FRIENDSHIP is the topic that I have been mulling about for some time. Some of you, my dear readers, who have been asking me to write on this topic where you wanted me to, address a Friendship from the platform of Personal Intimacy and Platonic Relationships. Whatever I have written here is just a representation of things that I gathered during my course of reading and research. This is bit complicated to articulate though. Let me try!
Can these TWO be part of a Friendship? Or Can any ONE be part of a Friendship? Or Can these TWO be independent of a Friendship?
In my experience, I have noticed that, post our school/college days, once we are into job and get going in life, most of the Friendships start as either “professional” or to certain extent “emotional” and are substantially “intellectual.”
But, many people to whom I have spoken on this topic have told me one thing in common – They did not find one which is more of “Intimate and Personal” as the ones that they enjoyed and experienced while they were in school/ college times.
Let me articulate – when I say “Professional”, you got it, Professional friends one meet at their company, at a networking function, or elsewhere in the industry one works. A professional friend knows specifically what one does during working hours and knows various key facts about ones career.
When I say “Emotional” – this undercurrent involves, Feelings, relationships, someone you’d call on a weekend when you’re extra happy or extra sad. Emotional connection usually requires significant amounts of time spent with the person. These can be from any walk of life!
When I say “Intellectual” – Philosophy, analytical disagreements, industry contacts, meet-up groups etc.,
But there is one another, that I want to mention, which is very special in my opinion and I am unable to find one beyond my college days – that is “Personal” – Personal friends tend to be childhood friends, school friends, family connections during childhood, childhood neighbors, or a friend with whom one has little in common career-wise but most in common as partners in all crimes.
Now, as we grow older, there are various dimensions that play out as an evolving human being and one tends to have more of personal and emotional friends. Let’s say 10 or 12 year-old isn’t debating marketing strategy with a colleague from work. But over a period of time, as one enter the workforce and mature, you develop specific intellectual interests (or not). You become intellectually curious. You take on professional/passion based interests and goals. For a broadly fulfilling friendship, one need more than pranks or playing sports together. One needs to be able to have a stimulating conversation.
So in my opinion, based on my own experience and of course, I have spoken to quite a few people in the age group of 20-30, to find an understanding – Can a personal & emotional friendship develop a meaningful intellectual dimension? If YES, then one probably end up having a life-long friendship that will be deeply rewarding and intimate and can be Platonic in nature in case of opposite sex. If not, you have a relationship worth maintaining but not destined for intimacy, forget platonic!
Then it is anybody’s guess and experience, as you enter your late 30’s, you’re meeting people mostly in a professional context with intellectualism as the animating force. Work as a social place is an environment not as naturally conducive as school or a youth sports team to personal, emotional intimacy. More authentic “social” time must be scheduled in advance due to a busy schedule and perhaps a family of your own, which means it, happens less often.
Let me reverse the above question – Can a professional and intellectual friendship develop a meaningful emotional dimension?Just stop here. Sit back and think. For sure you will agree with me. It is lot more easier to fill in the professional intellectual part to a long standing personal intimate friendship than to fill in the personal intimacy to a professional intellectual friendship.
If you notice, the society around us, there is no one way of established protocol or standards or traditions that facilitate building emotional closeness in non-romantic situations between people, irrespective of the gender. Secondly, if one is married, then such person comes to depend on ones mate for the emotional closeness that one used to get from friends and thus the skills at cultivating it platonically deteriorate. Men & Women, both loose this skill at some point in their life, even before they understand what it all means… Men in particular struggle with this. One can notice that, older men with plenty of intellectual conversations to throw around, but will have no friend with whom they share the personal intimacy.
Now, all of you are wondering what I mean by “INTIMACY”?
“Intimacy” – is something human beings crave for and fear at the same time. Intimacy is a concept not exclusive to sex and romance. In my opinion, potential descriptor of in-depth interactions, sharing of feelings, and trust between two platonic friends (opposite sex). In a romantic relationship intimacy can be conveyed via physical contact, but in a platonic friendship intimacy can be expressed mostly via words and body language.
There are varieties of Intimacy – Experimental Intimacy, Emotional/Personal Intimacy, Intellectual intimacy, Sexual Intimacy.
One would have noticed people saying – ‘We don’t connect’ or ‘something is missing’. The ingredient they are reaching for and not getting enough of is Intimacy. On the other hand, one can be intimate without being sexual or romantic. There is that great connection you share with a platonic friend and with best emotional intimacy. The question that stand out always is – Are we matured enough to handle this? As psychologist says, “Emotional Intimacy is a feeling of close personal association and belonging. It’s a familiar connect formed through shared knowledge of each other and experience”
In fact, the fear of intimacy creates complications in many relationships; it makes one to push away people. This is because when one is afraid of being vulnerable and don’t trust easily. It could also have to do with ones upbringing. Physical intimacy is a way of showing another person that you care. And that need not be sex. I am talking about a warm respectful & affectionate hug! At its core, in whichever form, intimacy involves being aware of each other’s fears, hopes, and dreams while accepting the person as they are and giving them that space to be as they are!
This is where the problem begins. As psychologist say, people lack the ability to verbalize ones true emotional wants and needs. It might be difficult to find the right words to communicate ones feelings accurately. In fact, it might even be difficult to formulate ones wants and needs to one’s own selves. Intimacy is not possible when one is closed. In most of the culture around the world, one holds back self and are inhibited.
Also, the other aspect is, in general people fear exposing their true self and weaknesses for the fear of ridicule or rejection. Spiritual guru Osho, in his book ‘Intimacy – trusting oneself and the other’ – writes that the word intimacy comes from the Latin root intimum which means your innermost core. He writes, ‘Unless you have something there, you can’t be intimate with anybody. If you extrapolate it further, one hesitates to allow intimacy, because people will see the other side of You, the darker side of You, the venerable side of You, and the TRUE side of You and beautiful side of You.
Question is – Can someone Trust You? Are You matured enough to handle this? Are to genuine and open as well?
Now STOP. Just think back, in our childhood we had such a wonderful intimate trustworthy platonic Friendship. Everything there between friends (caring & sharing) was pure and unconditional. Why are we even discussing this as we have grown up? Where did we Lose? What has taken over us? INTROSPECT… !
Instead of expecting from others, One should start providing, and things will automatically fall in place…
If one wants to have a meaningful intimate relationship back in life, which is nothing but a most revered FRIENDSHIP, then for sure, conscious effort in that direction is needed. So, working at it is a rewarding chore.
The moment, one starts giving space, creating a relaxed environment by accepting as they are, make one feel understood, bring in the understanding of trustworthiness, make them feel the reciprocation and your openness, your venerability, thus leading to boosting positive self esteem. For sure and definitely this will create an encouraging Personal Intimate and Platonic FRIENDSHIP.
This is what we all enjoyed in our childhood. Isn’t it?
God Bless You!