15 Jun 2007 01:00 pm

OBSTACLES TO INTIMACY

Throughout this book we have come across a number of internal and external factors which diluted or blocked our experience of intimacy. In this chapter we will try to clarify and expound upon these and many other obstacles a person attempting to live an intimate existence will likely encounter.

Without exception the most revered skills and experiences promoting intimacy were found to be able to be misused or abused. Likewise, we often recognized that attitudes and situations which were generally viewed as being detrimental to the quality of life were found to have beneficial uses. In general, we began to see that it wasn’t so much the activity or enterprise which created intimacy and self-fulfillment, but rather how such activities were conducted.

During our investigation into the history of human ideals we were able to see the negative views of life which routinely contaminate our noblest goals. We found that escapism and a basic distrust of life often fuel our noblest goals, stripping normal sense experience of its basic integrity while seeking refuge in the world of the wholly other. Reduced to a pure illusion human experience was nothing more than a phantom to be transcended and transformed.

One of the biggest and most diverse obstacles to intimacy is fear. Fear along with pain are at the heart of the desire to transcend life. Fear is also at the center of the negative view on limitation, and on the unrealistic goal of seeking perfection. Fear is at the center of most of our inhibitions and prejudice and it is fear which has trouble accepting any mystery or change in life.

Let’s now take a few minutes to discuss the role of fear and other inhibiting stances which dilute our experience of intimacy.

Fear and Insecurity

In our example of the exploring toddler, we saw how important confidence was in fostering and maintaining a love of discovery. A secure toddler is a happy one, who uses each new adventure to build on his knowledge and appreciation of himself, his mother, and the world around him. His frequent excursions from mom’s side only add to his familiarity and love for his mother.

All that a toddler sees and experiences becomes more meaningful as his ability to share it with mom improves. His natural drive for intimacy seduces him into entering and learning about a world quite foreign and chaotic to him, and through this drive even the most puzzling events begin to make sense. Everything he sees is compared and contrasted with all he has previously learned and each adventure creates new associations deepening and articulating his love of mom. Each departure from mom’s side is made all the more glorious by the exhilarating prospect of once more returning to her arms.

As we grow older the return to mom is expanded to include many cherished and familiar things. Every adventure and discovery we make is made meaningful by being contextualized into our life. As our lives progress we add, build and collect, and like any skilled artist we rearrange all these things into their most attractive form. Constantly making adjustments and discarding unnecessary parts we forge a beautiful masterpiece anchored in our past and projected into the future.

If our lives were devoid of pain and discomfort we could be an enthusiastic and secure little toddler drifting freely from adventure to adventure until the day we died. Yet, our lives are filled with frustrations and pains which inhibit our confidence and expose our vulnerabilities. Just as an insecure toddler fearfully clings to mom, or protects himself from the world, so, too, do we as adults shield ourselves from chaos and pain.

Almost every obstacle towards intimacy that we have finds its origin in the fear and insecurity fostered by distressing experiences. Even the most happy and confident toddler can be rendered timid and conservative by a scary moment, or a particularly frustrating or painful experience. Every adult and the society of man as a whole are just as vulnerable to the restrictive repercussions of chaotic or painful experience.

A short term inhibition may simply prevent one from maximizing the potential of the moment, rendering the experience at hand bland and lifeless. Yet, a deeply ingrained inhibition will manifest itself in a stance, attitude, belief, or habit which robs one’s life of intimacy in a very profound and lasting way. The fact that such inhibitions are so common and easy to form (and so destructive to our happiness and quality of life) makes it imperative for us to identify and resolve as many of these inhibitions as possible.

The intent of most inhibitions and fears is to protect us and our self-esteem from suffering great harm. Yet, more often than not, our inhibitions last longer than the purpose they serve. Most long term fears and inhibitions, instead of just shielding us from harm, reduce and restrict our experience of life rendering it empty, boring or stagnant.

The paranoia, prejudice, mistrust and pessimism our fears and inhibitions engender restrict and alter our desire for intimacy. Instead of finding joy and fulfillment in adventure and discovery a fearful person is threatened by change and resentful of the happiness of others. An insecure person either isolates himself or joins groups opposed to other groups.

Finding a totally insecure person is as unlikely as finding a purely confident person. We all have our securities and our inhibitions and it is up to us to identify our weaknesses diluting the quality and openness of our lives.

Let’s now take a look at some of the more common stances, attitudes, behaviors and views which dilute and restrict our experience of intimacy.

Internal Obstacles

Most internal inhibitions are formed by personal fears and insecurities. Facing up to our own fears and inhibitions is a very difficult task. A task which becomes easier the longer and more often we do it.

An intimate life is filled with personal insights and discoveries shedding light on both our strengths and weaknesses (inhibitions). As long as our lives contain trauma, pain, fear and frustration there will always be old and new inhibitions to resolve. Addressing internal obstacles is a never ending (but rewarding) task; each inhibition overcome erases unnecessary limitations on our personal happiness and satisfaction.

All of us need entertainment in our lives and find solace in fantasy and imagination. Idle entertainment can be used to relax ourselves, recharging our batteries preparing us for our next vital task. Whether we are listening to the radio, watching television or a movie, or reading, these times of peace can be very gratifying. Often we can share these moments with those we love, and even if a word is never said the very presence of those dear to us can be rewarding.

Recreation and entertainment can be used for more than just down time. They can be the tools of learning and intimacy as well as rest or distraction. Listening to music can motivate and inspire, and can incite our imagination to dream and plan. All forms of recreation from mass media to the fine arts are filled with great potential. Fantasy and recreation can be potent sources of fulfillment and intimacy.

As is the case with most of life’s activities recreation and entertainment can be abused and misused. Instead of providing temporary relaxation or spiritual motivation, recreation and entertainment can be used to escape or avoid life, leaving one numb not relaxed, or isolated rather than inspired.

Recreation and fantasy find their distorted inhibited forms in escapism and addiction. In the case of escapism one hides or isolates himself from the world, sacrificing all at the prospect of removing life’s pains. Likewise, in addiction, a person cuts themselves off from the diversity of life by becoming dependent on one thing. This center of their existence could be anything from a drug to an activity, from a fantasy to a belief.

The differences between healthy forms of recreation, fantasy, and entertainment, and escapism and addiction is in their goals and payoffs. The goal of escapism is to avoid, isolate and protect oneself from life. The goal of addiction is to reduce ones life to the constant acquisition of a desired pleasure. An addiction is an obsession in which one isolates, avoids and protects oneself from life through a very restrictive and narrow form of self-gratification.

A confident person finds no reason to hide from life or reduce his existence to the demands of a need. An intimate person is too enthralled with life’s options and challenges to shield themselves through isolation, or focus his entire attention and energy on a pleasure, no matter how temporarily rewarding.

Even if we are generally secure and happy people, we are never totally free of the negative aspects of addiction and escapism. We all have minor addictions in which we place too much emphasis and importance upon a relatively useless habit or preference. Our past traumas and current fears taint and inhibit our drive to get closer to things, causing us to unnecessarily shield and protect ourselves.

In other words, we all have our insecurities and fears which give rise to unnecessary habits (addictions) and defenses (escapes). It is a mistake to compare ourselves to a crack addict or a raging alcoholic and conclude that we have no addictions. No matter how severe one’s addiction there are always people who’s dependency will appear greater than ours.

Being human and having preferences and dependencies go hand in hand. Some of our addictions are relatively harmless, others not so harmless. It is the task of every person to constantly identify and evaluate the impact of their dependencies on the quality of their life. An intimate person, whether on their own or through the assistance of others, is always reflecting on and evaluating the quality of his life. Awareness of one’s dependencies and preferred attitudes towards life is an essential element of a life becoming more familiar with itself. A life unfolding itself is always on the lookout for any inhibition obstructing or limiting personal happiness and fulfillment.

Feeling of boredom, resignation and depression signal that one’s natural desire for intimacy has been injured. These feelings, too, are common manifestations of our fears and inhibitions and their cure is quite similar. Whether one is depressed, bored, dependent, obsessed or isolated the solutions generally follow one of two paths. Either one identifies and conquers the underlying inhibitions fueling their fears and lethargy, or one begins to engage in activities which foster intimacy.

Boredom, when viewed objectively, is truly an amazing mental phenomena. If one looks at all the possible options and interests available to even the most limited person, it is unimaginable that any human being could be bored. Boredom, therefore, indicates that an individual’s intense fears have cut themselves off from all enjoyment, or that their priorities and needs are all misplaced.

People who spend their time engaging in activities and obligations which they do not enjoy, are setting themselves up to be bored. This feeling of having no options and being locked in to a lifestyle offering no growth or excitement is indicative of a person whose self-esteem and joy have been crushed by their fears and responsibilities. Such a person needs to realize that they deserve to get their needs met, and immediately begin to engage in rewarding and personally meaningful activities.

It is only logical that a person who is engaging in and cultivating things of personal import will never be depressed, bored or adopt an attitude of resignation. If a person is bored or depressed they are either disconnected from their own needs, or too afraid to get them met. Their fears may stem from emotional realms such as love and acceptance, or from practical realms like success and survival.

Yet, as we have stated many times inhibited people underestimate the options available to them. An insecure person imprisoned by his own fears will see himself condemned to a futile life. Such a world view is not usually born from the harshness of reality but from the need for a traumatized and frightened person to distance and disconnect themselves from their own needs.

A pessimistic or depressed person will often vehemently defend their feelings of resignation shooting down all attempts at finding a solution. Upon identifying their interests and dreams they will quickly add that they have no time, or declare they are too old to begin such an undertaking. This defeatist attitude is common amongst people who have lost their lust for life to their fears and insecurities. Yet, once an individual gets over their initial resistance and begins playing piano, going to school, or becoming involved in some activity that interests them, their reservations soon prove to be unfounded.

Another common version of a defeatist attitude is demonstrated by the self-proclaimed underachiever. This person is comfortable with mediocrity because he fears failure. Instead of confidently following his dreams and interests, he cultivates talents and activities that mean little to him, thereby, avoiding the emotional devastation of not accomplishing his true goals while living a safe and bland (boring) existence.

Fears and insecurities can cause one to adopt defensive stances and employ many diverse defense mechanisms such as the ones we are currently outlining. Some people riddled by fear and insecurity expect failure and invite outside attack. Viewing themselves as victims to be persecuted such individuals minimize the pain of failure and rejection by expecting disaster at every turn. The goal of this elaborate defense mechanism is to protect themselves by never getting their hopes up or exposing their fragile pride to another devastating defeat.

Many defense mechanisms, such as the persecution complex or victim consciousness, requires self-deception. These lies to the self are designed to protect and shield one from disappointment. Verbally denying that one harbors any hope or has any expectations of success are self-deceptions which are only partially successful. One’s expectation of failure does not remove the pain, but only lowers one’s efforts and investment making success all the more difficult.

The irony of a defeatist attitude is that it routinely fosters the very failures and pain it is designed to minimize. Defensive attitudes neither shield nor protect one from failure, but only restrict the energy, anticipation and drive on which success and intimacy thrive.

The more fearful and insecure a person is the more threatened he is by change. Instead of envisioning the opportunity change provides, an insecure person focuses on the pain and suffering it could bring. Just like the frightened toddler clinging on to mom’s legs, an insecure adult resists and is made anxious by change.

An insecure life is very closed and protected, not only emotionally, but mentally. That is why inhibition leads to hate and prejudice. A person paralyzed by fear is unable to tolerate anything new or foreign. Threatened by all that is new and different insecure individuals are close-minded holding onto strong, often illogical, preconceptions.

Since none of us are totally secure or without fear, it is safe to say we all have our prejudices and resistances to change. One does not have to openly hate things in order to possess the seeds of prejudice.

Our prejudice may subtly express itself in prohibitions we place upon our children, or in beliefs which we blindly accept as true. Our prejudice may surface in the urgency we place upon things, or in the catastrophes we envision when things go wrong, or become difficult.

Insecurity driven prejudice is often behind the beliefs and principles which we savagely defend against all evidence to the contrary. Our fears may propel us into finding quick illogical answers, or make us defensive when someone questions our views.

Out of fear we may find it easier to blame others than to seek solutions. We may find fault with the system, or view others as the problem, without identifying any solutions. Even our humor in the form of biting sarcasm may thinly veil our fears and prejudices.

We all have the insecurities and fears which give rise to petty prejudice. This fact should not darken our optimism, but only add to our resolve to seek out and conquer these obstacles to intimacy. Fear and insecurity distance us from ourselves and all we come in contact with, therefore, actively dealing with our insecurities and dependencies is vital in our quest to find personal fulfillment. Our goal as always is not to become perfect, but only more familiar and close to all we have the opportunity to encounter.

An intimate person always seeks growth through solution and improvement. Whenever possible, problems are to be viewed as challenges and not dead ends. Instead of blaming or finding fault an intimate approach involves finding options and alternatives. Constructive criticism of oneself and others, not blame, is the process by which solutions are found. Improvement comes when a situation is worked through, not complained about or ignored.

Ignoring a problem usually involves taking a passive stance in which a person either denies or minimizes an existing conflict. Instead of defensively blaming others, one’s fears take the shape of having no opinion, or desiring not to make waves. This passive form of resistance, though often not as offensive to others, is still an obstacle to the experience of intimacy.

A non-committal passive approach is just another insecure defense mechanism lacking in energy and confidence. This quiet defeatism denies both parties the opportunity for further growth and feelings of success. The passive person is denying all others of the objectivity and insight their viewpoint contains, while also denying themselves an opportunity to solve a problem or become closer to others.

Investing oneself by taking an active interest in the world around us is crucial to the experience of intimacy. Too often people protect themselves by becoming emotionally and intellectually distant. This distance may express itself through physical isolation, or the opposite extreme of the social butterfly whose sole goal is to be everybody’s friend. A person afraid of being rejected or alone will often adopt even the most personally repugnant stance in order to maintain the outward pretense of friendship.

Many times very insecure people will go to almost any extreme to keep the peace and give the appearance of being intimate with a number of people. Such people are often very affectionate, hugging and caressing even the most distant acquaintance. Instead of truly investing and sharing themselves in a real intimate relationship an insecure social person will vainly attempt to replace intimacy with surface affection. Rather than working through their fears and insecurities regarding bonding with people, the social butterfly prefers to just play a role. This defense mechanism, like all others, is only partially successful and though some needs are temporarily met, one’s underlying emptiness is never appeased.

Another variation of passive resignation is exemplified in the verbal technique often referred to as philosophical relativism. In this technique a person avoids, or more often attempts to end all discussion and inquiry by stating that everyone has their opinion. This stance expresses its insecurities by attempting to dismiss all discussion as mere opinion, while tacitly denying that any truth or fact exist. Like all excessively passive stances, philosophical relativism, robs life of its energy and meaning by taking away the very possibility of growth and progress.

Though it may be true that all knowledge is fleeting and imperfect, it is not true that understanding is pure illusion or useless. We do not seek intimacy DESPITE the fact that life and knowledge are finite and imperfect, but rather BECAUSE life is a mystery begging to be understood.

Life enthralls and fascinates us because of its complexity and diversity. This entire inquiry into internal inhibition has amply demonstrated to us how no one attitude is inherently perfect. A person can error by overcompensating and being obsessive in a number of directions.

One can be aggressively blaming the entire world for their problems, or passively ignore that any problems exist. One can fabricate the truth through bias and prejudice, or discount the importance of any discovery. One can protect themselves by complete isolation, or be overly dependent on the surface approval of others. In other words an intimate person has to be consciously selective of not only what they cultivate, but how they cultivate it. They need to periodically assess the reasons for their current stances and the pay-offs these attitudes seek. Intimacy, like life itself, is a never ending process filled with challenge and possibility.

Over the last couple of decades there has been an increasing emphasis placed upon the biological origins of many mental and physical dependencies and inhibitions. Chemical imbalances have been found to be present in everything from addiction and depression, to phobia and anxiety. Many times chemical and neurological dysfunctions are found to be overwhelming, incapacitating a person or drastically impairing their quality of life. Chemical intervention through the use of prescription drugs is proving to be very helpful in successfully treating (or at least managing) many forms of depression and addiction.

If one’s fears, addictions and inhibitions have their origin in a chemical imbalance then aren’t they beyond one’s conscious control? What good does it do to discuss refining and improving our skills and attitudes if our problems are organic? What good is an intimate stance if our behavior and attitude is controlled by the chemical balance of our body?

Once again we are faced with the concept of physical limitation. In this instance rather than the handicap being a loss of a limb, or a dependency on a machine, the limitation manifests itself in the chemical balance of our body. We will admit that in certain extreme situations a person’s experience of the quality of life can be grossly impaired by a neurological dysfunction or chemical imbalance. Yet, in most cases, the options open to one are a lot greater than many would perceive.

Many people who have an identifiable organic problem use this fact to excuse them from working on or solving their problems. People announce I’m an addict, depressed, or have a phobia as if they have no say in the matter.

Every thought, perception and sensation we have and movement we make causes changes in our body chemistry. This fact makes it possible for us to conceive that our day-to-day lives create many of the chemical imbalances which give rise to anxiety, depression and addiction. The question then becomes do my depressed and insecure thoughts cause my chemical imbalance, or does my chemical imbalance cause my depression?

There is much evidence supporting both views and, therefore, they are both probably right. I’m sure there are instances which a person’s inherent chemical composition not only predisposes but virtually mandates that he be depressed, paranoid or addicted. Likewise, I’m pretty sure that there are people who originally had no chemical predisposition to depression but have quite freely created their depressed state.

Most people probably lie somewhere in between. They may have a slight chemical, organic, or even emotional predisposition towards a particular inhibition or dependency, but are relatively free to overcome it on their own.

The role our body chemistry plays in our mental attitude and general disposition is very important in our quest for intimacy on a number of levels. First, it reminds us how important our every thought and feeling is in developing and refining our ability to experience intimacy. Everything, from how we spend our time to what we eat, is vitally important when we think of the impact every event has on our body and spirit.

When we improve our behavior, we feel better about ourselves, and with each positive emotion we feel, we are improving our body chemistry. Likewise, the more healthy and relaxed our bodies, the better our attitudes towards the world. These facts are not just concepts, but have their origin in the essential chemical composition of our bodies.

The role human chemistry plays in our general disposition should not only have us become more careful and aware of how we treat our bodies, but should inspire us to adopt a realistic view of our capabilities. Our organic limitations, though not to be used as an excuse to not try to grow and improve, should help us to be more patient with ourselves.

Increasing the amount of intimacy in our lives often entails substantial changes in attitude and behavior. These changes will take time, and are affected by both our emotional history and current physiology. Change, therefore, will come slowly at times as our bodies and emotions struggle to keep up with our desires for intimacy.

Finally, we should also be aware of the possibility that we may require professional assistance in overcoming some of our limitations and inhibitions. This assistance may take the form of chemical intervention through prescription drugs, physical therapy, or neurological assistance to overcome organic handicaps, or psychological assistance in resolving emotional and attitudinal obstacles to intimacy.

A person receiving medication to overcome depression, anxiety or addiction needs to realize the limits of medication. Medication can at best relieve the organic limitations induced by a chemical imbalance. Removing an obstacle does not make one’s life fulfilled, it only makes fulfillment more possible. Once an organic limitation is reduced or removed through medical intervention, it is still up to the person to begin living a fulfilling life.

External Obstacles

External obstacles are often driven by the same mechanisms of fear and insecurity which dominate internal inhibition, but are felt by us to be coming from the outside. Responsibilities, expectations and obligations dominate the social environmental realm of external obstacles.

The most obvious external obstacle we have limiting and directing our lives is our daily work world. Financial success and survival are more directly equated in modern society than in any other time period. In most circumstances our very social worth as a human being is determined by the prestige and economic power of our daily employment.

As in the case of any obstacle or limitation, those produced by our careers and our physical needs are not as dire as we imagine. Fear and insecurity can inflate one’s needs and cloud one’s options. Success and security are usually ideals without an end. One is never completely successful or financially secure and, therefore, never free from the increasing time and energy demands of advancement.

People placing a high value on economic and social success often place other needs on hold until after they’ve accomplished their career goals. The problem is their career goals forever broaden, and every climb up the business ladder only makes their possible fall more scary and humiliating. Caught in the endless treadmill of success, such people find intimacy lacking in almost every other aspect of their life.

In reality our actual physical needs are not that great. Sure we are in need of money to buy food, and employment to acquire reliable insurance to help us cope with any emergency. Yes, money can provide us with many comforts and luxuries which enhance the quality of our lives. Yet, what good is money if it does not buy us free time or help us fulfill our need to become closer and more familiar with the things we love and desire?

There is a distinct difference between feeling secure and imprisoned. Too often people allow their personal goals and societal expectations regarding their careers to have them cross over that line into imprisonment.

An intimate person will not find any one aspect of life so attractive as to forsake all others. In love with life’s diversity they will seek and find fulfillment in a variety of activities and enterprises. Finding a career which fulfills more than just monetary needs is important, but even the most ideal career will not sufficiently satisfy all one’s needs. Success no matter how substantial cannot replace the fulfillment we get from becoming intimate and more familiar with our lives.

Our society is constructed in such a way that financial success is overemphasized. Occupations making great sums of money are generally more respected and sought after than jobs earning less. If two people have the same job, the one making more money will be considered more successful regardless of the quality of their work.

This exaggeration of the role of money is understandable when one looks at the role wealth has played throughout history. With wealth has come power, influence and prestige. People with money were able to have the most comfortable lives, and attain the best medical care offered by the times. It is not like wealthy people did not suffer or die, but they were able to live a life of luxury, providing the a great deal of free time and protection from harm.

Though it is true that the wealthy are still able to attain the best health care and live the most luxurious lifestyle, the rights and privileges of the average citizen have improved greatly. The general health and life span of a person making over 200,000 a year is not much greater than a person making 20,000 a year. Neither is starving, and both are able to cultivate joy in their lives.

There is no denying that a wealthy person has more opportunities in his life, but many of these advantages have little to do with personal fulfillment or the quality of one’s life. A relatively poor person with a large family, will have few options in life, yet having a large family is basically a matter of choice. Wealth still has it’s advantages, but many of the privileges of the wealthy have now become commonplace, such as recreational time, quality health care, educational opportunity, a voice in government and personal and legal rights.

Of gravest social concern is the fact that the proportion of the populace in poverty is growing, and that an alarming number of citizens in industrial nations are without health care. Yet, food and health care for all around the globe is more of a political problem than one of necessity.

Our current problems regarding world starvation is not so much a problem of supply, as it is of fear. We have enough food to feed the planet, but it is our political and personal fears which has us hoard and protect our surplus food supplies.

The fear is that if we don’t continue to expand our personal wealth that we too will starve, or live a life of poverty. This fear is what drives most people to work incessantly and have making money become their highest priority. Yet, this fear and its related desire for success, contribute greatly to many of the obstacles to intimacy we place on ourselves and to all who share the planet.

The struggle to survive, or maintain a decent lifestyle, powers most of us to work hard and long at our careers. Many people in an effort to “get ahead” work two jobs, and most families now have all available adults employed. The jobs people have are seldom ideal, but are a “necessity”. The work they do is often repetitive, not very challenging, and offers little opportunity for personal growth. Often times promotions provide us with an even more tedious and boring job, but with the promise of increased salary.

One can feel limited and restricted in even challenging and rewarding employment, especially if the time and energy required by the job dominates our existence. Our desire for intimacy requires us to grow, to branch out and embrace the world with energy an enthusiasm. Our jobs, no matter how satisfying are only part of our total world. An intimate individual seeks to know themselves, others, knowledge and nature in ways that a job, nor any one interest can fulfill.

Our fears and insecurities fueling our obsession with wealth and success are at odds with our desire for intimacy. Some people ignore their desires for intimacy making their occupation their highest priority no matter what the cost, whether that cost be their relationship to their spouse, family, friends or even to themselves. Most people aware of their feelings of lack, struggle to balance their fears of survival with their needs of intimacy.

Overcoming the exaggerations inherent in our fears regarding survival are vital in our quest to attain intimacy. These fears are not only obstacles to our experience of intimacy, but also cause us to infringe upon the quality of other people’s lives.

Popular social fears are usually founded upon historical traumas and are prolonged through current myths. We’ve already discussed the rather extensive historical basis for our survival fears. The traumas and pain of the real world, has paralyzed and ravaged every culture who has walked the earth. Yet, as man has progressed some of his severest realities have become myths, no longer a necessity but just a possibility.

One such myth is that wealthy people live better lives. Wealth can create opportunity, but it has no privileged relationship to happiness and personal fulfillment. In fact many of our most tragic stories of personal pain, tragedy and despair involve wealthy individuals both past and present. Oftentimes their wealth only contributed to their deep feelings of emptiness and loneliness.

Our fear that we will not be able to provide ourselves and loved ones with the basic necessities of life causes us to view others as a threat to our security. This fear spawns a second popular myth, that of scarcity. It is this myth which induces us to hoard our wealth, and go to war with those whose ideas or beliefs we find most threatening. On a personal level it is this fear which incites us to win at all costs, and to overlook the feelings of those we compete against and exploit.

Our fears and insecurities bring out the worst in us, including the greed, wastefulness and mistrust which prevent us from ending world hunger, or any other global problem. Inherent in any philosophy of scarcity is the belief that some people succeed and others must fail, that some flourish while others perish. Scarcity is a monetary and possessional game of musical chairs in which the competition for seats becomes more intense as the game goes along. Instead of competing to hone each other’s skills or gain a better understanding of each other, scarcity demands us to view our competitors as the enemy.

Some may openly contest my view that scarcity is a myth, fervently professing that it is a reality. Even if scarcity does exist and I am wrong in believing we have enough food and resources for the entire planet, it is true that our fears and insecurities over amplify the problem. Scarcity is a myth in that its basic truth is distorted and saturated by fear and insecurity. An intimate person would, therefore, want to strip away the unnecessary fears which accompany and blind the problems of survival.

The over reactions propagated by our fears and insecurities regarding basic survival warp our society’s values, while creating unnecessary obstacles to personal fulfillment. When we overestimate the role of monetary significance and need we set ourselves up to work more than necessary. The work itself plus the urgency survival fears give to our employment creates formidable obstacles to intimacy.

If others pose a possible threat to my survival, then I must beat them before they beat me. The pervasiveness of this attitude is indicated by how frequently deception and misrepresentation are used in the business world. A successful salesman is one who can sell his wares above their value, hiding his product’s (company’s) flaws while exposing those of his competition. A successful defense attorney is one who can win cases for his clients even when he knows they are guilty.

The “realities” of the business world run counter to the morals and principles espoused in our religious and spiritual ideals. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to lie or deceive others. Yet, in the real world of scarcity, deception is often the only thing standing between us and failure.

Lying is a distancing skill. It distance us from ourselves by destroying our integrity. It distances us from others by creating illusions and misconceptions. It distances us from life, in that we are missing an opportunity to become closer to those with whom we are talking. Yet, lying is a profitable tool to the business man, or to any man who understands the quickest way to wealth is through exploiting and deceiving others.

The more necessary it seems, the easier it is to lie. When scarcity pervades our thought, and our very survival teeters on our every move, than lying actually becomes a noble deed. The fears and insecurities inherent in the myth of scarcity, glorify deception, and make it a most essential survival skill. A good liar is not only a successful business man, but often thought of as being a resourceful and creative individual.

I recently saw a television program in which man’s ability to deceive was being hailed as a human hallmark. Only man, they proclaimed, has the ability to deceive, and through this ability he has risen above all other creatures.

No one pointed out that deception (like creativity) is made possible by man’s unique ability to live in the possible. Living in the possible is, therefore, more of a hallmark of man, and creativity and deception just refined offshoots of this basic skill. Seen from the perspective of the possible, creativity appears more as a positive use of the possible, where lying (since it is contrary to intimacy) is an abuse of the possible.

Young children generally lie in order to avoid getting in trouble or punished. Adults, too, lie out of fear of getting harmed or in trouble. Lying is never an intimate action, for it’s goal is always to circumvent and escape.

In our society which not only fosters but often rewards deceit and deception even the most moral person finds reason to lie. An honest person may, after a series of setbacks, find it necessary to hide the truth. The sole purpose of the lie is to prevent another loss at the hands of a ruthless and manipulative business man who routinely uses the honesty of his competitors to his advantage.

Another reason generally moral people feel forced to lie is when they are told to by their bosses in order to protect the interests of the company. Even if not instructed to lie a kind person may turn to deceit to keep a cause they really believe in unsullied and functioning. Still other relatively pure souls lie in retaliation to a long standing gross injustice, or in an effort to protect the rights of an individual against a corrupt antagonist.

One of the most common reasons good people lie is to protect the feelings of others, or to avoid a possible conflict. The mistaken premise in this form of deceit is that the person has only two options before them; to wound or anger someone through brutally telling the truth or to lie. As always there are more options available to people than they perceive, and in most circumstances a tactful middle ground is available where one can tell the truth without being cruel or abrasive.

Anytime we exploit or take advantage of people through deceit, deception or manipulation we are creating an environment of mistrust. Those who are exploited by being lied to become distrustful of others and of their ability to judge people. Those who do the lying, lose respect for themselves and the people they fool and manipulate. Successful liars realizing the powers of deceit often keep their guard up finding it difficult to trust anyone or anything.

Thus far in our investigation into external obstacles we’ve focused all our attention on just a few key factors. We initially mentioned that many of the external obstacles we perceive, like many of the internal obstacles, are created by our fears and insecurities. Many of these obstacles are not so much real as imagined, and we usually have plenty more options than we suppose.

Though naming social obligations, responsibilities and expectations as examples of time consuming social obstacles, we quickly moved on to discuss success and employment. This was done, not because the limiting effects of these activities on intimacy is slight, but because all three concepts had been previously addressed in other chapters. Also, our thorough examination of employment and success centered around the very issues and feelings of responsibility, obligation and expectation.

Scarcity, whether real or imagined was found to be a highly limiting factor causing us to overemphasize our careers, while adopting a generally combative stance towards our competitors and anything foreign. Fears generated by a philosophy of scarcity were found to amplify our need to attain success through whatever means available including deception and exploitation.

In a culture condoning success through exploitation, it is only natural that the very fears and insecurities underlying our obsession with monetary success would also be exploited. This is done by many powerful and respectable institutions through the influence of fear merchants. Fear merchants are people who, for profit and power, capitalize on the fears of others.

Many venerable institutions were either founded on or contaminated by fear merchants yearning to convert mass insecurity into monetary gain. Fears of death, suffering and poverty are central to many financial powerhouses including insurance companies, law firms, banks and religious cults. These fear merchants promise security, safety and protection in return for money and influence.

Other fear merchants such as psychics, astrologers and mystics capitalize on people’s fears of the unknown and the future. Governments, politicians, and the military, too, offer protection for a price, much the same as gangs and organized crime do for their loyal neighbors and friends. When making a short list of fear merchants it is difficult to forget psychologists, medical personal, and therapists who likewise feed off of the real and imagined fears of others.

A majority of the individuals working in the above fields are caring and concerned people who truly believe in the benefits of the services they provide. Yet, in a competitive market place success comes to those who most arouse and capitalize on the underlying fears of the consumer. Selling fear is as much a part of modern service industries as alleviating pain and suffering.

Fear is a necessary survival tool. Through fear we are able to identify problems, and avoid catastrophes. Fear is also instrumental in assisting us in finding the best solution and engaging in safe behavior. Though fear distances us from the world around us, it is often that very distance which helps us avoid a devastating trauma, or have us survive another day.

Unrealistic and unfounded fears steeped in myth, the past or insecurity are highly detrimental to our lust for life. Exploiting people and their fears harms and reduces the openness of a culture, creating a paranoid society incapable of trust and intimacy. It is important, therefore, that we as a society should strive to reduce rather than promote fear.

As individuals desiring intimacy, we should continually reflect upon and reassess our fears. Understanding our fears not only provides us with valuable insights into ourselves and others, but effectively removes many unnecessary emotional obstacles prohibiting personal fulfillment. An intimate individual vigilantly seeks to remove all the fears and inhibitions which stifle intimacy and promote insecurity. A person desiring intimacy is devoted to removing the distance fear creates and sustains in our lives.

Obstacles and Limitations

Over the last two chapters we have discussed a number of obstacles and limitations to intimacy. By realizing that all human experience is limited and made possible by finite existence we were able to overcome our negative bias of limitation. Limitation, therefore, rather than being an inherent enemy of life, became a necessary tool which can be used or abused.

The only limitation which was found to prohibit intimacy was in the severe instances when the quality of life was irreparably injured. Only in such rare cases when the singular experience available was pain, or one’s life was doomed to a steady regression towards a vegetative state, was one able to talk of a life devoid of growth and intimacy. In all other cases intimacy was able to work around or with all physical and mental handicaps.

Obstacles, too, were found to be a misuse of skills and attitudes whose intention was to protect an individual from pain and distress. Let’s quickly review some of the forms obstacles to intimacy can take. An obstacle to intimacy can be:

1) behavioral: manifesting themselves in restrictive habits and inferior interests.

2) emotional: the entire realm of defenses and inhibitions grounded in our fears and insecurities.

3) intellectual: biases, blind beliefs, and unrealistic goals. Learning disabilities and mental handicaps.

4) bio-chemical: addictions and dependencies, depression, boredom and neurological dysfunctions.

5) physical: loss of limbs, paralysis, debilitating disease. Or human necessities such as food and shelter.

6) spiritual: abused forms of fantasy, escapism and mysticism.

7) social\environmental: jobs, obligations, responsibilities and expectations. Exploitation and deception.

8) historical: war, famine, slavery, myths, and personal trauma.

The above list is a mixture of some of the limitations and obstacles we have identified over the last two chapters. We should once again point out that many of the obstacles and limitations listed above are not inherently opposed to intimacy, but are detrimental to us only when abused or misused.

Our quest for fulfillment and intimacy is a never ending and complex adventure fraught with many obstacles and difficulties. Over the last two chapters and throughout this book we have discovered many perils and distractions which interfere with and dilute our feelings of self-satisfaction and security. The rewarding but unremitting task of an intimate person is to identify and resolve the inhibitions which keep us at a distance from life, ourselves and our feelings of accomplishment. It is only proper that intimacy, providing our life with meaning and purpose, is a never ending quest. A quest that is both a privilege and a responsibility.

Our exploration into intimacy could likewise go on forever, uncovering new obstacles and realms of fulfillment. Yet, such an extensive exploration is fit for one’s life, not a book to read. All a book on intimacy could ever accomplish is to point the way and incite others to take up their own journey. Before ending this book, let’s take one last look at the promise of fulfillment offered to those who devote their lives to acquiring and refining their experience of intimacy.

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