In the movie Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert is portrayed as someone who has a tendency to distance herself from real intimacy in a romantic relationship because she’s afraid she will dive in so deeply that she all but disappears.

It’s a tendency many of us have in common with her.

Why do we want intimacy so badly, yet back away from it when it becomes available—especially if it gets intense?

From the moment we enter the world there are two powerful pulls that act upon us. At different points in our development one may be stronger than the other, but then the other reasserts itself.

One of these pulls is a desire to belong, be a part of, experience connection. We don’t like to feel we are all alone. Especially, we don’t like feelings of anything that smacks of abandonment.

Ironically the other pull is toward separateness, individuality, independence. We don’t want to feel we are being forced to conform, fit in, and therefore place ourselves at risk of losing ourselves in a relationship.

We want to chart our own course, make our own decisions, not submit to someone else’s will for us.

There’s never a time in our life when these two pulls aren’t active. The trick is to get them in balance so that one doesn’t exclude the other.

To be ourselves without apology and yet be connected closely in relationships with our family, friends, and perhaps a romantic partner is what all of us deep down long for.

Getting to the place we can tolerate both closeness and autonomy, without one or the other overwhelming us, isn’t so easy. It can be a lifetime journey—or more.

We emerge from a universal oneness. But once individualized in this way, our unique expression of consciousness will never again merge back into the whole as if it hadn’t ever existed.

There will be a oneness in our future. But it will be a oneness in which the many individualized expressions of consciousness have learned how to be themselves without losing themselves in the interweaving of their lives with everyone else—without what’s special about them becoming submerged in the oneness.

All the relationships we enter into during our lifetime on this planet might be viewed as practice for not losing ourselves in the way Liz Gilbert did and so many of us do.

In other words, relationships of every kind—and especially romantic relationships and those with close family—are the scaffolding that enables us to construct a solid non-egoic self that is strong enough to be itself without being taken under by the whole.

When we don’t have to either hold back or pull away to maintain our sense of who we are, but can be fully ourselves and stay tightly connected, we are getting the idea of what this whole life journey is about: the one and the many, united in a universal oneness that manifests the infinite variety of the divine Presence.

Author's Bio: 

David Robert Ord is author of Your Forgotten Self Mirrored in Jesus the Christ and the audio book Lessons in Loving--A Journey into the Heart, both from Namaste Publishing, publishers of Eckhart Tolle and other transformational authors. He writes The Compassionate Eye daily, together with his daily author blog The Sunday Blog, at