Most of the clients I see struggle with intimacy; they have what are called attachment difficulties. Some of them are predominately avoidant, meaning that tend to try hard to be self-suffiencent and tell themselves that they can make it on their own; and, others are predominately anxious, meaning that they tend to cling to their partners in fear of rejection and abandonment. For a significant portion of the population, intimacy, especially with respect to those individuals in the online world of dating, exists on either side of the spectrum, sometimes fluctuating between both.
In our culture, coolness and self-assurance (which I spoke about in depth in past blog posts) are the standards for dating: In order to find love, we’re told, we have to pretend to not want it; makes sense! And on and on the dating globe turns, fostering emptiness and loneliness, leaving us wondering why we even started the process to begin with. In my own recent experiences, I’ve become more aware of how difficult it is for others to discuss subjects which touch upon themes that exist below the surface; it seems that people are okay with sharing information about their work-days, but balk at the prospect of discussing their families, or anything that’s even a step below their well-crafted exteriors.
So, where does that leave us? At present, we’re a fairly lonely bunch, and that doesn’t mean that we’re alone. Most people have a significant amount of acquaintances but few close friends: the difference between the two being intimacy. In a society which perpetuates a desire for perfection, we get lost in a sea of disingenuousness. If it’s true that our most basic need is human connection, then we do a hell of a job at precluding its manifestation. And for what? Why has it become anathema to say that you need love? Why is the desire so ubiquitously suppressed that it voraciously returns as neediness and desperation?
In his article on dignifying the desire for love, relationship expert Ken Page argues, “…longing for love is not weakness. It’s wisdom. Numbing our loneliness is a path to a despair that plagues our culture. We are not meant to be alone and self-sufficient. Without lives filled with love, we wither inside. Intimacy is oxygen. We don’t need to transcend our hunger for love; we need to learn to honor it.” In essence, intimacy is our sustenance; intimacy makes life worth living. We need food and shelter to survive, but intimacy gives us a reason for being, and it lies behind our creations of meaning. In art, music, writing, volunteering, and even work, we are searching for, and creating, meaning through intimacy. To produce something of significance is to expose a hidden part of oneself, presenting it to the world for evaluation and acceptance, saying, “This is me!” Through charity and volunteer work, we look to connect to others through empathy, attempting to understand their sorrow and feel their pain because some part of us craves union through shared experience. Whether or not we choose to admit it, we yearn for intimacy; and, despite our absurd attempts at self-deception, the urge persists.
Our lives are full of deception and vanity, and the world, to some extent, will always be, even long after we’re gone; but in this brief moment in time, we’ve been afforded with the choice of authenticity, the choice to be ourselves, accepting that we need to be loved. If we don’t, the feared intensity called neediness will rear its ugly head and suffocate us. It’s okay to acknowledge your most basic need, and necessary for your mental health; it’s okay to tell someone you like that you like them; it’s okay to call an acquaintance and let them know that you’d like to be friends; it’s okay to tell someone you love that you can’t imagine a life without them; and, it’s okay to tell yourself that you can’t be happy on your own. You are lovable, and its okay to accept that you need to be loved.
“The tragedy is that we all need love in doses, in times like these we feel closest” -2Pac