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Rubin, T.I. (1989). Editorial: Intimacy and Cultural Pressures. Am. J. Psychoanal., 49(1):1-4.

(1989). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 49(1):1-4

Editorial: Intimacy and Cultural Pressures

Theodore I. Rubin, M.D.

All things being equal, the quest for intimacy is fraught with difficulty. Intimacy as most of us envision it—one or more forms of benevolent closeness—is under attack. The kind of intimacy under particular pressure is that of long standing connections, the stuff we think of as commitment or at least some form of sustained mutually beneficial relationship. This is the kind of intimacy that involves trust, tenderness, caring, the exchange of feelings, cooperation, joy in each other's self realization and satisfaction.

This siege, this attack on intimacy has of late become intensified to the point that it threatens long standing social and human relating structures such as friendship, economic exchange systems, concepts of mutual loyalty, and even family structure as we know it. Competition in all forms is constantly promoted by our society and in virtually all cultures of the world. Interestingly—competition may be viewed as an extended and prolonged form of sibling rivalry. Competition is in my view a form of adversarial relating. As such it is certainly a form of intimacy. Mutual reactivity is the most general definition of intimacy and this takes place when we compete with each other. But the highly industrialized—perhaps malignantly industrialized—world has become too complex not to suffer the vicissitudes of a lack of benevolent and cooperative closeness, a form of intimacy under constant assault by ruthless big business, cynical politicians, and what I would call media morons. I call them morons because in large part they have lost touch with what human beings are all about.

I mention the economy. More and more it becomes evident that international cooperative relating, intimacy of a benevolent kind, is absolutely necessary for survival. We all know about the potential collapse of the monetary system. We all know about radiation accidents and nuclear destruction. We all know about mass starvation. We know about world air pollution. We know about destruction of the ozone layer. These are not the result of benevolent and cooperative closeness. These are the results of another kind of friction—another kind of intimacy—the adversarial, competitive, antagonistic—“the hell with you and hooray for me” kind.

I believe that in this kind of climate family structure must also suffer the consequences.

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