The Five Areas of Intimacy: Emotional


We have looked at physical and  intellectual intimacy. The third is emotional intimacy: the expression of one's fears, joys, sadness, anger, etc., and the receiving of each other's feelings with respect and compassion -- without disqualifying, attacking, or withdrawing.

Emotional intimacy is often the area of intimacy that requires deeper individual reflection for couples. The map we reference to navigate our emotions was often designed in our childhood. Some of the roads were constructed by our parents, peers, and events outside of ourselves.

It is not uncommon for couples to request some individual work around what I like to call emotional resilience. According to dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and Sheri van Dijk, author of Calming the Emotional Storm, one of the most common contributing factors to emotion dysregulation is "...growing up in an emotionally invalidating environment, an environment in which you were taught that your emotions were wrong, inappropriate, or not okay. Whether these messages were direct (such as 'Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about') or subtle (your mother gets anxious every time you express anger, so you learn that anger isn't okay), the lesson is that your feelings are bad."

Emotions are important, indeed essential, to being human. Imagine how bland life would be without them. Yet, our emotions are layered and colored by a history that goes back to when we first expressed them as a child. We carry that history with us and are often unaware of it. When I work with couples and individuals some of our job is that of the "emotional archaeologist" digging up, exposing, and coming to terms with those layers. When explored in a safe and healing space, I've seen couples make fast and vast improvements in how they connect emotionally. What could be more rewarding than going on an "archaeological dig" with the one you love?

No emotions are bad--they are just sometimes expressed inappropriately for myriad reasons, and that is some of the best work we do at Insight.

Begin again,

{Image courtesy of Lotte Meijer.}