Life itself, on this planet, serves as a metaphorical test-bed for the universal concept of intimacy – although, it’s not always a conscious process. Take for example the intimate relationships that become ecosystems. The most fascinating creations are formed as a result of various self-determining organisms developing mutually sustaining relationships with each other. In fact, each distinct organism itself can be seen to represent an actual ecosystem…one within which the constituent relationships must remain mutually sustaining if the organism is to remain coherent.
In the human realm, true intimacy develops as a result of the process of one or more minds being set unyieldingly upon a singular purpose. This sense of purpose need not be a conscious one; however, it must be ordered and disciplined, if the process of intimacy is to bear fruit.
Intimacy is borne of the mind, more than it is an action of the heart. It is not a thing of desire. Instead, it is a faculty necessary for our evolutionary growth. At the core of human intimacy is a rare conception: mutually voluntary vulnerability and accountability. But, before we can begin to discuss how these factors operate to help bring about intimacy, we must first understand the various modes of sharing.
The Dynamics of Sharing
Living under the prevailing ethos, The Bitch Politic, we are continually at risk of being hoodwinked. Although those things that would make and keep one integral and strong are made readily available to us, they are shrouded in all manner of subtle disincentives. Nowhere is this more evident than in the practical definitions for the motivations of our actions, which we come to accept as our mottos. Countless artificial divisions between us are fueled by those maxims that extol nationalist, sexist, racist, political, and other separatist ideals. As they serve to cloud our understanding of the need for our interdependence, they become damaging to our evolutionary process — if not an outright threat to our very survival.
Despite all the talk of how we need to work together, and how we need to learn to live together, very subtle cues guide us in the opposite direction. We more often find ourselves in destructive posturing against one another than we do in constructive embrace. Even though we’re told that “sharing is caring,” we’re led to cut ourselves off from others, through our acquiescence to the overly exuberant promotion of the concept of independence. Although we’re told in one breath that giving is a good thing (as is the case with charity), we remain careful to not give too much — lest our goodwill go unappreciated and be taken for granted. We offer promises (of things) that we have no intention of fulfilling. Taking is sometimes a good thing…sometimes not. And we have almost no uniformly workable concept of what it means to actually receive, with grace and dignity.
Sharing occurs in the form of a transactional plane between two sets of complementary modalities, with each set consisting of an active member and a passive member. Thus, we find the two principle sharing transactions to be the following: (Giving, Receiving) and (Taking, Offering). The transactional Plane of Sharing is depicted in the diagram below:
The diagram (Figure 4.) above describes these two different types of relationships, each of which can occur between two distinct entities. In the first instance (Giving & Receiving), the Masculine entity pushes energy to the Feminine entity. In the second (Offering & Taking), the Feminine entity pulls energy from the Masculine entity.
When found in an environment that promotes and reinforces sharing, people will naturally gravitate toward either an active or a passive role within the sharing paradigm. Unless there is increasing intimacy in the relationship, the individuals will maintain those character roles throughout the duration of a sharing relationship. As we will discuss later, intimacy involves feedback from the sharing transaction.
It should be noted that energy always flows from the Masculine modality toward the Feminine. These gender assignments are not sexual, so to speak; instead, they are employed to designate the roles that the parties play in determining the direction and course of the relationship — based upon one’s possession of available currency. This flow of energy from Masculine to Feminine occurs despite the individuals’ respective characters of activeness or passiveness. Thus, we readily witness the consistent unidirectional flow of energy from the (active) Giver to the (passive) Receiver, and also from the (passive) Offerer to the (active) Taker.
Episodic in nature, sharing relationships tend to be motivated by environmental factors that encourage exchange. Because there is no requirement for the presence of direct accountability between the parties to a sharing relationship, these relationships are subject to any number of corruptions. Corruption of the sharing relationship might be introduced by an entity acting from within any of the four modalities. Combined with fear, these corruptions (described in the following sections) ever threaten to undermine the potential for a sharing relationship to become one in which intimacy is present.
Although it is one of the most frequently mentioned of the modes of human transactional behavior, the act of giving is very poorly understood. In its higher degrees, it is an act of commitment. Active in character and of Masculine gender, an act of giving requires the individual to surrender a focused effort in a certain direction. Such an effort can be either material (as is the giving of one’s money, or some other tangible thing) or ethereal (as might be one’s giving attention and consideration to a matter). There’s also active effort involved in one’s giving pause, through restraining oneself from further actions toward some end until another has had an opportunity to act in some fashion.
Through a commonly bandied phrase, the belief is inculcated in us that “It’s better to give than to receive.” The errant indication borne in such a statement is that one is best served to avoid being found on the receiving end of an exchange. However, because the two modes (Giving and Receiving) are directly opposite in nature (and thus complementary), we are subtly taught to devalue even the act of giving itself; and thus, we are taught to devalue commitment.
In fact, the modern aphorism derives from a biblical quote found in the Acts of the Apostles 20:35 NASB, in which Paul stated:
“In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, `It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “
When taken in context, it’s clear that the statement is a direct reference to acts of charity — where one recognizes a need that might be met while also avoiding sacrifice. However, in the absence of the context suggesting that one’s aim in giving should be toward the uplifting of one’s fellows, the modern aphorism acquires a tone and inner meaning that becomes self-serving and bereft of any sense of charity: It becomes the message “through giving, one might become better than one’s fellows.”
In cases where one gives to a receiver who is of dubious character, one is in effect risking waste. At the same time, because a giver’s motivation often derives from external inducement, such an act of giving is usually initiated only when one enjoys excess. Although this might be sharing, there is no chance of intimacy developing from such a situation.
Technically speaking, even though one is sharing when one makes gifts that include stipulations upon their use, such giving is more an act of indenture. Lacking vulnerability on the part of the giver, such conditional acts never reach the level of commitment necessary for true intimacy.
Ultimately, it is best for one to give while expecting no result — instead, hoping for the most beneficial use of one’s gifts by the receiver. Thus, it benefits all parties for the giver to make one’s choice of receivers a wise one.
To extend an offer is merely to promise. Usefulness of the energy that is promised is not guaranteed – often, nor is even its delivery. This is the Masculine modality in its passive character.
Counter to the focused nature of giving, the act of extending an offer is to make one’s energies available for indiscriminate consumption. In the best of all possible scenarios, an offer is extended in response to a state of excess…and it arises from one’s attempt to derive some benefit from energy that otherwise will decay if one continues to hold it. However, there are no guarantees with regard to the soundness of the energy that might be made freely available to any and all who might take it.
When one extends offers during times in which one enjoys abundance (not to the point of excess), these are usually attempts to garner (potentially false and conditional) loyalties — to enslave. The passiveness of the offerer betrays one’s lack of commitment to the consumer of the energy. The modern understandings of commerce and economics can be seen to be extensions of this somewhat corrupt form of exchange. Falling within such a paradigm are the various concepts of conditional release of energies; one can easily recognize the sale of goods to be such a conditional release. So too are offers of achievement-based endowment found to be not more than conditional offers — and those for which the taker must pay a premium prior to any release of energies.
Delving even deeper into the realm of promises, we find those who extend offers while they neither enjoy abundance nor risk the threat of waste through decay — having either just enough or not enough at all — and they are of two types: the weak and the strong. When the one who offers does so from a position of internal strength, this can be viewed as a request for alliances to further one’s ends. But, when an offer is extended by one who is internally weak, this should always be viewed as one’s attempt to obscure his or her own fear and beggarliness; the wise person is wary of these offers.
Taking unto oneself is an act of securing access. If one is disciplined and aware of one’s limits, and one is also capable of maintaining one’s integrity throughout and following the exchange, then taking those things that might be offered for one’s benefit is recommended. Of course, it is illegal to take energy in the absence of a standing offer — as such an act does not fall anywhere within the bounds of the paradigm of sharing. When one is on the take, one is acting from deep within the Feminine (active) modality…and the goal is ever to fill oneself.
Aside from the obvious corruption of illegal forms of taking, there is the great risk of one’s accumulating excess that follows from the unrestrained active securing of access. Simply put, when one has taken too much, this is known as greed. As one’s energies are at risk of exhaustion from attempts to manage excess that continues to increase, one also risks being laid to waste by those who have no particular concern about one’s well-being — but who are drawn near by the imbalances created by the state of excess.
Just as the various corruptions of the Giving modality are not always recognized, there is also a measure of complexity that attends its complement…the passive Feminine modality of Receiving. To arrive at a state of receptivity, an individual requires not only humility and a measure of transparency, but also, an exceptional amount of courage. Of course, it’s easy to see how a lack of humility might thwart one’s chances of eliciting assistance toward one’s ends: false pride acts to obscure one’s true state of need, while betraying one’s inability to face the truth of one’s circumstances. However, courage is doubly important. Once one has rendered oneself voluntarily vulnerable, so as to signal one’s receptivity, one might just as easily encounter injury as one might receive assistance and/or relief. It is the second measure of courage which allows one to remain open and receptive in the face of potential repeated insult.
Due to its external passivity, Receiving is qualitatively distinct from the active Feminine modality of Taking. This passivity allows the receptive entity to conserve its energies for co-mingling with the energies that are given to it for the purpose of bringing forth manifestations of new energy sources. Here, the analogy of a woman who becomes pregnant and later issues forth her child comes to mind.
Although the giver risks a measure of exposure, the one who receives in earnest is clearly at the greatest risk. Corruptions beset the receiver owing primarily to one’s lack of discernment of the nature of the energy that is being received. Is it of sufficient quality for one to remain open to its source? One might be better served to starve than to feast upon poison. Alternately, the energy that is given to one might be overwhelming in its quantity, no matter its quality. And thus, in both cases, the receiver must also be aware of the methods of closing the channel; thereby signaling that enough is enough! Simply enough, this is accomplished by shifting one’s focus away from external passivity — to beginning the work of internal manifestation.
Central to one’s development of an expanded capacity for receptivity is one’s ability to successfully handle and transmute volatile and potentially negative energy. Quoting author Julette Millien, Director at Agape Development Services (ADS) in New Jersey (USA), whose platform of forgiveness and personal growth bears much good fruit:
This quote “we don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges” has some serious implications. Does this mean challenges are a good thing? When something horrific happens…is that a good thing? Suffering is good?
Well, I …don’t believe suffering is good. And the challenges people face — all over the world, horrific things from day to day, surely those events and violations are not “good for them!”
To come to peace with this I’ve decided to understand it this way: The challenging event (from mildly annoying to horrific violations) can be used as a medium of growth, as leverage — a sort of sling shot, to catapult us into another realm of existence. Challenges can transform us: For good or bad — it’s all our choice.
Challenges don’t grow you, choices do.
The growth is in our choices, how we choose to respond to a challenge…
The Receiver modality is the principal agency of manifestation… and transmutation. When the energy that is given to one is of poor quality, it must be transmuted to a suitable level of quality before it might be used in the manifestation of things of value. Given an excess of poor quality energy, the resources of the receiver become focused on the preparatory phase of transmutation — and the processes of manifestation grind to a halt.
The Orbit of Intimacy
It might have slipped the reader’s notice that, during the above discussion of the dynamics of sharing transactions, there was no mention of concepts such as appreciation, gratitude, or accountability. Due to the lack of any requirement for accountability in an episodic sharing relationship, displays of appreciation and gratitude serve mainly to increase the likelihood of there being future episodic exchanges. In such exchanges, the Masculine entity that gives or offers energy actually has no incentive to risk vulnerability. Instead, it places at risk only the amount of currency necessary to establish the relationship. However, the Feminine entity must express vulnerability, for any sharing relationship to commence. This pattern of behavior is uniformly evident in episodic exchanges that range from workplace charitable giving campaigns to back-alley deliveries of sex swapped for too few dollars.
Far from their being the one-shot deals that characterize episodic acts of sharing, intimate relationships bind individuals in such a fashion as to generate a new entity – a union toward which the bound constituents have a measure of responsibility. Despite the fact that intimate relationships are born of episodic exchanges, once intimacy has developed, the two types of relationships are as different from each other as are the sun and the moon.
In the diagram above (Figure 5.), a single intimate relationship between two discrete entities is depicted. Unlike the unidirectional flow of energy (from Masculine to Feminine) that characterizes episodic sharing, the intimate relationship is immediately recognized by the issuance of active feedback energy from the Feminine entity. This feedback energy is directed toward the Masculine entity…coincident with a shift toward a state of passive receptivity by the Masculine entity. Thus, during moments of pure intimacy, the constituents to the relationship each develop a sort of gender-neutrality with respect to the modalities of exchange — as the constituents’ individual self-interests are subsumed to the furtherance of the intimacy itself. It is this cyclical flow of the energies between the constituents that gives birth to the union as an entity unto itself.
Intimacy begins to emerge in a sharing relationship when the Masculine entity risks vulnerability, by entering a state of receptivity. Strangely, it is the willingness to be accountable to constructively manifest the gifts of energy from the Masculine entity that constitutes vulnerability on the part of the Feminine entity. Intimacy is furthered as the Feminine goes about the task of manifestation, while the Masculine prepares to receive. Utilizing the gifted energy to bring about the manifestation, the accountable Feminine entity then pushes forth the manifestation of appreciated energy to the Masculine entity. Once the Masculine entity receives this appreciated form of its own energy, the initial cycle of intimacy is complete. If the Masculine continues to give energy to the Feminine, and the Feminine remains accountable, then real intimacy begins to emerge.
As the process of intimacy between the two entities evolves, each one comes to know first-hand the responsibilities of the other. Although they give and receive different currencies, each must repeatedly enter both the Giver and Receiver modalities for intimacy to continue. Thus, in time, it also becomes necessary for each party to develop a mastery of both vulnerability and accountability.
Accountability & Vulnerability
Accountability is nothing more than the consistent demonstration of the combined processes of discipline and integrity within a relationship. When there is accountability, the purity of the energy transferred from the Giver to the Receiver is assured: manifestation of that energy can proceed without the need for the Receiver to be concerned about preparatory efforts to protect oneself from it. Recognition of each other’s integrity places the sincerity of the intentions that motivate the actions of both the Giver and the Receiver above suspicion; witness of one’s disciplined manner removes any doubt about the soundness of one’s offerings themselves.
Within the context of intimacy, vulnerability serves as the complement to accountability — and both must be present for intimacy to grow. Here, vulnerability arises from the seemingly simple act of a wholesale embrace of ones fears, followed by the opening of oneself to face them in the presence of another. Although one’s vulnerability clearly might place one in harm’s way, it is only through vulnerability that one might discover oneself to be already there. Conversely, invulnerability often serves only to prevent the approach of those who might otherwise aid one’s quest. Only in the glare of scrutiny might one’s fears be discovered to be unnecessary and illusory reflections – rather than concerns that might actually be necessary and formative. Vulnerability is that which provides one with the impetus for changes in one’s state. Accordingly, vulnerability should be understood to be the spark that ignites intimacy.
The Deepest Intimacy
As important as an ability to approach intimacy in one’s relationships with others might be, it’s of even greater importance in one’s relationship with oneself. If one cannot be intimate with oneself, one will never be able to achieve intimacy with others. On the surface, such a statement seems to be self-evident. However, just a momentary consideration of how readily we are given to cutting ourselves off from each other — often in displays of stark incorrectness — might suggest that a reappraisal of our opinion of our humanity is in order. Perhaps we can kill each other, enslave one another, and even violate those who are closest to us with such ease because each of us is (to a degree) cut off from ourselves. Despite our references to ourselves as being individuals, somehow each one of us has been divided.
One’s life itself is a journey into the unknown…and often this journey finds one trekking through indescribably hostile territory. It’s not quite clear where it is in the socialization process that we begin to forget who and what it is that we are — and why it is that we might have come here. However, it’s probably the case that every one of us goes through a period in his or her life in which one loses a connection to one’s inner urge. Invariably, these periods occur at moments where those to whom we might look for a measure of guidance are actually desperately hoping that we might instead be able to lead them out of their own chaotic entanglements. Ultimately, we each must find our own way to clarity.
The formula for intimacy with oneself is pretty much the same as it is for intimacy with another. One must remain vulnerable to oneself, so that all illusions of oneself disappear during introspection. One must be accountable to oneself — at all times — as only truth furthers. Finally, one must be as willing to give to oneself as one might be to receive from oneself. Know that the integrated and whole self is greater than the sum of its parts. It is this Self which is connected to all things. This is much deeper than one’s feelings can fathom.
1. Millien, Julette. “Challenges Do Not Grow Us!” Julette Millien. Julette Millien, Jan. 2014. Web. 27 Aug. 2014. <http://julettemillien.com/challenges-do-not-grow-us/>.