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Emotional vs Physical and Behavioral Closeness

It is not primarily our common behavioral experiences which bring us closer together, as is commonly believed. Instead, our common emotions. Consider a family of four going on a week-long camping trip. The father thinks it will bring the family closer by being alone in a remote wilderness area. The teenage daughter wants to be home with her boyfriend, who she has just started having sex with, instead of with her father, who constantly tries to control her. The ten year old son wants to be up at the lake with his best friend, where his friend's family all gets along well and where he feels listened to and valued. The mother has been thinking of getting a divorce, and spends the whole week preoccupied with how to tell her husband, how he will react and what will happen to her and the children.

Or consider four strangers sitting through a church service. One person might feel touched, moved, loved and temporarily relieved from their hectic, stressful life. Another might feel self-righteous, superior and judgmental. Another might feel self-conscious, watched, guilty, judged and disapproved of. Another might feel amused, cynical or incredulous that people voluntarily sit through such services.

In both cases one common experience did not serve to bring these individual human beings together. Instead, it did just the opposite. Although these people were physically close to one another, they were still worlds apart. Thus it must be our shared emotional experiences which bring us the deeper connection to others which we all need.

Of course, it is also possible to actually be sexually intimate with someone, yet emotionally distant. One might feel alone just before and just after the sex. Or possibly even during it.

To feel close to someone emotionally it helps to feel empathy for them. This is easier when we recognize a similar feeling which we have also experienced. For example, each of us has felt judged at some point in our lives. Each of us has felt criticized. Each of us has felt disapproved of. Each has felt unappreciated. Each has felt embarrassed. These are the kinds of experiences which humble us, which break down glass walls between us and which unite us with a deep common bond.

It is likely that very different behavioral experiences triggered very similar emotional experiences; just as very similar behavioral experiences can trigger very different emotional experiences. That is why we must stop talking about what we did, what we are doing, what happened and what is happening. This is all behavior based.

We must begin to talk about emotions, feelings, perceptions, and internal experience. We must continuously ask each other how we feel about things, and how we felt about things which happened in the past and how we might feel under different future scenarios.

Only by sharing our common feelings will we ever reach the level of unity, acceptance, tolerance, compassion and understanding which is necessary for us to survive on this increasingly small and over-crowded planet.



For help with emotional closeness, see these pages

Emotional Literacy

Feeling Words




Validation | Invalidation


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