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Intimacy

18 Feb 2016   Shanti Gowans
 

Sharing is not always caring.

We are living in a transparent generation where the trend is towards sharing in the extreme. Over coffee with friends, at the water cooler with co-workers, and on social media, people are revealing more and more about their personal lives, their innermost thoughts and feelings, and their most private experiences.

In theory, the movement towards greater sharing should yield better relationships, closer connections, and improved capacity for emotional intimacy. After all, being open with a person is a fundamental part of connecting with that person. And yet, more and more research confirms that in fact it is doing the opposite. An obsession with sharing and a proclivity for being revealing actually damages relationships, hurts self-esteem, increases anxiety, lowers self-control, and breeds narcissism.

Yet, the reality is that in life, the more valuable and treasured something is, the more private and protected we keep it. The more it is accessible, revealed, and exposed, the cheaper it becomes. Indeed, the spiritual perspective is that genuine intimacy is achieved when something is private, exclusive, and inaccessible to others. This could be true physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The less we practice privacy and modesty in each of these arenas, the greater the challenge we have achieving authentic intimacy in them.

Imagine a world suddenly devoid of doors. None in your home, dressing rooms, the entrance to the local pub or even to restroom stalls at concert halls. The controlling authorities say if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then you shouldn’t mind. Well, that’s essentially the state of affairs on the Internet. There is no privacy. The problem is that if you reveal everything about yourself, or it’s discoverable with a Google search, you may be diminished in your capacity for intimacy. This goes back to social penetration theory, one of the most cited and experimentally validated explanations of human connection. Developed by Irwin Altman and Dalmas A. Taylor in the 1970s, the theory holds that relationships develop through gradual and mutual self-disclosure of increasingly private and sensitive personal information.

Building and maintaining an enduring, intimate relationship is a process of privacy regulation,’ said Dr. Altman, currently an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Utah. ‘It’s about opening and closing boundaries to maintain individual identity but also demonstrate unity with another, and if there are violations then the relationship is threatened.’”

The layout of the Hindu temple, consists of the very elaborate, outer gate, to entice the polulice in; the courtyard often with provisions for travellers to rest, and trade; the holy section where prayers and sacrifices are offered, and the last section, the sanctum santorium, or holy of holies that housed the real sacred relic, in the most private and inaccessible part of the temple, which was only entered into by the temple priests.

The spiritual teachers have suggested that we model our personal lives after the structure and layout of the temple. Learn to restrain your reactions and emotions and not to act out what is happening in your spiritual turmoil.  The holier and more intimate the feeling, the more it should be treasured. There is a hidden curtain that separates between one’s interior and the exterior, the dividing curtain that separates  the marketplace and the spiritual holiness located in the most inner sanctified, inner sanctum of your emotional life.

In this world devoid of doors we need to be all the more mindful to keep our curtain up and protect the sacred in our lives. This is not to suggest that you should not share your emotions and feelings at all and keep them bottled up; obviously that is unhealthy and potentially dangerous. But the sacred is seen by a selective audience.

Share your strong feelings, innermost thoughts and personal emotions with your spouse, or a family member you trust, or a close friend or confidant. But, not every thought or feeling needs to be made public. Not every personal experience or event merits sharing. Not every moment of frustration or point of pride with your job, with your children, or with your experience at a restaurant needs to be fodder for Facebook or with friends.

Failing to be judicious and thoughtful in what and how we share, profanes our lives and makes achieving intimate relationships difficult. Maintaining the capacity for privacy and mystery ultimately protects what we understand as sacred and elevates all the relationships in our lives.


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About Shantiji

Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.

Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography


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