attachment & intimacy

Human beings need connection. A newborn has basic needs that are not limited to being physically well-fed and kept warm. For their development, humans have a basic need for healthy emotional attachments to their main caretakers. When we suffered consistent physical or emotional neglect or abuse during early childhood, we form unhealthy attachment styles that strongly influence our future connections and interactions. The way we relate to people in our inner circle often follows patterns we have repeated throughout our life. During our first important relationship, the one we have with our primary caretaker, we receive an imprint that shows us how welcome we are, how unconditionally loved we are, how safe we feel in the presence of the caretaker, and how boundaries work.

Of course, every parent developed their attachment style based on their own experiences, and we are often limited by the examples we were given during our life. So, we often unconsciously repeat generational patterns, or we overcompensate in the other direction when we are determined to offer our children a different experience than the one we had in our childhood. No caretaker is perfect and capable of being constantly present, patient, loving, setting the right amount of boundaries while leaving room for independence. Besides the relationship we experience with our primary caretakers, we are also shown an example of how other family members interact with each other. So inevitably, we’ll be faced with some degree of over-attachment, co-dependency, rejection, avoidance, explosiveness, manipulation, or unpredictable behavior.

When we grow up and attract people in our life as friends and partners, and possibly start a family and interact with our children, we tend to replicate dynamics with similar attachment styles. We all have a certain degree of fear that influences our behavior and decisions, such as abandonment issues and commitment issues. The more we are aware of our conditioning and the more clearly we can see (and reflect on) our thought patterns, beliefs, behaviors, and shadows, the more we can improve our  relationships. With patience, self-compassion, humility, commitment to our personal development, and constructive feedback from those around us, we become aware of how we function in our relationships. We can identify the aspects that work constructively, as well as the aspects that simply don’t work and don’t benefit the connection.

When two people in a (romantic) partnership or friendship are committed to assisting each other in their journey of personal expansion, they can hold space for each other as they go through challenging moments. We will inevitably be triggered to respond from emotional pain in our closest connections, and often we wish to tiptoe around the confronting areas and avoid the moments of friction. But this can cause us to feel less seen and acknowledged and less connected to each other. The connection may seem harmonious, but that is only the case on the surface level. If they would see each other in a deep, honest, and authentic way, they would have to confront the individual triggers and the resulting dynamic between them. With a mutual agreement and commitment to deepen the relationship, the emotional triggers serve as a catalyst for personal transformation that both individuals benefit from.

This deepening creates space for true emotional intimacy. In these connections, there is space to explore vulnerable and unknown aspects of ourselves. In order to provide the safety that is needed for this exploration, both parties must be clear on their commitment and the agreements made in the connection. This way neither party experiences unpleasant surprises. It can be helpful to establish a list of shared agreements, that might include intentions and guidelines about communication, privacy, proximity, exclusivity, boundaries, and more. This can also be done in a setting that involves several people in a group of friends, or a circle retreat. It’s important that all participants accept the agreements, and that they are re-addressed when necessary.

Romantic partnerships between two people that are equally committed to each other and their personal journey of healing and expansion form an opportunity for deep transformation. Improving the verbal aspect of communication is one part that impacts the connection; another aspect that offers a profound opportunity for expansion lies in the non-verbal range of communication. When trust, surrender, shared intention, and focus are established, the energies merge, understanding takes place almost without words, and we experience touch in a completely new way. There are tantric practices that incorporate breathing, eye-contact, meditation, and touch to assist partners in their expansion journey. Playful and nurturing interaction during dance or massage can be a gateway to explore touch in connection more deeply. A safe and inspiring environment to practice and experiment with new emotional-energetic ranges in connection is during Heart IQ relationship circle retreats. The safe energetic container of the group allows for deeper conflict patterns to be transformed.