Authenticity in relationships, the gift of honesty
By Norman Araiza
Not too long ago I ran into an old acquaintance in the Jardín. We chatted a while and he admitted that he had been seriously depressed for the better part of a year. Naturally, I listened and asked him about the basis for his depression. He was open and honest and I told him I could relate. Without going into the causes for his depression, I came away from that chance meeting feeling not only connected to him personally but more valuable as a person. The interesting part is that he had no idea that I was a therapist. We spoke for quite some time and after the conversation I questioned myself as to why was this conversation so meaningful. The answer is that my acquaintance was honest with me. He didn’t give me the standard “I’m good” response to my inquiry of “How have you been?” Instead he looked me in the eye and with a smile tinged with sadness, admitted his struggles. This in turn allowed me to share some things about my life that could be better. His honesty with me validated that I was a person worth sharing honest details about his life and opened the door to share with him my frustration of not being able to spend as much time as I would like with my daughter who lives in California. We went on to discuss other ways living in Mexico challenges us and reminds us how fortunate we are. That conversation lifted my day, made me feel less alone and with a renewed commitment to bring intimacy into my life at a greater frequency. My acquaintance and I achieved intimacy that day through his honesty and authenticity.
Intimacy is the most rewarding form of human interaction. It’s marked by openness, genuineness, authenticity, trust and disclosure. It can be expressed physically or emotionally, more often in combination as romantic love. But there are other forms of intimacy as important and with less complication. It requires an element of risk, whereby we take a chance, “bare our throat” and share a secret with someone or many and a magical feeling occurs. A form of intoxication that makes us yearn for more. Think back to your earliest experiences with risk and trust when you told your first personal secret about yourself that you thought no one knew. Remember the feeling of closeness that may have caused you to label your confidante as your “best friend.”
The sense of trust that occurs is almost addictive, because when intimacy is achieved, endorphins, which are neurotransmitters, are released in the brain that rewards people in similar ways that heroin or opiates induce a euphoric state. Furthermore, oxytocin, another brain chemical that produces a feeling of attachment, is released. Men get a blast of it when kissing. Each gets it through orgasm. Powerful stuff, that motivates us to seek romantic relationships and we feel less fulfilled when we don’t have a partner. It’s as though interpersonal trust and risk are an equation and have a direct relationship. Intimacy is a skill, something we learn or don’t. If we learn it at an early age we will have many long-lasting true friendships. If we don’t, we are apt to have less meaningful relationships marked by superficiality and shallowness. The more often intimacy is achieved the greater sense of personal satisfaction. Intimacy is a genuine need for which humans hunger yet many seem unable to make the leap. But, it’s never too late to learn.
A recent study showed that men and women achieve intimacy differently. Women tend to achieve intimacy through talk and sharing while men tend to feel it through activities like sports, work and pursuing mutual goals. It doesn’t matter how we achieve it but authenticity appears to be the key. The next time someone asks how you are, experiment with authenticity and honesty and see if it doesn’t extend the conversation and bring about a more meaningful interaction.
Norman Araiza M.A. is an American trained psychotherapist enjoying a limited practice in San Miguel. He is available for consultation at 152 7842 email: email@example.com.