Intimacy and Glass Houses

The sensation generated when you share a Moment with someone is a visceral intimacy. Electrifying and intense, it can change a simple exchange of pleasantries into a lingering mood of togetherness. A random encounter with a stranger in the produce section can fuel a desire to maintain the sensation beyond the grocery store.

Intimacy is a driving force in human nature. We want to bond, but more so, we want to share with others. True intimacy involves baring your deepest core self and allowing someone to see that which makes us who we are. Vulnerable and terrifying, true intimacy is rare and exhilarating.

Other types of intimacy emulate it but are only poor approximations of the communion of two souls. Physical intimacy, commonality intimacy, and emotional intimacy generate intense connections but those bonds only last as long as the conditions which generate them, unless an underlying spiritual bond scaffolds the superficial intimacies and gives them stability.

Physical intimacy is an easy fix for those lacking spiritual connections. The Moment generated by sensual merging and the delightful distraction of erotic pleasure approximate the profound wonder of souls in resonance. But the Moment is fleeting and leaves behind a saccharine aftertaste because the calories are empty thus lacking the nurturing sustenance the soul craves. When sensual intimacy occurs between bonded souls, the Moment lingers long after the act has ended, and the substance of the bond provides fodder even when the souls are apart. Sexual intimacy is not necessary for spiritual connection but certainly heightens it and conversely, gets mistaken for it.

Having a commonality generates a deep sense of connection which can easily be mistaken for authentic intimacy. Joining with someone in striving toward a shared goal provides kernels of closeness that grow as time passes until harvested when the goal reaches fruition. Although positive and mutually beneficial, there still exists a beginning and end for this type of bond thus it is superficial no matter how lasting. Same with the more insidious Common enemy bond. Uniting against a foe is intensely satisfying and feeds the need for balance and justice but again is a counterfeit connection with a start, process, and finite ending. Common goals and common enemies enhance the richness of a spiritual bond because growth happens via both of these processes but if the goal or enemy are the only connections then after the enemy is vanquished or the goal is attained, the souls lose their link and are left wondering where the intimacy went.

Emotional intimacy most closely emulates a true spiritual bond but because it is rooted in the fleeting emotions of the physical realm and unreliable emotional brain, these Moments also are not enduring. Trauma brings emotions into the Moment and carries them past their shelf life into the future where they don’t belong. Emotions are meant to inform about present social conditions and drive change, but get confused with identity and values. Emotional bonds form during shared Moments of fear or joy or satisfaction but the source of the bond was the environmental atmosphere generating the emotional response which forged a bond, rather than a bond forming between compatible souls which then was tempered like steel by the intense flames of trauma. Again, true intimacy can and does benefit from emotional connection but when the emotional bond forms first, under duress, before the spiritual bond has taken root, then the connection has a finite end when the emotional trigger is removed.

The search for intimacy is why so many people seek, knowingly or subconsciously, the emotional patterns of their past, to feel intimacy in any way they can. Or why gossip is so common and activism so popular. Or why casual sex is frequent.

We all want to connect. To bond. To belong with and to someone or something. It is part of our programming. But most our bonds are finite, task based or situational which is why they do not feel satisfying or sustaining.

Absolute intimacy requires absolute vulnerability. Baring the soul with no goal, no enemy, no emotional trigger, no sex and no gain is an act of pure compassion. Looking out at the world with open invitation, loving all comers, is to generate intimacy. Even so, there are still ways to protect yourself while being vulnerable.

Glass houses still offer shelter and comfort and protection. And those allowed to see the view from the outside are inspired by such graceful openness. Rather than cast stones, they will choose to build a glass house too.

Don’t trust anyone. Build walls. But love them anyway. Make those walls out of glass with large doors and a welcome mat.

Contempt, Compassion, and Empathy

Empathy really is a buzz word nowadays. It’s held up by many as the standard of excellence in emotional functioning and the antidote to contempt. Empathy is seen as a higher level of awareness and the solution to social ills. But there is a problem with this ideal.

Empathy is feeling someone else’s emotions as if they are your own. Although on the surface this would seem a noble and compassionate thing, especially when held up in contrast of contempt which is judgement of someone else’s emotions, to feel someone’s emotions is…well…immature, selfish and in fact a form of contempt!

This is not to say understanding someone’s feelings is inappropriate, not in the least. That is the root of compassion, which is a healthy respect for and awareness of the emotions of others.

But in its truest form, empathy is an example of someone with poor boundaries who is unable to distinguish between themselves and others thus feels a strong need to fix the problems for others in order to find peace themselves. Many empaths talk of being overwhelmed and taken advantage of, which is a way of blaming others for their failure to protect themselves by establishing healthy boundaries. To act to change someone else’s circumstances can often be a form of contempt because the message is you know better then they, the victims, do.

Contempt and callous disregard for the feelings of others is an easy target to disparage and the narcissist easy to blame for society’s ills. The person exhibiting contempt is demonstrating rigid boundaries with complete distinction between themselves and others, which is viewed as toxic and dysfunctional. True, there is an imbalance present in this way of coping and to reach authenticity and enlightenment a shift needs to happen away from a focus on the judgemental coping mechanisms into wise and compassionate processes. Yet empathy is not the answer either.

The empath is also often toxic and dysfunctional yet in a way deemed acceptable to society because the appearance of helpfulness and caring, yet the drive is just as internally motivated as the actions of the narcissist. There is an imbalance present here, too, and a shift away from the emotional coping mechanisms into wise and compassionate processes needs to happen.

Compassion does not mean your are suffering with the people you feel compassionate towards. They are not you and you are not them, their emotions are not yours to feel. But compassion does elicit discomfort when imbalance, injustice, or negativity is witnessed. Compassion involves the desire to see balance restored, in whatever form the victim might feel it needs to take. As soon as you decide what form restitution or balance must take, you are no longer being compassionate, you are being contemptuous. To demand anything on anyone’s behalf except your very own, is to show contempt of that person’s or groups’ ability to determine their own needs. And unless they asked for your help, you disempower them by taking up their cause unless you yourself are directly affected by the imbalance.

Don’t mistake activism for compassion and empathy for support. Those without voices do need to be heard, but unless you are one of the voiceless, your sounds will drown out the meaning of their silence. Speaking from a place of experience is the only way to drive change, and listening from a place of compassion if you are not the victim, is the only way to support change.

Emotional Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a diagnosable condition with measurable symptoms, predictable triggers, and consistent patterns of behaviour. The condition arises from a systemic imbalance. Someone experiencing seizures loses control of themselves and can be dangerous to themselves and others. Treatments are available for many symptoms but the afflicted individual must choose to seek diagnostics, medical intervention, and support.

Emotional dysfunctions are diagnosable conditions with measurable symptoms, predictable triggers, and consistent patterns of behaviour. The condition arises from a systemic imbalance. Someone experiencing an emotional dysfunctional episode, an emotional seizure, loses control of themselves and can be dangerous to themselves and others. Treatments are available for many symptoms but the afflicted must choose to seek diagnostics, medical intervention, and support.

During a seizure, the person with epilepsy may involuntarily strike out at their surroundings, may become blind to dangers, may not be able to consciously safeguard themselves or others. If they were to injure a loved one during an uncontrolled seizure they would likely feel intense guilt and shame at the damage they did. Their loved one would not blame them for the behaviours whilst out of control of their body, yet would hold them accountable for seeking treatment, for creating effective coping strategies, for learning how to manage their outbursts in order to make the relationship safer for both of them. No expectations, only boundaries. If epilepsy goes unmanaged, the support person would be in constant risk.

During an emotional seizure, the person with emotional dysregulation may involuntarily strike out at their surroundings, may become blind to dangers, may not be able to consciously safeguard themselves or others. If they were to injure a loved one during an uncontrolled episode they would likely feel intense guilt and shame at the damage they did.

But that’s where the similarity tends to end, which is why mental illness so often grows, and passes on to another generation, accumulating shame, blame, and guilt with each new seizure.

Mental illness is painful for all who endure it as sufferers, victims, and witnesses. Just like epilepsy. But unlike epilepsy, it gets mistaken for a choice, judged as a lifestyle, and dismissed as unworthy of compassion or empathy. Yet like epilepsy, compassion, empathy and support constitute part of the treatment and are central to managing symptoms.

To support someone through epileptic seizures, you cannot pick and choose which symptoms are epileptic and which are not. You accept the whole and forgive what happens during a seizure, if you choose to interact with the person who is potentially unsafe for you because of their illness. To do otherwise is to judge and that puts imbalance between you. Better to keep boundaries between, not scales, and accept completely or let it be. Only you know if the relationship is worth the risk to your safety. No outsider can tell you that although they may try.

To support someone through emotional seizures, you cannot pick and choose which symptoms are choices and which are illness. You accept the whole and forgive what happens during a seizure, if you choose to interact with the person who is potentially unsafe for you because of their illness. To do otherwise is to judge and that puts imbalance between you. Better to keep boundaries between you, not scales, and accept completely or let it be. Only you will know if the relationship is worth the risk to your safety. No outsider can tell you although they might try.

Understanding epilepsy does not mean excusing the dangers of it or absolving people of the responsibility to manage it. But an informed perspective allows preparation for making a choice when a Moment of decision – stay or go – presents itself. Understanding is the foundation for compassion. Knowledge dispels fear and eases trauma. The wise mind guides decisions once the emotional and judgemental brains quiet down.

Understanding emotional dysfunctions does not mean excusing the dangers or absolving people of the responsibility to manage it. But an informed perspective allows preparation for making a choice when a Moment of decision- stay or go – presents itself. Understanding is the foundation for compassion. Knowledge dispels fear and eases trauma. The wise mind guides decisions once the emotional and judgemental brains quiet down.

Emotional abuse is not ok. But it is understandable. It has patterns, predictable triggers, and treatable behaviours. Hope for stability is what keeps people in abusive situations and hope is a precious, powerful force. To judge either party for having hope is to create greater imbalance while acceptance adds more hope and a sense of a safety net.