Intimacy and the MEMBRAIN

New Year’s Eve and a time for reflection. I have had occasion the last week or so to remember how much I used to think about intimacy. As a speech-language pathologist working in an early intervention/prevention preschool setting, I talked with parents about many things and one of the most important was intimacy: how the communication between parent and child increased their intimacy and how the child’s circle of intimacy enlarged from parents to grandparents and siblings to extended family and outwards to familiars until they are prepared to journey more independently into the wider and stranger populated world and there intimacy faded until they grew up and began a family of their own. The child’s developing linguistic skills were central to their success on these travels as well as a healthy attachment back home.

Mother-Child_face_to_faceFather childTwo-toddlers-small

Consider in this regard the MEMBRAIN now and its four functions of passing information into and out of the mind and keeping information out and in the mind.


We regulate our MEMBRAIN’s permeability in various ways. Some of the basic ones are our level of arousal (like sleep-wake-alert-cautious-safe) and attention (let this in but keep other out for now). A more sophisticated one is our language; my MEMBRAIN is rather impermeable to Chinese, etc., though the empathic signals of intent and emotion through facial expression and body language are more universal. Even here we modulate our own expression in accommodation to cultural norms (reserved vs. expressive) or in self-protection (poker game). So we regulate the permeability for specific moments and for particular relationships. When engaged in intimate interaction our MEMBRAIN is more open, we let more in and out, we keep less in and less out—that is one way of defining intimacy.  MEMBRAIN to MEMBRAIN communication thus varies according to the relationship, e.g., personal, professional, party (when we may increase permeability with a libation), at a store, etc. When we understand MEMBRAIN functioning better, we will understand how we shift our relationship gears and are able to navigate our circle of intimacy and beyond.

I have more to say about this from my reflections on recent news stories (a bit darker here) but I will keep that to myself for now. I will say that 23 years ago tonight I first met my wife at a small New Year’s Eve gathering where we teamed up in a game of scrabble and lost even though we cheated when our hosts stepped out for a moment to freshen our drinks. Happy New Year and may we all have such good fortune as I had then.

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