Our lives can be enriched or impoverished by our use of reflection and intuition. What we reflect on and how we use our intuition determines the impact these activities have on the quality of our life.

A life open, optimistic and focused on intimacy will derive the maximum benefit from reflection and intuition. When all our goals, dreams and activities are directed towards increased union and appreciation, our reflections can be little else than fulfilling.

Fulfillment

A life worthwhile is a life fulfilled. Without feelings of fulfillment our lives become empty and futile. Therefore, the goal of every conscious life is to be fulfilled. Fulfillment is not just a collection of fulfilling moments, but a general satisfaction with life. A fulfilled person is not one devoid of all feelings of emptiness or dissatisfaction, but rather a person who is generally happy and content with their life..

Fulfillment is only possible when a person’s basic needs and desires are routinely met. They must also have a realistic and positive view of life, and perceive themselves to be growing. This demands that our fulfilling moments be connected together and not just be a series of isolated experiences. This also demands that we not harbor any negative views which detach us from life, or reduce our options and fulfilling experiences.

In this book we have shown how most human ideals attain fulfillment through either denying some aspects of life, or adapting a rather limited or negative view of human experience. The exception to this was intimacy, which was found to be adaptable and open to every aspect of life. The diversity and flexibility of intimacy allows it to pervade our lives as a constant and endless source of fulfillment.

While some forms of fulfillment may be shallow, restricted, narrow or infrequent, intimacy is both plentiful and of the highest import. Meeting basic needs such as food and shelter, though very necessary, do not completely satisfy us. Through intimacy we are able to not only identify all our needs but to prioritize and refine them. In this way we are able to meet all our needs be they physical, emotional, intellectual, practical or spiritual.

What is fulfillment? Where does one find fulfillment? What do people find fulfilling in their lives? How does one find lasting fulfillment? Such questions have puzzled man for ages. The answers aren’t obvious and are not to be found in the experience of fulfillment itself.

Intimacy is different than fulfillment in that it is not only an experience, but a method and attitude towards life. Intimacy, through the process of being intimate, answers the essential questions of fulfillment. An intimate person, aware of their needs and capabilities, is able to glean fulfillment from a number of activities and experiences. Intimacy keeps an individual focused on what really matters to them and thereby makes fulfillment a constant companion to experience.

Many human ideals can create fulfilling experiences and some ideals can even sustain valuable life tasks. Yet, it is intimacy’s flexibility and comprehensiveness which allows it to accent the noblest qualities of every human ideal. Since everything (real or imaginable, physical or mental, mundane or profound) is capable of drawing us closer to ourselves and to life in general, nothing is without potential or value. It is this open and positive view of life which allows intimacy to unite and purify all ideals rather than adopt a competitive and exclusive stance towards them.

The goal of intimacy, to become closer and more familiar, is rather simple and straightforward. Any experience which accomplishes this (be it sensorial, emotional or spiritual) is worthy of investigation. Any style, attitude or experience excluded is done so because of its limitations and not due to any predetermined philosophical bias of intimacy. Intimacy, being relatively free of any preconceptions, is uniquely able to accept and adapt to life on its own terms. What an intimate person incorporates or discards from his existence is based solely on the effect and impact each of his experiences has on his overall feelings of fulfillment and accomplishment.

Summary

Our quick inventory of some of the basic elements and qualities of intimacy has proven to be quite informative. We have learned that an intimate existence is comprised of intimate choices, and that many more options are available to people than they usually perceive. We have seen how the flexibility and comprehensiveness of intimacy allows it to incorporate the noblest aspects of almost every other human ideal. We have also recognized that all human ideals, including intimacy, can be misused or abused. Yet, intimacy has a distinct advantage in its ability to correct its own mistakes and excesses through the very process of becoming intimate.

In contrast to most ideals which limit themselves by taking a narrow or negative view of human existence, intimacy maintains a life affirming attitude towards the individual, society and all human experience. An intimate individual not only remains open, but ferrets out and cultivates the potential in every aspect of life. Intimacy, being both realistic and practical, is not an ideal divorced from or standing above life. An intimate person is quite aware that there is no perfectly intimate life. Immersed and integrated in the world, an intimate individual knows there are real limitations and restrictions on the quality of life. At each moment we have to choose between a host of possibilities, yet often the choices we are forced to make offer little or no reward.

Survival and responsibility often demand us to choose activities which hold little promise for intimacy. People often find themselves in a job situation or a marriage which offers little or no opportunity for joy and growth. Yet, immediately leaving their job or marriage would prove to be very harmful to them or to their loved ones. In such a predicament, like all others, one must choose the most beneficial action. Sometimes none of the options available look that ideal, but even an action which prevents further damage or emotional harm is an intimate one.

An intimate individual is excited by the challenge of life. Aware and accepting of life’s limitations, he seeks to meet the demands of life without sacrificing his own needs and integrity. In each situation he makes decisions in his best interests, and though often responsibility and obligation take precedence over adventure and personal growth, he chooses intimacy at every available opportunity.

The demands and restrictions of life make it impossible for us to procure or savor intimacy at every moment in each experience. Yet, an intimate spirit, ever thirsty for fulfillment, will vigilantly plan and design an intimate life. When the desire for union and familiarity dominates all others, one will always find ways to be intimate. A life of intimacy is bound to be attained when fulfillment takes precedence over and prioritizes all our other needs.

Life is full of many distractions and obstacles which make it hard for us to stay optimistic and focused on intimacy. Life is also full of trauma and pain, robbing us of our security. Our failures can often outweigh our successes and our trust of others and belief in ourselves can dwindle with each setback. Once fearful and insecure it is easy for our inhibitions to get the best of us, distorting our goals and warping our priorities.

Where there is pain, fear or failure there will always be inhibitions and insecurities stunting and diluting the quality of our life. This is why an intimate life strives to identify all inhibitions past, present and future. Always on the lookout for fears, inhibitions and futile behavior, an intimate individual uses his insights into himself and others to remove all unnecessary obstacles to union.

An intimate person realizes that each challenge in life is an opportunity, and every joy in life is to be appreciated to its fullest. Personal fulfillment and a high quality of life are there for those willing to cultivate and refine intimacy. A successful person is not one who necessarily has wealth or power, but the one who finds his daily experiences rewarding and meaningful. Throughout this book we have examined and explored the intimate attitude which fosters both meaning and a sense of accomplishment. Our journey has been long and diverse, but hopefully not confusing. I know I will use Exploring Intimacy as a frequent resource and reminder, and invite you to do the same.

Much of the joy in writing this book has been in the personal adventure it provided for me. In each chapter I was forced to put into words the ideals and principles which guide my life. I learned a lot about myself through writing this book, and I’m sure I will use it for clarification and inspiration in the years to come. I hope that you have found our exploration into intimacy intriguing and refreshing and, too, will find comfort now and in the future in the pages of this book.

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