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intimacy means that were safe enoughSomething that often comes up in my work as a therapist and role as teacher of therapists is “intimacy”. We might crave it, we might push it away, we might do both. How on Earth as people with different needs, do we “meet” - how do we form relationship in a satisfying way? Can we do this AND feel safe?

What is intimacy anyway?

We might use this word exclusively in reference to sexual relationships. Yet, if we pause and consider the feelings we get from being in ‘intimate relationship’ with a partner we might recognise there are emotional and physical aspects to intimacy, to being close. We might also recognise that we need one in order to have the other. We might use words such as closeness, trust, openness, comfort, safety, reliability, honesty - to name but a few. I might add such characteristics are flavours of the therapeutic relationship: the ability to hold a client in their vulnerability requires, at some level, a degree of intimacy.

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whole greater than sumI mentioned a few weeks back how being in groups can offer a useful experience in which to explore aspects of ourselves; to look at dynamics that feel familiar to us - literally familiar, as they often originate in the family. I had the privilege of working with a group of trainee therapists at the weekend, taking them through the main principles of Gestalt therapy and witnessing them in relationship. A group of some 20 individuals, by the end of the weekend they were experiencing how the group takes on a form of its own: the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Group working is one of the main reasons I gravitated to the Gestalt psychotherapeutic frame during my training. Gestalt values highly group process to help individuals move towards ‘wholeness’: to bring awareness to the experience the Self is having in the here and now, the present moment. Of course, this can be facilitated in 1-2-1 therapy, the therapist providing prompts to bring the client in to the present and share what is happening in the relationship, and how it is being experienced. The beauty of group work is that the group and its members take on a transferential quality - we get to meet our Mothers, our Fathers, our siblings, our teachers…and, often outside of our awareness, our Selves that are projected on to other group participants. Gestalt invites a couple of ways that offer the opportunity to catch hold of what is being experienced - slowing down to check inward, and an ‘experimental’ approach that helps to magnify experience. We used a series of exercises over the weekend: from those designed to bring more contact to the inner experiencing of the body, mind and environment; through to exercises inviting different parts of self to come forward and exaggerating some of their qualities and needs; and on to those that take the relationship with self in to the relationship to others.

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bad moodI’m probably not the only person experiencing “a mood” on a Monday morning mid November…but it can feel like it. This is one of those days that I could easily find myself spiralling in to a worsening “mood”, and then projecting that on to everyone I meet, everything I do, the entire external situation of my life. But I’m not going to. By blogging, I am hoping for a therapeutic process - writing helps me get things out, make sense, express, feel.

My motivation to write about “mood” this morning isn’t because I feel particularly bad this morning; its more the contrast I am experiencing when looking back over the past few days. I remember connecting to an inner radiance on Friday morning over breakfast - intense gratitude for the life I have, and I felt incredibly open hearted. Three days later, I want to close down that same heart, I want to withdraw in to solitude - take a duvet day. And yet, nothing has changed - my life still is as it was Friday morning. So what is a mood? How can things feel so different when they remain the same?