Modern life is not designed to meet our needs for intimacy.
The rise of communication technologies has blurred the lines of personal space and time. We are always accessible by anyone, anywhere. While our networks may be larger, our time for meaningful interaction with others is diminishing. At the same time, we are increasingly relying on smaller and smaller groups of people to be our anchors:
"Intimate attachments to other human beings are the hub around which a person's life revolves...From these intimate attachments a person draws strength and enjoyment of life and, through what he contributes, gives strength and enjoyment to others. These are matters about which current science and traditional wisdom are at one." - John Bowlby.
In The Art of Happiness, Howard Cutler’s conversation with the Dalai Lama prompts an examination of the cultural idea of that “One Special Person”, with whom we have a deep, intimate, romantic relationship, and to whom we direct all of our needs for intimacy:
“This can be a profoundly limiting viewpoint, cutting us off from other potential sources of intimacy, and the cause of much misery and unhappiness when that Special Someone isn’t there. But we have within our power the means to avoid this, we need only courageously expand our concept of intimacy to include all the other forms that surround us on a daily basis. By broadening our definition of intimacy, we open ourselves to discovering many new and equally satisfying ways of connecting with others. “ - Howard Cutler, The Art of Happiness.
The Dalai Lama proposes a new model of intimacy, one in which we can draw from in everyday life. The proposal is this:
“There is an incredible diversity among human lives, infinite variation among people with respect to how they experience a sense of closeness. This realisation alone offers us a great opportunity. It means that at this very moment we have vast resources of intimacy available to us.”
- The Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness.