Let us continue with the previous post. Intimacy is the basis for us to be able to know God and our neighbors, which also includes our spouses. But it is something difficult to put into practice if we have not learned to be intimate with our families of origin.
Sadly, history tells us that Adam and Eve disobeyed and sinned by breaking their close love relationship. Sin is the number one enemy of intimacy. The first 4 commandments deal with the attempt against intimacy with God and the other 6 against intimacy with our neighbor.
Intimacy existed between God and mankind
When the intimate relationship that existed between God and mankind was broken as a result of disobedience, the intimate relationship between men and their neighbors was also broken.
Gen. 3:7 says: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings”.
The expression “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” speaks of the powerful effect of guilt. This is the emotion that is felt when we have failed God, our neighbor, or ourselves. When we violate God’s trust or our neighbor’s, guilt is experienced.
“Their eyes were opened” refers not to the physical transformation, but the knowledge of good and bad. It means that they recognized that they had sinned, and the result of their discovery was an experience of guilt and then shame. This feeling of guilt led them to understand that they were naked before God and their neighbor.
Emotions that influence our intimacy
Guilt is a primary emotion. The primary emotional responses are a direct reaction from the amygdala, consistent with the immediate situation, helping Adam and Eve to give the appropriate response to the situation. If guilt is not dealt with properly, it leads the person to feel shame. This is exactly what happened. The last part of verse 7 says that they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings because they were ashamed of their nakedness. Shame is enemy number one of intimacy.
The maladaptive or secondary emotions are also direct reactions to situations. But they no longer help the person to deal constructively with the situations that provoked them; rather, they interfere with effective functioning.
Secondary reactive emotions follow a primary response. In the secondary emotions, Adam and Eve reacted against the initial primary adaptive emotion (guilt), so that it was replaced with a secondary emotion, shame. This “reaction to reaction” darkens or transforms the original emotion (guilt) and leads to actions that, again, are not entirely appropriate for the situation they were experiencing.
Before sin, it was natural for them to be naked before God and their neighbor, but now, guilt shows that they have failed God’s trust and their neighbor’s, and they feel ashamed. They now had something to be ashamed of, something to hide. They could no longer afford to be transparent because being so would lead to judgment towards them.
What is shame?
What is shame? It is the intense, painful feeling or experience that comes from believing that you are inferior and therefore not worthy of being loved and belonging. Shame gives you a sense of worthlessness, a sense of having failed and not being capable enough as a human being. It is like feeling that you are bleeding inside.
That is why our insecurities push us to put on some clothes, to cover ourselves so that we are not known and rejected, just as Adam and Eve did. We want to avoid being hurt. We try to keep things as quiet as possible, therefore we do not share anything that we know that someone could question us. Many of us have covered ourselves with emotional clothes.
Emotional clothes that prevent intimacy
Does all this sound familiar to you? Many times, we feel the same way Adam and Eve did, ashamed of what we have done, for having broken our intimate relationships, either with God or with others.
Sometimes it happens that our spouses have no idea who we are. Our thoughts, desires, frustrations, and feelings are all buried under protective layers because we have not established an intimate relationship. We have been hurt, and we hurt others; we have been victims of abuse, and we abuse others. Sadly, many people’s response has been to add another layer of isolation and hide from their spouses, children, friends, and church members and that is why intimacy does not exist nowadays.
Three reactions to dealing with shame
Dr. Linda Hartling talks about three reactions we have to deal with shame. There is the group of those we just have mentioned, the ones who leave, hide, or retreat. The other group is those who move toward other people, not to be intimate, but to appease and please. These are the ones who become addicted to pleasing others but do not get to be intimate.
The latter group moves against others by trying to have power over others by being aggressive and using shame to combat shame. These are the ones who have problems with anger management, who are aggressive, and who use any means so that they can produce shame in those around them, to calm the emotional pain they feel due to their past.
The pain that is felt due to rejection and shame, that pain that leads us to hide and avoid intimacy at all costs, is very deep.
In 2011, a study sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health found that when it comes to the brain, physical pain and the intense experience of social rejection hurt equally. Advances in neuroscience have confirmed that emotions can turn into wounds and cause pain. This is the pain that leads many to react the way they do.
Shame is an enemy of intimacy
You cannot experience shame and intimacy at the same time. The deepest wound carried by a person driven by shame is the inability to establish intimate relationships.
Do you understand now why when God approaches Adam and Eve to talk to them, they run and hide? There is no intimacy when your shame leads you to hide your true identity.
Do you understand why it seems difficult for you to be intimate with God? Your family’s shame, mistakes, tragedies, trauma, abuse, and generational shame has led you to distance yourself from God. Or maybe all of this has led you to seek God but not in the right way, or perhaps your shame has led you to rebel against God, blaming Him for the sad things that have happened to you.
Do you understand why it is hard for you to be intimate with your children? Simply because you live hidden behind fig leaves, so you can cover your shame. You hide behind the trees using perfectionism, the victim mentality so that you mistreat your children by demanding from them to live a holy life, a life that you have not been able to live.
Intimacy with children
How can you be intimate with your children when your shame leads you to live a false life? How can you experience true intimacy with your spouse when you hide the truth of your past from him/her, and you just want to be intimate when you want to have sex? God did not create sex just to satisfy a glandular desire. You cannot be intimate as long as your life’s true you are hidden behind emotional clothes.
The lack of intimacy developed in our families of origin is the reason why this society is building men and women with anxious, ambivalent, and avoidant attachments. These people with insecurity problems find it difficult to develop intimacy with others.
A couple that is emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and physically intimate does not get divorced. It is because true intimacy is the antidote to divorce.
The secret to regaining intimacy
In Genesis 3:9-13, God is looking for Adam and Eve. They feared and hid because they were naked. What would have happened if they had not come out of their hiding? If we analyze it, Adam and Eve made themselves vulnerable before God. They showed their nakedness and told Him what had happened.
Therefore, the first element of the formula is to be vulnerable. But there is a false concept: I cannot take the risk of revealing my deepest feelings. If I let others know what I am, I might be rejected. This false concept stops many, preventing them from becoming vulnerable and thus achieving intimacy.
Have you ever wondered what the word vulnerability means? The word vulnerability comes from the Latin vulnerable, which means to hurt. Being vulnerable means being open to attack, exposed, and powerless. Vulnerability in a relationship requires the courage to love, but openly, to be honest regarding your feelings and doubts. It also involves the willingness to risk exposing the truth about a painful past and some emotional difficulty.
Vulnerability opens the door for intimacy
Vulnerability is being open to pain, but it also opens the door for the blessing of intimacy.
A dear friend who is reading these lines,
I challenge you today to take your mask off and have the courage to be imperfect. Have the courage to love yourself, and the courage to let go of what you believe you should be. So you can become what you are.
And how can you do it? By being authentic and asking for Heavenly help, and, if necessary, professional help. Besides, if you accept negative emotions, you will be on your way towards true intimacy with God and others.
Have you ever experienced the benefit of allowing vulnerability in your life, in your interpersonal relationships? What effect or changes did it make in your life? Share your answers with us in the comments section. God bless you.