Intimacy refers to being seen or known. One can be seen or known by oneself, by another being (human or otherwise) or by God. Individual psychotherapy usually focuses on knowing oneself better, which is to say becoming more intimate with one’s self. The usual term for this process is “insight.” Group psychotherapy addresses being better known by others, which of course results in greater knowing of oneself in the process. This is the place where the term “intimacy” is most commonly used. Relationships with non-humans in which one comes to be known can be as mundane as a relationship with a pet dog or cat and as elaborate as encounters with spirit guides in all kinds of animal forms while engaging in shamanic journeying. Finally one may experience being known by God, or the Sacred Mystery, through spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation. Of course many would assume that one does not really reveal oneself to God through such practices, since it is assumed that God already knows everything; the experience of being known by God is really just a result of coming to know oneself better through spiritual practices.
Intimacy can be subdivided into two basic categories: biographical and evolutionary. Biographical intimacy is generated when one reveals to another things already known about one’s personal history. Evolutionary intimacy takes place when one reveals to another what one is just discovering about oneself in the present moment. Early phases of therapy usually involve biographical intimacy, which essentially involves the taking of a history in individual therapy or introducing oneself in group therapy. Later phases of therapy rely on evolutionary intimacy to stimulate the growth/healing of the client or clients.
It is the evolutionary intimacy in the later phases of therapy that is the most interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it tends to become reciprocal, so that the individual therapist comes to be more known to the client just as much as the client become known to the therapist. In group therapy, the group therapist or therapists (in the case of co-therapy) come to be known to the clients just as the clients come to be known to the therapist(s) and each other. One of the most delightful aspects of the group co-therapy situation is the intimacy that develops between the co-therapists. All of these forms of evolutionary intimacy are ultimately part-and-parcel of one’s intimate relationship with the Sacred Mystery, since each little component of intimacy with self or other takes places in this larger context.
© Copyright 2008 by John Rhead. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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