“Seldom or never does a marriage develop into an individual relationship smoothly without crisis. There is no birth of consciousness without pain.” ~ Carl G. Jung
It is Friday, August 9, 2013 (two days before my 38th wedding anniversary). I am in my office conducting sessions, when around 8:30 a.m., I began experiencing a subtle and dull pain in my lower abdomen. I thought, while listening to my client, “Do I need to go again to the bathroom?” I did not. Yet, the pain continued and gradually increased with intensity and discomfort. It is now 12:30 p.m. and I am sitting with another client, adjusting my sitting position from left to right – then left again – and then right again, in greater and greater pain.
“Are you okay?” asks my client. “I don’t think so, but I’m okay for now,” I replied.
This painful crisis is about to turn into a birth of consciousness regarding emotional intimacy. Of course, I don’t know it at the time. All that is consuming me is my physical pain and my attempts to complete my day’s calendar of clients. In the following posts of this 3-part series, I will share more of my story that day. For now, let’s begin to consider what it means to be intimate in our relationships, a quality that is not a given part of them, simply because we participate in each other’s lives.
Secure attachment in an intimate relationship is essential for our individual healthy senses of self-esteem and worth! This reality is especially true in moments of emotional, existential, psychological and spiritual crises.
Intimacy refers to “a close, familiar and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person; a close association with, detailed knowledge, or deep understanding of; the quality of being comfortable, warm, or a token of familiarity, affection, or the like.” (Dictionary.com) Relational intimacy begins during the second trimester between the mother and the developing fetus and later, her newborn infant. Neuroscience now informs us that significant communications from the mother’s emotional life passes on into the fetus’ developing neurons. It is important that the emotional relationship between mother and child is protected by those close to her, helping her with the caring of and tending to this developing bond. When this protection happens, the emotional health of both mother and child can create a secure attachment. The emotional support for the mother is essential, enabling the newborn to experience her (or any significant caretaker, e.g., the father) as an emotionally available and safe other. We then hope that the infant is able to take in the non-anxious presence from the mother’s sense of self into its developing identity.
In the absence of a secure and emotionally available caretaker, psychological disorders (which will vary in degrees from individual to individual) have a greater chance for affecting our relational development from infancy to/through adolescence and well into our adult life for years to come. Anxiety and depressive disorders, bi-polar (a brain chemical disorder that unless diagnosed and treated by a professional, can be exacerbated by environmental stress) and others can play a major influencing factor on how well relational intimacy develops. Yet, if mother has a good enough emotional support system, one that can provide a nurturing environment for her and her baby, then she has a greater chance of being emotionally available to help her child develop and grow with less anxiety and other potential disorders. And if that happens, we are able better to create and nurture for ourselves fulfilling, intimate relationships with our significant others.
Return to sexNspirit next week to discover the source of the pain I experienced a few days before my 38th wedding anniversary and to read my take on the key that prevents us from developing relational intimacy.
NOTE: In my narratives, I change the names of others than my own to protect individual privacy.
© 2016, James Bernard Kynes, Sr.
The Rev. James Bernard Kynes, Sr., M.Div., LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) practices at Crossings Counseling Center, Inc., in Decatur, GA. To read more about him and/or to connect with him, visit his website (http://www.jamesbernardkynessr.com/index.html), email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (404.378.2232).