How close is close?

I have been journaling about intimacy today. What is intimacy? When do I experience intimacy? When don’t I? What makes me describe relationships as intimate?

It has also made me think about the relationship between counsellor and client. Is that relationship intimate?

It certainly ticks some of the boxes I journaled about, in terms of what makes relationships intimate. Very personal information is being shared. Two people are connecting at what has sometimes been described as ’emotional depth’. Trust is present, as is risk-taking. Time has been set aside, with no distractions, for two people to work quite hard and understanding one of them. But is it intimacy?

I guess the easy answer is a qualified yes. Necessarily the sharing of information is somewhat one-sided. The counsellor doesn’t usually share the details of their life’s journey in the same way that the client does. Physical touch is usually not used. Nevertheless, more than one client has said to me ‘I feel like I really know you, Jo’ when all I have done is listen and ask the occasional question. The sharing of the space, the being together, the silence of present feelings has created a strong connection.

As a counsellor I feel moved by a glimpse into the other’s world. I feel the privilege of the trust placed in me. I feel the grief, the pain, the frustration of stuckness. And yet surely intimacy, even non-physical intimacy, is more than this? What is intimacy?

It is knowing and being known.
It is not wasting energy on trying to convince the other, because they know and don’t mind.
It is letting the other see whatever they do see, and not hiding.
It is feeling afraid and yet knowing safety.
It is seeing yourself for real, warts and all.
It is both hell and yet heaven.