Classical Sass

(289) Emotional Intimacy Fees

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‘Her Mind and the Sea’, by Rachel Sierra

I took a beginner psych class my freshman year of undergrad and learned that folks use disclosure both as a way to build trust and as a sign that it is accruing. We (according to the book the class used) share information in order to let the other person know we trust them, and/or to let them know we already do trust them, to whatever extent the information shared implies. (Aka, if someone shares that they are eating mushroom soup for lunch even though they don’t like mushrooms, that’s a tiny share compared to sharing that the reason they don’t like mushrooms is because they got lost for four days in a forest as a child and had to live off only mushrooms and rainwater oops time to not watch Criminal Minds on endless repeat oops.)

I spent a lot of that class being appalled at myself. One of the reasons was because I’ve never used disclosure that way; I have very few ‘secrets’. I readily share my history and my feelings, regardless of who is on the receiving end. I tend to base my trust and my inclination towards intimacy with someone off of how that person handles the information I give them. 
There are, obviously, little discrepancies to this ‘rule’; I’ve had people with whom I chose not to share certain things. I chose that way because I felt a lack in empathy from them; my trust was already dehydrated and sparse. But I’ll generally toss information out there, even if I don’t trust that person, because them having my information has never felt like friendship to me. It has never made me feel emotionally obligated to a person. 
I eventually wondered if me treating disclosure this way made me some sort of psychological disaster. I’m not illegal, though, so I guess I just moseyed along and pretended like the stealthily growing conviction that I was a mutant wasn’t alarming.

I think, possibly because of the way I handle disclosure, that I find myself in a higher volume of situations where people are emotionally vulnerable with me. Also, I’m a teacher, and that trust tends to be pervasive — not limited to just violin. I take it as an honor that people trust me with so much of themselves. And I absolutely feel the pull of an emotional intimacy fee when they have shown me a color that they don’t wear across their torso in broad daylight, even if I don’t know this person outside of a few scattered conversations. I willingly respect and pay this fee, even if I don’t charge it when I commit to similar revelations of emotion and experience.

An (ex) friend once told me that he didn’t think friendships should involve obligations of any kind. It’s a nice idea, right? I obviously think it’s splerpy at best, but it made me realize that I not only pay my emotional intimacy fees when someone has opened a door to themselves and invited me in, I embrace them. I love those fees. I cherish the responsibility of seeing someone’s most precious self, their cradled insides and trembling just born hues. I love that I am trusted to hold that light and see them through it the way they need to be seen.

I haven’t settled my weirdness around disclosure; maybe it boils down to an expectation thing, where I just don’t expect folks to pay the fee? I put myself out there and they get to choose whether or not that fee is for them. I don’t conclude that we have any sort of trust based on a fee that isn’t mutually agreed upon.

But, I have learned that I am not only ok with the fee; I think we need it. I think it is possibly the truest form of payment humans could ever know. And knowing that I am ready for the fee has helped me embrace the folks that are willing to pay mine.

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