Many of us long for an intimate connection with others. Those special connections where you feel like the person understands who you are beyond your exterior self.
In the current era of Facebook and text messaging there seems to be a phenomena where we connect with others daily by photos and snippets of our lives, but commonly feel a sense of disconnect and lack of fulfillment from our online worlds.
I recently read an article from the NY Times (The 36 Questions that Lead to Love by Daniel Jones) that discussed the idea that true intimacy is created by nourishing mutual vulnerability.
This got me thinking, how often do we even ask each other (in person!) questions beyond, what do you do for a living?
How often do we take the time to explore the depth of another person?
I believe the need for community and connection is a part of the very fabric of our being. Shared experiences bring us a heightened sense of joy and happiness.
We have survived thousands of years due to the innate need for connection. During our caveman days, our ancestors needed family and community in order to survive the challenges of day to day life. They ate together, hunted together, they even cuddled up in order to stay warm at night.
Fast forward to modern times, Psychologist Arthur Aron created an experiment where he studied a set group of questions in order to see if he could create deeper, more intimate connection between people by having them ask each other a specific set of questions. I love this exercise and I often use a condensed version of these questions in my groups and workshops.
When working at treatment centers I often bring up Johann Hari’s quote “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s human connection.” I couldn’t agree more, what I often find in addiction is a sense of loneliness and isolation. One of my goals when working with clients suffering from addiction is to bring awareness and space for genuine human connection.
The idea behind the exercise is that when we take the time to get to know each other on an intimate level we create a mutual bond of empathy and connection. Share this experience with a partner, a friend, or a stranger. Let me know how it goes!
Intimate Connections Exercise:
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.