Intimacy is a sense of connection, of commonality, of oneness and sharing.
Vulnerability is an act of authenticity and sincerity which exposes the core personality, values, desires and soul of a person.
You can have intense intimacy with absolutely no vulnerability. There can be open vulnerability with no intimacy. This is because intimacy is a feeling, while vulnerability is an action. Yes, vulnerability can also be labelled as the fearful feeling arising from the action, but a vulnerable act does not necessarily include fearfulness on the part of the act. In addition, vulnerability does not require a second party nor a connection to another person, whereas intimacy by nature IS connection.
Artists perform acts of vulnerability. To write a book, stand up at a comedy event, create a movie or paint a picture is to put a piece of your innermost soul out there. Before the piece even gets revealed to the public, its very existence creates vulnerability by turning energy into matter. Thought into word. Idea into brush stroke. The act of creating is an act of openness and exposure.
Intimacy arises with each opportunity for someone else to view or read the creation. Because intimacy develops through interaction, the people involved determine the type and level of intimacy depending on how many points of connection exist between them outside of the point of vulnerability. Do they share common history? Do they have common values and goals? How high a risk of rejection is involved? The higher the risk, the greater the sense of validation found in a Moment of intimacy. A Moment of intimacy resonates at a visceral level and the reason why they can happen under the most unexpected of circumstances is because they are about two wise minds seeing past the shields of both the judgemental and emotional brains and connecting in the realm of eternal knowing.
Being truly known is terrifying. Allowing someone to see the real you is to stand naked and on display. How many people feel a chill at the thought of someone seeing the book they have started, the poem they wrote, the sketch they drafted hidden in the bottom drawer of the old desk in the attic? How anxious and nervous do you feel when drafting a simple email voicing your opinion while you have no hesitation giving orders and instructions to large groups of people? An opinion is personal, while instructions are impersonal. There is risk of damage to our psyche when we commit acts of vulnerability, and the more your truth varies from the norm, the greater the risk of shame and rejection.
Intimacy can come easily, especially when commonalities weave the lines of connection for you. Beware that sense of intimacy based on common goals, enemies, histories, or other shared experiences. Yes, they are a valid starting point but they all are pulling on external threads which only last so long. Commonalities create finite intimacy with a beginning and an end.
Why do we watch shows like Big Bang Theory, Friends, Seinfeld or Cheers? Not because of the comedy although laughter has a deep appeal. It’s the intimacy, of which laughter is part. It’s because the characters talk about nothing. The threads creating the intimacy between them are not coming from their environment although of course each episode includes outside factors which create finite intimacy. The threads of intimacy are being extruded from their minds and woven by trust, humour, vulnerability and compassion.
How often do you share pointless thoughts with people, Seinfeldian conversations? These are the Moments where you are seen and known because those conversations are about connecting, not about a topic. Those conversations allow intimacy through vulnerability since they showcase who you are when you have no objective, when the conversation is happening just for conversation’s sake.
Intimacy is easy to manufacture. Vulnerability cannot be faked. When the two of them are entwined the Moment is unforgettable.