Job’s Friends and Jesus Weeping: Ways We Block Intimacy Part II
Job 2:11-13; John 11:32-36
Another way that we block intimacy is by judging and blaming others. Rather than looking at ourselves and taking responsibility for creating what we want or don’t want, we focus on others and how they need to change or be different. When we regularly focus our attention outward onto others, we lack introspection and deny others the opportunity of learning and sharing in our experience. It is a way of distracting from what is going on with us. Intimacy occurs when I share with another what is true for me, not when I focus on what I perceive to be true for them. No one knows my truth but me, and they cannot know my truth unless I share it with them. Likewise, I cannot know someone’s truth unless they share it with me. And so to assume that I already know their truth, and what needs to change, I deny them the opportunity of sharing what is actually true for them, and thus deny the opportunity for intimacy.
Assumptions are usually based on incomplete and sometimes completely fabricated ideas, often fueled by our woundedness and faulty core beliefs. Stories that we make up about others based on faulty assumptions can lead to maladaptive feelings and behaviours that create walls and guardedness. They prevent us from sharing our truth and/or listening to what is true for another. It takes self awareness and courage to set aside our assumptions and to share our truth and to ask someone what is actually true for them and to really listen to what they have to say.
There was a time when I was angry towards my father for his behaviour, and I blamed him for not being the father that I thought I needed, and expected him to change in order to meet my needs. I would not share myself with him, and I was not open to hearing his truth. It wasn’t until I was willing to look at myself, and to take responsibility for my own perceptions that were in the way, that I could share some of my truth with him and in so doing, discover ways that we could connect. I discovered truthful aspects of him that I was not able to see before when I was blinded by judgement and blaming.
There were those Jews who had come to visit Mary and Martha that judged Jesus for raising Lazarus from the dead and blamed him for creating a ruckus. And in their blame and focus outward, they went to the Pharisees to complain and perpetuated more fear and blame. But then there were those Jews present at the miracle who were open to the truth of Jesus and who he was. And their openness would have fostered connection with Jesus and intimacy with other believers.
Another way that we block intimacy is by manipulating and controlling others. That may be in aggressive, bullying ways, or it may be in passive-aggressive ways. Rather than expressing what it is that we need or want, we manipulate or control others to produce the outcome that we want and/or to relieve anxiety. Those that use aggression control others through fear. Aggression and angry behaviour is often an outer surface display of underlying emotions. What may actually be fear, shame, frustration, sadness, or any number of other emotions, is displayed as anger. Rather than express what is actually going on and what is needed, aggressive behaviour keeps others at a distance.
While facilitating treatment groups for men mandated from the court for domestic violence, I’ve witnessed the transformation that occurs when these aggressive men learn healthier ways of communicating, and the intimacy that unfolds when they have the courage to express to their spouse or partner what is actually going on for them, rather than react with anger and violence. Spouses and partners who had previously shut down in fear, could now respond to meet needs in loving, intimate ways.
And lastly, we block intimacy with others by manipulating them to get what we want. Rather than assertively express what we need or want we may use guilt, deception, or games of all kinds to control others to behave a certain way. Again, this is a way of keeping our truth from others. Connection cannot occur when we don’t speak our truth directly. And others cannot respond to us in real and authentic ways when they feel manipulated. As humans we have a natural tendency to feel anxious and distressed when our freedom appears to be threatened, including feeling manipulated, and we try to regain a sense of control by refusing to comply. We’re more inclined to move away from or distance ourselves from the person that is manipulating us, rather than move towards them. The opposite of intimacy.
What holds us back from expressing our truth directly is fear. Fear of rejection, fear of disappointing others, fear of failure, fear of our own power, all kinds of fears. Fear is what keeps us small and separated. It takes courage to move away from familiar and comfortable patterns of fear. But when we do, when we break free from that which holds us back, we discover that fear is an illusion. That the truth really does set us free. Love really is more powerful than fear. I’ve experienced this time and time again in my own life, and have witnessed it over and over with clients as they let go of fears and discover openness and possibilities on the other side. As they expand and move towards love, intimacy occurs.
We all perceive relationships and the world around us through a “lens” of our individual history that is often built on fear, shame, and scarcity – a framework that we have allowed others to teach us, which often precludes us from the truth of who we are and what our lives and relationships can be. I invite you to take a look at your “lens” and to let go of that which does not serve your best interest, to be illumined to the truth of your worthiness, the worthiness of others, and the abundance and possibilities that are available to you. I invite you to be awakened to your infinite identity – your ever-expanding unique expression of love; to learn how to sing your song, which in turn will invite those around you to sing their song. The world awaits all the gifts you have to offer.
Shari Derksen, MA, is a Registered Psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists and specializes in the areas of relationship issues and intimacy, as well as many others. For more information on Shari, her work, or other articles she’s written for Living Well click here to link to her full bio page.