Does the “Intimacy” definition get aged?

“Intimacy is linked with feelings of closeness among partners in a relationship. It is usually characterised by love and attachment. These feelings may or may not be connected or confused with sexual feelings. In other relationships, intimacy has more to do with shared moments than with sexual interaction.” 

“This is not an exact definition”, continues the description in the popular Wikipedia and my question is: Is this not an exact definition because the definition itself includes terms that are abstractly defined e.g. ‘love’ and ‘feelings’ – or the definition of Intimacy is actually getting dated due to how society transforms during times? 

For instance, fifty years ago, it would be enough for two strangers to shake hands and exchange a common childhood experience that could both identify themselves in, in order to feel that they had a connection with each other. Today, this is not the case. The “shared moments” in our times go further than just finding out that e.g. we both grew up in the countryside with our grandparents. We need something more to feel intimate with a stranger, and therefore to connect. A kiss with a non-familiar person today, reveals another kind of intimacy that the same incident had fifty years ago. 

In addition, the consent concept nowadays has been developed as a more conscious parameter in workspaces; the concept of intimacy -physical or emotional- is daily present, e.g., in the performance field. I would like to analyse a little bit more the hidden mysteries of the definition of intimacy, and I would like to expand my thoughts on the term “connection” and the vital basic human function to create relationships.

As I mentioned above, we need another form of intimate communication today in order to feel that we have built a connection with another human being, and hence, to start establishing a relationship. Through significant revelations of psychotherapy science and crucial initiatives of human rights movements, we have somehow expanded our social and collective consciousness over the past years; the emotional and physical safety boundaries are in constant debate. This can be the key to re-discovering new perspectives and new ways of experiencing precious Intimacy – an archetypical need of us humans. 

Trespassing the private boundaries without consent and without creating the space to welcome intimacy as a natural form of our social lives and not as a threat move, can have ambiguous outcomes and can bring -the least- uncomfortable experiences. Knowing and respectfully exploring our own or others’ intimate wishes or needs and even discovering new expectations, could open up more connectivity and relationship possibilities.  

Applying this exact idea to the theatre field as an artistic and professional space, the following question comes to one’s mind: are there parts of our emotional and physical world that could be “safer” to come into contact with a stranger?

The performing arts field is a big pot that collective consciousness can be a different meal every time; a handshake could be the most distanced physical intimacy with a stranger, but what happens with a hug? Or a “leg shake”? Or touching someone’s hair? Or blowing in the face of a person you just met. Does theatre transform these intimate gestures in order to be perceived as non-violent intentions even when the art topic is Violence? And if yes, how? How intimate moments can be staged today?  

I remember a one-to-one performance that I took part in 2014 at Akademie der Künste. The concept was that you set a date with the artist and you were invited to their Atelier to spend time hanging out together. The intention from the side of the artist was to arouse the five senses of the spectator-participant, offering food to taste, gently hand massage, playing music, or reading something to them. My intention as an audience and participant at the same time was to enjoy every moment. My experience was quite positive and smooth. Partly because I mostly relish being in “performing mode” even as a spectator during a performance, and partly because the artist in Akademie der Künste had indeed created a safe space and format to comfortably experience the date with a stranger.

Nevertheless, is there any kind of unwritten deal that both the artist and the participant can follow in order to be safe – in terms that they won’t experience discomfort or even physical pain? What are the techniques that we recall, so that we can inspire moments that we can call “intimate” in a sense of connection and togetherness? 

If I had to try a new definition of Intimacy today, I would try to open up the phrase “shared moments” from the definition upwards and split it into two separate parts:

1) the action of sharing -the giving and receiving process

and

2) the value of a timeless moment

Returning to the previous example, the process of giving and receiving in order to connect with another human being has moved to another zone than exchanging just names or a life event from our childhood – as it was half a century ago. 

The intimacy process in our days includes a confession of personal and collective visions, traumas, or survival plans. A single moment can work as a trigger in many directions, in such ways that in previous times we weren’t most probably conscious about. 

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