Stop arguing and enjoy real intimacy

What is the meaning of life? It is emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy and connection are the most important things to humans. Without emotional connection a baby will die. When an adult is lacking emotional intimacy, they will become depressed and suicidal, even if all their other needs are being met. As far as we know, we are the only meaning-makers in the universe, and therefore emotional intimacy is the most important thing in the universe; not money, not power, not beauty, not resources, but emotional intimacy.

We’re all seeking to be seen, heard, understood, appreciated, valued, connected, loved, adored, cherished, and validated. That’s what we all want, even if we think we’re trying to get more success, more money, more security, more meaningful work, more notoriety, or more leisure time.

So when we get into arguments with people, it’s typically because we’re not getting our emotional connection needs met. The problem is that most of the time we either are not aware of what our needs are, or we are scared of being rejected if we reveal them. We have learned to be ashamed of these primal needs that we inherited from our mammalian ancestors. I have written about shame and how to rid yourself of it before. When we shamefully hide what is really going on with us, we feel emotionally isolated, and we also create conditions that lead to further and deeper emotional isolation. Many couples consist of two people who are highly dependent on each other yet fundamentally emotionally isolated from each other, and from everyone else.

It is important for you to practice being aware of how you are feeling inside your body when you are having a disagreement with someone, and to experiment with revealing what is really true for you. When you focus on revealing these things that are deeply personal, and that you can be sure are true, such as “I feel hurt,” you are much less likely to be perceived as attacking, and much more likely to bring the cascade of reciprocal attacks to an end.

When you reveal what is most true for you in the present moment, it not only stops you from attacking, and makes you more vulnerable and less threatening, it also begins to build a foundation of true emotional intimacy and connection, the very thing that everyone is seeking. The other person will also then be more likely to reveal what is really true for them, further deepening a foundation of emotional intimacy.

When you have built these kinds of strong emotional foundations in your relationships, you will find that you are able to weather extreme adversity while feeling secure and supported. You, and the people that you are connected with, will then be more capable of handling the very adversities that you once argued about.

Build capacity

Yesterday I went from sea level to 10,000 feet and spent several hours cross-country skiing. Even though I was not acclimatized, I did not get altitude sickness or get particularly out of breath or tired, even though I kept falling over and having to get out of deep powder. I was able to do this because I have been going to the gym three times a week for the past year and doing intense weight-training. High up in the snow, I could use the excess capacity in my body to handle the adverse conditions.

It’s a good idea to build capacity so that you can weather difficult circumstances. It’s not just physical capacity that is important: build emotional capacity by practicing equanimity through meditation; build social capacity by nurturing friendships; build financial capacity by generating wealth and the ability to generate wealth; and build intellectual capacity by reading, thinking, and solving difficult problems.