One of the major themes we’ve come across during our exploration of intimacy this February is the idea that in order to have intimacy with others, we must first have intimacy with, or unguarded knowledge of, the self. Now, what does this mean exactly? Just like any other basis of knowledge a person develops in their lifetime, it involves taking the time to question, sit, and mull over a subject with the intention of gaining a greater understanding of its depths. You do not simply wake up knowing the names of all the freshwater fish species that exist in North America or that you’re prone to using avoidance tactics in romantic relationships out of fear of abandonment. It takes time, patience, and most of all, a genuine interest or belief that developing a specific basis of information will somehow add to your life.
While there are many worthwhile pursuits of knowledge that certainly may benefit your time on earth, nothing is a more noble discipline than the search for self-knowledge. When we don’t take the time to uncover the hidden aspect of our wants, desires, and dislikes, we risk living our lives on autopilot, letting the same unconscious patterns dictate our decisions until one day we wake up and realize we aren’t living the life we meant to live or that nobody truly knows us because we never took the time to get to know ourselves.
Esther Perel, acclaimed psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, is a master of helping people see the things about themselves that they might have missed along the way. As the executive producer and host of, Where Do We Begin? the podcast that allows listeners to become flies on the wall during a couples therapy session, Esther lets us into the inner worlds of her clients as she points out with compassion and wisdom the pieces of each couple’s own self-puzzles that they’ve come to overlook.
As an immigrant to New York City from Antwerp and a child of parents who survived the holocaust, Esther brings an insightful perspective into what underlying beliefs we may be carrying as a result of family or cultural conditioning. When we understand what parts of ourselves authentically belong to us, we become better at communicating with one another in all facets of our relationships, leading to deeper connection and intimacy. While Esther’s writing can at first glance seem preoccupied with the sexual aspects of relationships, what she is really doing is using sexuality and romance to unravel the bigger picture of ourselves.
The inquiry into the self may be met with the question of, well, where do I begin?, and Esther’s intimacy worksheet is a great start. By taking the time to better understand what Esther calls our “emotional dowry” through the ten questions she poses in her worksheet––things like our personal histories, fears, preferences, biases, and all the things we bring to relationships––we create the opportunity to make more authentic choices, which allow us to map out the changes we’d like to make in our lives while being realistic about the challenges we may face. All is meant to be explored without judgement, as you dive into your own psychology and return hopefully with a deeper sense of intimacy with yourself.
Click here to receive Esther Perel's Intimacy Inventory via e-mail.