To engage in service to humanity is a deeply personal and intimate act. Not only are you often involved with people during potentially challenging times in their lives ~ likely laden with emotional energy, you are also required to show up fully present and in your authenticity. Well, it is required if you wish to be effective in your service.
Intimacy involves both the capacity to see within others as you are invited as well as a willingness to be seen. Intimacy occurs on a spectrum ~ it doesn’t show up the same way in all situations and all relationships. Intimacy takes many different forms and is specific to the interaction.
For example, you could be involved with someone on a personal level where a certain level of intimacy would be expected and yet, feel completely isolated and disconnected from that individual.
Alternatively, you may find yourself engaged in a highly intimate interaction with someone you have no personal relationship with and simply find yourself in ~ joined through a situational experience.
To be intimate with another requires openness, curiosity, connection, and boundaries. True intimacy is not about losing ourselves in other people. Real intimacy means that both people are whole within their personal being and there is a sense of safety that allows for the vulnerability required to feel an intimate connection. If we lose ourselves in relationship to others, we lose our capacity for intimacy and find ourselves enmeshed and much less effective in our helping roles. In fact, enmeshment doesn’t do much for our personal relationships either.
On the other hand, if we harden ourselves and make our boundaries so rigid in an effort to portray professionalism, we will cut off the possibilities for genuine connection. We create a greater sense of separation and ultimately find ourselves in a place of estrangement from another. In estrangement, we will find ourselves grappling with judgement and disillusionment. This energy does not invite openness on the part of those we are in service to and there is nothing about it that says we care.
The Role of Self-Connection
To bring intimacy into our helping relationships requires deep levels of self-connection. It is only through this connection ~ this intimate connection to ourselves ~ that we can access the wisdom and intuition that will guide us to intimate connections with others.
So, in practical terms what does this look like?
Well consider that in our personal relationships, we feel intimately connected to others when there is a reciprocal element to the interactions we engage in. However, that doesn’t always mean that we take equal turns going back and forth speaking of our deepest darkest secrets. This may happen if that is the nature of the dynamic but it is not necessary for an intimate experience. Further, we may engage in physically intimate acts within our personal relationships that have no place in our helping relationships. But, this alone does not mean that the relationship itself is intimate. Sexual activity does not automatically translate to intimacy. It is very possible to have a sexual relationship with no intimacy or an intimate relationship with no sex.
Intimacy is Energy
So, intimacy is another energetic element that may or may not be part of any relationship we find ourselves in. It is an energetic element that is crucial to the establishment and growth of any helping relationship.
Willingness to engage with others in an intimate way does not mean we have to bare our souls through words and the sharing of personal information. It is true that those you find yourself in service to might, very well bare their souls to you. In that way, they are allowing themselves to be seen in an intimate manner.
Does this mean that you as a service provider must now match that sharing with your own personal information in order to bring intimacy into the equation?
In a word…no.
You show up with intimacy when you make yourself present to the other person. You demonstrate a willingness to be fully engaged through your presence ~ body, mind and spirit. You bring your open heart to the interaction ~ meaning that you listen beyond what is being said. You allow yourself to be emotionally engaged even when there is pain in another’s story. You allow yourself to be impacted.
You bring your authentic self to the relationship. When you make an observation that might be of benefit for the other to hear ~ even if it is difficult to share and may be challenging to receive ~ you share it. You point out the gifts of strength and beauty that you see in the other so that they might recognize it in themselves.
You listen to the energy of the situation ~ you feel the energy of the exchange. This allows you to access your intuitive guidance, which opens the channels of divine wisdom. You become the channel through which loving kindness and unconditional acceptance can flow.
When you engage with others in an intimate way, it has so little to do with what you say and everything to do with the space you create that helps others to feel safe and courageous to be vulnerable.
We enter into service to others with the hope that they will be somehow impacted in a positive way by their encounter with us. If we intend to be an instrument of change and growth in the lives of other people, we must also show up with a willingness to be transformed through the encounter.
Your heartfelt message then ~ without any words at all ~ tells others that you are present, you care, you honour their process and experience, and you see their power.
Let yourself be connected to others through your service in an intimate way. It will transform the nature of your service in the world and deepen your capacity for self-connection and self-discovery.
Let’s get started!
How do you create intimacy in your helping relationships?