Mental intimacy meaning

4 Types of Intimacy and How to Cultivate Them

To strengthen your relationships you may want to work on four types of intimacy: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual closeness.

Intimacy, in general, refers to the level of proximity between two people. It requires vulnerability, openness, and trust.

Getting intimate with someone else on one level doesn’t necessarily guarantee intimacy in other aspects.

Whether it’s your relationship with your parents, significant other, friends, or employers, you may experience different intimacy types depending on the power dynamics at play.

If a relationship has an equal power dynamic, intimacy becomes easier to cultivate, says Gloria Lopez-Henriquez, a doctor of social work and faculty member at The Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York City.

For instance, romantic relationships where decisions are typically made jointly, and one person doesn’t exert control or has more resources than their partner.

Not all relationships involve all types of intimacy, but these four are the most common to share:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • mental or intellectual
  • spiritual

Physical intimacy refers to body closeness. It can involve hugging, cuddling, kissing, and holding hands, depending on the nature of the relationship.

Physical intimacy is not exclusive to romantic partners, though. Parents and children and even friends can develop non-sexual physical intimacy.

This type of intimacy involves safe touch and proximity that can enhance feelings of emotional closeness.

According to a 2020 study, physical touch can help build bonds and can reduce perceptions of loneliness.

This type of closeness is not typical of other relationships where trust and vulnerability may not be present.

“You cannot disrobe your soul with a colleague the way you do with a trusted friend or romantic partner,” says Lopez-Henriquez. “The difference is you’re on an equal footing in these relationships. It’s not the same as a relationship with a teacher or a supervisor, […] because they have some control over you.”

To nourish this type of intimacy, you can have an open conversation with the other person about their level of comfort with different types of touch.

Another way to cultivate physical intimacy is to make the other person feel safe with your touch. For this, you may want to start with light caresses, soft hugs, or kisses on the forehead. It’s important to be receptive to the other person’s reactions and respect boundaries.

Being emotionally intimate with another person means being transparent with your deepest feelings, fears, and thoughts. It involves feeling safe and not judged, says Lopez-Henriquez. And it’s all about being the same for the other person.

To nourish emotional intimacy in a relationship, you need to take risks and be open, she adds. However, if one or both people are emotionally unavailable or fear intimacy, closeness in this aspect may become challenging.

This type of intimacy may be developed in most types of relationships.

Parents and children can build on their emotional intimacy, for example, if they maintain a sense of curiosity about the relationship, says Lopez-Henriquez.

“It’s important for a parent or guardian to ask questions or come from a place of curiosity rather than make an accusation,” she adds. “If a child (even if they’re an adult) feels like they’ll be judged, they won’t share intimate details of their lives with their parent.”

The same goes for friendships and romantic relationships.

Emotional intimacy can be developed by listening better to the other person and being able to speak clearly and honestly.

This type of intimacy may also require reassurance that, despite differences in experiences and emotions, you are safe with each other because you find support and comfort when you express your deepest fears, pains, and doubts.

Mental intimacy refers to sharing your ideas, opinions, and life perspectives. It may also involve intellectually challenging each other and being open to learning, or at least considering, the other person’s ideas.

Having stimulating discussions about different topics and feeling safe about expressing your own views is part of nourishing mental intimacy.

The key is to show mutual respect, even when you have differing views, Lopez-Henriquez says.

To cultivate intellectual intimacy, you may want to keep a curious attitude. It’s important to share points of view with the intention of learning from each other more so than debating opinions.

Spiritual intimacy means feeling close, validated, and safe sharing your innermost ideas and beliefs on life’s purpose and your connection with divine energies.

It’s still a blurred concept because it may mean different things to different people.

Spiritual intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean both people have the same beliefs, but it may involve sharing a broader concept of spirituality.

For example, you may both believe that you must be faithful and honest in all things you do, even if you belong to different religions.

Sharing this higher sense of purpose may develop an intimate closeness that allows you to project a life together, for instance.

To nourish spiritual intimacy you may want to learn more about each other practices and beliefs and, more significantly, why those are important to the other person. Spiritual intimacy is about sharing the impact your beliefs have on your life and respecting this may be different for the other person.

Fear of intimacy refers to being scared of getting too close to someone else in one or more aspects.

There are several reasons why someone may fear intimacy, depending on age and type of relationship, says Lopez-Henriquez.

Instead of dedicating time to improving their current relationships and cultivating intimacy, many younger people may focus their energy on looking for other potential partners, says Lopez-Henriquez.

Another possible fear regarding relationship intimacy may be linked to the sense of losing your identity.

Fear of vulnerability can also be involved in a parent and child dynamic. If a child — even if they’re an adult — is afraid of disappointing a parent or guardian, they may choose not to have an intimate relationship with them.

One way to work on your fear of intimacy is by seeking the support of a mental health therapist. They may be able to explore possible causes of your fear and work with you in developing a plan that helps in your particular case.

Intimacy refers to a level of closeness where you feel validated and safe. In relationships, four types of intimacy are key: emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual.

If you feel you fear intimacy of any type, or your loved one does, seeking the support of a therapist may help you.

Mental intimacy is a priority – The Telescope

In this day and age, individuality and uniqueness are praised with positivity. However, in contrast, the pressure to live up to typical sexual ideals is still very much prevalent. The “hook-up” culture is at an all-time high as meaningless sexual encounters become something of the norm within society. Sticking to what you firmly believe is right tends to be difficult when you feel pressure not to disappoint your peers.

All around us we are constantly reminded that being seemingly willing in terms of your sexual persona, is what continues to rule. Social media dominates the minds of most. Tinder, Snapchat and Instagram are the avenues for easy access to new relationships and connections with surface depth and shallow meaning. It is not cool to be cautious and careful with your heart and body in this generation. What a sad thought that is to entertain.

Cherishing an intimate moment and making it meaningful goes out the window when the lines are even slightly blurred. To feel someone without touching them is seen as absurd. To know someone’s soul before you know the curvature of their inner thigh is a mindset that only a few possess. It is more common than not that when venturing into a new relationship with someone, sex plays a major part.

But what about those who believe that a mental connection is more important? The idea that a strong mental connection is most necessary and that it overshadows the importance of physical chemistry is one that not many believe to be true.

In a simple survey, eight out of 10 students on the Palomar College San Marcos campus agreed they would rather have great sex and no mental connection with their significant other, than participate in a relationship in which the sex life was mediocre but consisted of a strong mental connection filled with stimulating conversations and a mutual understanding of each other’s mindset.

The walls of house parties and dorm rooms are continuing to see more empty, meaningless physical connections, and college students use sex and physical intimacy as a way to fill a void that they believe cannot be filled otherwise. Hooking up is now seen as a rite of passage and a necessary step to becoming desirable.

For men, the higher your number of sexual endeavors, the more you are praised. For women, the better you are in bed, the more you are seen as a potential love interest in the long term.

In today’s society, if you find yourself in a sexual or romantic situation that you do not necessarily feel is right for you at that time, you are wrongfully looked at as peculiar or prudish for simply changing up the atmosphere, cutting the sexual tension and vocalizing that you are not ready. What if he doesn’t call me again? What if she thinks I am not capable of satisfying her? What if my friends judge me?

The same goes for both young men and women. The internal questions that develop in our minds during these moments can be overwhelming. This sense of pressure happens through the buildup of societal sexual expectations, through social media and the subconscious need we all feel to be socially accepted by our peers and those whom we are interested in.

In turn, we reluctantly cave to the pressure and decide to follow through with a decision that could have simply waited.

What many have yet to realize is that there can be something extremely intimate and sensual about knowing someone from a mentally deep perspective before the physical aspect comes into play. To connect with someone on a deeper level than just sexual chemistry is a rarity that not enough people appreciate.

There is a beauty and strength that resonates from people who know that they can satisfy their partner on another level before they have ever touched their body.

There should be more emphasis put on the importance of establishing a mentally and emotionally strong connection in a relationship. Though the physical aspect plays a significant role in any romantic relationship, the same amount of significance should be placed on a bond that goes beyond physicality.

If society and social media turned more towards the promotion of self-assurance and mental intimacy, before the idea of male sexual dominance and female submissiveness, maybe more people would be in long lasting relationships and would not find themselves in uncomfortable situations where they give nothing more than a reluctant “yes” at best.

Intimacy, love and mutual understanding in the family

People can drink together, they can live under the same roof, they can make love, but only common idiocy can indicate true spiritual and spiritual intimacy.

Max Fry

Most of us want to have a loved one with whom we can share experiences, whom we can rely on in difficult times and who can be trusted. The cherished dream of many is complete mutual understanding in relationships. nine0005

As a rule, for the sake of this we start love and friendship relationship. Too bad we don't always get what we want. Perhaps because we dream of mutual understanding and intimacy, not really understanding what it is.

From the point of view of psychology, intimacy is the highest degree of openness and sincerity in a relationship. Oddly enough, strong feelings are not enough for intimacy, sometimes they even interfere with her. The main conditions of intimacy are the ability to accept another person as he is, the ability to open up to oneself and accept the openness of another with respect and understanding. As well as the ability to listen, to observe changes, one’s own and a partner’s, to be ready for them. nine0005

Intimacy with another person begins with closeness to oneself

To be close to someone else, you need to start by building a relationship with yourself. We cannot be understanding, considerate and tolerant with another person if we refuse understanding, consideration and patience to ourselves. We cannot be sincere and open if we do not love ourselves and are ashamed of ourselves. Because in these cases we:

  • Feeling too vulnerable for true intimacy
  • We have no experience in establishing harmonious relations
  • We do not accept ourselves and are not able to accept another

Proximity and vulnerability

No wonder people who are unsure of themselves avoid intimacy. If we do not have a relationship with ourselves, we are really defenseless before someone who knows us well, to whom we have opened up and trusted. Such a person can hurt us with a thoughtless word or action, accidentally or on purpose. nine0005

The one who has established contact with himself is not so vulnerable - he knows himself, believes in himself, and this will not change because of a couple of unpleasant words or unexpected and ugly actions of other people. Even if these people are very significant. It will be unpleasant and sad in any case, but if there is internal psychological integrity, you will draw conclusions, perhaps change your behavior, but do not become a victim circumstances.

Bottom line: true intimacy doesn't threaten your integrity, doesn't make you vulnerable. Because only those who are very strong mentally, who have healthy self-esteem, are capable of it. nine0005

Intimacy or dependency?

Where do all these stories come from then, like “I believed him so much, we were so close, and then he deceived / set me up / took advantage of my gullibility.” Most likely because people confuse intimacy with addiction or a merger.

If intimacy is a healthy relationship between two full-fledged individuals, then addiction means psychological problems (if this is not the very beginning of a relationship, when it is normal to temporarily merge into a single whole). nine0005

Dependence or merging is a consequence of the fact that people do not know how and do not want to be independent. They feel inferior and unhappy when they are alone. and try to find someone who would save them from this feeling. That is, they use each other as psychological crutches.

Completely different things, but often they are called by the same word - intimacy. That's where the confusion comes from.

What is intimacy without?

Intimacy is an interaction that only independent and self-sufficient people are capable of. Any couple can have moments of intimacy, but I'm talking about a stable understanding in a relationship between people. nine0005

  • Ability to accept yourself and be yourself

Until we love and condemn ourselves, until we know ourselves very well, it is impossible to be close to someone, because we are far even from ourselves. We do not have a relationship with ourselves, we do not understand ourselves well, so there is not even a point from which intimacy arises.

  • Awareness, adulthood, stable self-esteem

Intimacy is possible only between self-confident people who know how to be independent, feel their personal boundaries, but are not too painful about them - after all, intimacy involves compromises. mindfulness you need to track your internal states and take them into account, calmly respond to the characteristics of your partner. nine0005

  • Ability to conflict correctly

Proximity means honesty, including the ability to talk about your negative emotions, claims, experiences. And most importantly, be prepared for the same "negative honesty" from the partner. Conflicts between two people are inevitable, and if they want to remain close, it is necessary, on the one hand, to be able to conflict, and on the other, to be able to give in. The line is very thin and each family is looking for it on their own, sometimes by trial and error. nine0005

  • Ready for responsibility

Intimacy means you open up and open up to you. That you build a relationship with a person, where each of you has rights and obligations, where you take into account the needs of the other and talk about your needs. This requires accountability, that is, the ability to make commitments and keep them.

Why seek intimacy if everything is so complicated?

Intimacy is the highest form of human communication, what we enter into a relationship for. This is an opportunity to understand, to be understood, an opportunity for amazing spiritual and emotional development for each of the couple. And the opportunity to become something more than just a person with their own personal interests. I wish you closeness, love and understanding in your family. nine0005

Finally, here is what famous psychologists and therapists say about intimacy:

“Intimacy is a sincere relationship at the Child-Child level without games and mutual exploitation. They are set by the Adult ego states of both parties so that both parties understand the joint contracts and obligations to each other very well, sometimes without saying a single word about it. As this understanding becomes clearer, the Adult gradually leaves the scene, and, if the Parent does not interfere, the Child becomes more and more uninhibited and more and more free. 0004

Eric Bern

“There is only one form of intimacy that does not hinder the development of the personality and does not cause contradictions and loss of energy - this is mature love; by this term I designate the complete intimacy between two people, each of whom retains complete independence and, in a sense, separateness. Love truly does not cause conflicts and does not lead to energy losses , because it combines two deep human needs: intimacy and independence”

Erich Fromm

"In order to be truly intimate with another, we must truly listen to the other: let go of the stereotypes and expectations associated with the other and allow ourselves to be molded by the other's response"

Irvin Yalom

Intimacy: you can't buy, you can't steal, you can't beg

I am a psychotherapist. Representatives of almost all segments of the population pass through my hands, head and soul. Perhaps, there are no only homeless people and oligarchs. nine0115 The groups I lead are a cross section of society and its problems. Our course is long, the groups are small, this allows us to work “close” and climb “deep”. And our exercises, like an x-ray machine, highlight everything “inside”: in what mode thinking works, emotions are rich or poor, as well as the presence (or absence) of the ability to empathize, creativity, love ...
On the verge of a new millennium (that is, twenty years back) I started to sound the alarm. Adults with higher education have ceased to cope with tasks for abstract thinking. The results of creative tasks discouraged primitive solutions. But the worst thing is that the majority of those involved did not show any personality traits . Because the Personality itself was not revealed. In place of the Personality gaped the Social Function. It consisted of scraps of knowledge, fragments of culture, illusions and clichés.


This post is a continuation.
Beginning - in the articles "Youth without aspirations - de-energized ..." and "Dust-longing filled my eyes with lead ..."
We are talking about the most common mental disorder today, which is called psychopathological diathesis. The number of people with this disorder in the world today is between 40 and 60 percent. nine0115 Obviously, it should be clarified what the soul is. There is an expression: "smart, but soulless." And who do we call a spiritual person? Someone who is able to sincerely sympathize, sympathize, sympathize. Therefore, the soul is emotions.
Where does psychopathological diathesis come from? Roughly speaking, as with most mental illnesses, the biochemistry of the brain changes. Is everyone susceptible? Not all. There must be a hereditary predisposition. Why are they only talking about this now? Because it "blooms" in our time with terrible force. nine0005


During the holidays, I received a lot of letters in my personal mail with requests to tell me more: about maladaptation… about intimacy… about raising children… about “how culture is related to mental health”… what is the treatment of the soul …
I tried to answer all the questions, but it turned out to be a lot of text, so I broke it into three posts.


The long, obscure word maladaptation means that through someone's efforts a person has been made unfit for life on planet Earth. As a rule, this is not done by enemies, but by the closest relatives. As a rule, this is the work of several generations. And this is done in no case from evil, but from thoughtlessness. nine0115 And what a misfortune - in the age of high technology, common sense has disappeared somewhere. Because there are more and more maladjusted children in all segments of the population. (This is my old article "Mowgli from a good family").


Where psychopathological diathesis comes from, we have already said: hereditary predisposition plus the environment in which a person grows up, plus appropriate upbringing.
Since the word “heredity” appears, it is clear that the parents are also “tarnished”. And that means internally coldish and aloof.
In most diathetic families, the attitude towards children can be divided into several categories.
1. As for household appliances, which must perform the functions intended for them. What is going on in the soul of a child is of no interest to anyone in such a family. You will not ask the washing machine which powder it prefers.
2. As a purebred dog, which is obliged to justify the breed and take a good place at the show. nine0004
3. Like a toy with which you can play hunting, sometimes show off, and then put it in the closet until the next time.
4. As an essential accessory for family life. Something like a handbag, hat or jewelry. (Perhaps that's why most parenting advice—whether in books or in the media—is like advice on caring for jewelry.)
The list goes on...

Parents can be quite decent, don't drink or fight. They can honestly take care of the child, that is, feed, clothe, monitor studies, health and behavior. But this is not enough for adaptation in human society on planet Earth. nine0115 The child lacks lively and warm feelings and words, heart-to-heart talk about what really excites and worries.
Growing up, children try to share their experiences with their parents, but they are quickly shown a common game called: "do not say anything that might upset relatives." And they learn for the rest of their lives that it is not necessary to say what you feel, what you think about - even more so.
In such families, everyone lives as if in spacesuits. They may not particularly scandalize or quarrel there, just everyone moves in their own orbit, and these orbits almost do not intersect. nine0005

“… Anya looked around and saw the routine of this loneliness. Because all the families around her lived according to the same principle: parents were only interested in grades and behavior, and they categorically did not want to know how their children live and why they die.
Anya was dying of love hunger and freezing from loneliness…»
(“Secrets. Notes of a psychotherapist”)


Every day we show the child our attitude to the world, to life and to the child himself. On a subconscious level, the child fixes what we were horrified, delighted, saddened, worried about, and what we remained cold and indifferent to ...
Observing our reactions, the child draws appropriate conclusions. One is that “the world is dangerous”, and “people are enemies”. The other is that “the world is full of mysteries” and “oh, how interesting it all is!”
Yes, even about himself, the child subconsciously understands that he is a doll. Or a piece of furniture. Or social function. Or a trump card. Or small change. Or a person. With this attitude to the world, to people and to himself, he will go into life.
How psychopathological diathesis is inherited in the story A good child is an obedient child! nine0005


As you know, creativity is one of the privileges of a person. You can create not only a work of art: poetry, painting or music. The most honorable, the most difficult, the most valuable is the creation of Man, that is, the upbringing of a child.
Today's Internet is full of tips and recipes for raising children. But the authors never mention a word anywhere that the high quality of relationships with the world can be shown only by their own example. Indeed, the most luxurious schools, circles, classes are meaningless if the family does not have charmed with Life.
And in diathesis families, both with charm and with creativity, there is a big "tension". There, children are made according to the pattern. An illustration can serve as an excerpt from the book "Secrets", which is not recommended for people with weak nerves to read.


Let's be honest! Subconsciously or consciously, people dream of intimacy in their family. They are looking for it, they yearn for it, but they do not know how to achieve it, because the majority do not have the experience not only of building trusting relationships, but also of speaking frankly with each other. nine0115 This is a big trouble, because without spiritual intimacy, relationships cannot be human . And the only possible form of interaction between people is manipulation.

“... There were guerrilla wars in families. This meant to endure for the time being, and then jump out from behind a corner and stab in the back. All households were drawn into these sluggish long-term battles.
It was not customary to talk about personal experiences, about what really excites and disturbs. To ostensibly not to disturb relatives and friends. In fact, to speak about true thoughts and feelings meant to reveal one's weak point in front of the enemy. And be calm, the enemy, choosing the right moment, would not fail to take advantage of this gap. No enemy could strike such a subtly painful blow as loved ones. They knew where to hit. nine0004
Talking about joys was even more dangerous. Joy could easily be extinguished, trampled, spit. Not openly, by the way. In the family, everything was gradually. Therefore, the main partisan rule demanded to avoid frankness by all means…”
(“Secrets. Notes of a psychotherapist”)
The full passage can be read here.


Intimacy at the present time is the rarest and most expensive "commodity" in the world, and what a mean thing - you can't buy it, you can't steal it, you can't beg for it. nine0115 And if there is no idea what spiritual intimacy is, especially not in experience - is this a sentence?
Not always.
Nature has given man a wonderful bonus - the ability to accumulate not only his own, but also someone else's experience. This means that a person can look around and see what the atmosphere is like in other families, how people build relationships with each other, who succeeds and who does not. He can find (in the near or far circle) an example of a relationship built precisely on intimacy, and take it into service . ..
Moreover, when a person grows up, he gets help from world culture: painting, music, literature, theater - a source of knowledge of human desires, passions and characters.
Culture gives you the opportunity to expand your horizons and your ideas - how else is , how can it be. And if a person is able to perceive works of art not from aloof, but close to the heart, then he has a real opportunity to become deeper, thinner, better understand people and himself...
Here it is, the Chance given to us by nature: man is the only creature on the planet A land that has the ability to change itself and its life! And this is regardless of what was given in the family and what was not given. nine0005

How many people use this Chance today?


Traditionally, I will finish with a poem (imitation of a folk song) from the anthology ArtSintezTherapy. This is not a masterpiece of world poetry, but it clearly and accurately describes how the diathesis attitude is transmitted from generation to generation.

The red maiden flew away from the nest
Her mother gave her a magic monist:
“You wear that necklace, don’t take it off,
And if you take it off, you will inevitably expect trouble.”

Do I want to go to the free field -
That monisto lies like a stone on the chest,
Gets heavier, does not let you take a step:
Protects white legs from bruises.

A heart caught fire from love -
Coins will run cold on the skin,
Cool the violent head and blood:
Such hot love is not good.

But how the hand is drawn to throw off the silver -
It melts with unbearable heat, like a brand:
“No, you can't break the monisto!
Al don’t you love your own father and mother?!”

Stuffy, people, live with this necklace! nine0115 It's scary to take it off: after all, there will be nothing to cover the heart with.
I'll take it off, breathe in that air from the fields...
Let me put it on again.

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