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Sunday, July 16, 2023

Exchanging in an Intimate Group

Whether because you are barely starting out, because you have a smaller number of members to a more exclusive experience, or because that just happens to be the kind of event that you are hosting or participating in, there are a few things to note when exchanging in an intimate group.

As with most things, it will depend. It will depend on the type of group it is, the type of people in it, and the type of purpose it has. But generally, when contrasted with larger audiences, a smaller group can get more personal.

Normally, our guard goes up the more people are around. Because having more around and with access to you means that more can judge you, reject you, invade you, or harm you in some way. The smaller the group, the more alleviated this worry, conscious or not, is. This being the case, smaller groups tend to grant the opportunity to be more authentic, engaging, vulnerable, and intimate with others.

That is, unless it has become evident or it can be sensed that deceitful and malicious individuals are present. In which case, it is only natural for your defenses to go up regardless. They make having a genuine and sincere dynamic more uncomfortable and risky. More so if they’re particularly destructive. Or it could be that you’re guarding yourself by default, because of previous experiences, and wouldn’t readily drop that for others despite how benign they seem. Which is valid; trustworthiness is becoming rarer and rarer.

Alternatively, you may have a fear of intimacy and avoid such gatherings because they make you uncomfortable and put you at risk while, ironically, being at ease within crowds. Usually, this has to do with carrying deep shame and/or guilt, merited or not, that you mask, so it is something to work through - ideally with a qualified professional that you can confide in.

The more confident and at peace you are with yourself, however, the easier it will be to be your true self with others, no matter how many are there to witness you or even how treacherous they may be. Furthermore, if there are rules set up and enforced (admission, moderation, banning, and more) that ensure, within reason, that there will be no harm or that harm will be minimal at worst, relaxing into it is more possible. And in the event that you do face harm, having proper support to assist in mending your wounds can go a long way.

That said, exchanging in an intimate group can be an extremely rewarding experience when it goes well. You get to know others and yourself better, you can give and receive feedback on specific matters and issues, and you enrich each other with both your similarities and your differences. And who knows? You might even make good and great friendships that go beyond it.

It is on you, though, to show up with the intention and attitude to foster a favorable exchange for yourself and others. What that would be, exactly, may require some figuring out, some trial and error, and some graceful recovery and restoration after any mishaps. But if there is solidarity within the group, you will be given a hand with that. Some may guide you and some may make way for you - or both. So you don’t find yourself compromising more than necessary for the sake of group cohesiveness.

Still, you get to discern and decide if a certain group is for you or not. So that you may leave it right away, not join it a next time, or avoid comparable ones in the future as much as you practically can. There may be some objections and your own conscience might torment you about it, which happens when a group isn’t entirely deplorable, but be free to go for what is best for you.