About Love, Emotions, and Intimacy
Words and phrases like feelings, heart-breaks, ‘it hurts’, betrayal, intimacy, and even love have always held a literary meaning to me. In fact, there was a time when I used to think that they were nothing more than cheesy marketing tactics of media industries (Bollywood to be precise). Confessions perplexed me, ‘agony aunts’ amused me, heartbreak-caused suicides utterly bewildered me. I believed that love was merely a sugar-coated term for lascivious desires and was absolutely sure that I would believe it till the end of my days — a catastrophic miscalculation on my part.
As time progressed, I got to know more about these apparently trivial but actually profound concepts. Now I know that those are not mere words and phrases. They are the emotional upheavals; the highs and the lows that a person goes through in the course of his life. The joy of falling in love, the feeling of intimacy with another person, the sting of heart breaks, the horror of betrayal, these are all emotions that an inexperienced one would never be able to imagine.
Did I experience them? Nope. Am I lying? Believe me when I say that I am not exactly proud of it, Nope. Then how do I know? I studied.
Limited as mere knowledge is about these matters, I was still able to learn about them. I have studied them curiously and with a great detail (don’t ask why). Yes, I am knowledgeable, but all my opinions are merely factual. If I were to give an analogy, I would say that I can merely recite the words without actually knowing the poetry. But merely knowing the words will do if the alternative is to not know at all.
That brings me to my point— even if I don’t know about it firsthand, I know it still, and that is good enough for me. But what about you? Do you know? If you’re my acquaintance and are reading from Nepal— probably not. How can I say? Because I’ve been brought up here much like you have. I hail from the same society and culture that you are from. The very society where a romantic relationship between couples prior to marriage is frowned upon, a simple kiss creates rumors, hugging each other is awkward, premarital sex is a despicable taboo, and knowledge of emotions is all but non-existent. Not exactly a utopia for lovers.
A person brought up here, and I dare say even India and other third world countries, is emotionally crippled. Much like how a medically undeveloped facility fails to identify a complex disease, we fail to identify and subsequently act upon our subtle emotions. We do not express our feelings, not to our friends, not to our family let alone to our subconscious crush. We are too embarrassed to do that. Correction — embarrassed would be an incorrect term — we are in fact, in denial. The unfortunate stigma of an otherwise perfectly natural need has left us severely incomplete. Yes, we are incomplete. We shiver in the lack of that which we do not know and yet deny that we are suffering.
We are clueless about the need of intimacy a person has and also about the devastating depression he goes through due to its deprivation. We do not possess the knowledge required to separate the emotional from the physical. We’re perfectly knowledgeable of the love and belonging needs of Maslow’s hierarchy in every other aspect save for that which really matters. We are indeed a pitiable bunch.
But we are not to blame. Blame rests entirely upon the shoulders of the previous generation. We have merely followed the path they set for us.
— They taught us about physical health: to eat nutritious, drink clean and breathe fresh. But they conveniently forgot to mention about the emotional diet: love, intimacy, and affection.
— They also taught us about hospitals. Go visit a doctor if you are ill. Only, no body mentioned anything about depressions and how to cope with it.
— They taught us to make friends, to depend upon each other but no one said anything at all about relationships. No one emphasized the necessity of a significant other.
In the matters of emotions all my parents, and probably yours too, did was to warn strictly that such things are not to be done until you are married! In short, you were expected to carry yourself through the torment of adolescence on your own. Intimacy is an immense support to your soul but you were forced to grow up without knowing this simple fact. All of this because your parents did not agree with it.
To them: a girlfriend is a vile woman who is responsible for their son’s failing grades, a boyfriend is a villain who will irreversibly violate their precious daughter, and dating is something that boys and girls do in a secluded room of a shady motel.
It’s not entirely their fault to be honest. The way they brought you up was the way they were brought up themselves; in a loving but conservative method. They had no realization at all about the existence of an emotional aspect to their child’s health. The problem was never their want of concealment, it was their lack of awareness.
But you are different. You are not of the previous generation. Although you were not previously exposed to this hidden aspect of your behavior, you are now aware and as such, it is your duty to educate the next generation.
Teach your children from an early age to express themselves.
Teach them about love, encourage them in their pursuit of romantic interests, support them when they are going through an emotional low.
Make them aware about depression and make sure they know that it is merely an illness and that there are professionals who can help them get better.
Tell them that sex is an important but only partial element of a relationship and what matters more is trust, companionship, and emotional fulfillment.
But most important of all, tell them that what really matters is their happiness and to never give up on it.
Your efforts will decide whether your child will be able to identify his feelings, act upon it, and ultimately achieve the joy that intimacy is supposed to bring or will remain in denial and suffer therefore. Choose what you want him to be: an emotional cripple, or a complete person.