Right Distance Right Depth

What is… Right Distance Right Depth?

Right Distance Right Depth is an invitation adjust how close and how intimate we are in a situation or relationship.

There are times when we can feel too close, too involved, too exposed. Giving ourselves a little space – distance – and backing off a bit can help us (and often the other parties) regulate and get clear about what is a YES for us.

See also: Co-regulation, Boundaries, Safety-Respect-Freedom

Benefits of… Right Distance Right Depth

  • Allows us to stay centered, calm, and confident
  • Allows us to not get pulled into another person’s story, behaviors, or feelings when they might be unhealthy for us physically or emotionally
  • Allows us to maintain some privacy and self-protection when revealing “too much” would make us susceptible to harm, hurt, or triggering

When we find the sweet spot for engaging with another, we can be more calm and confident. We can know what is right for us, where are healthy boundaries are, and what we might need to adjust in order to feel safe and balanced.

When we’re at Right Distance Right Depth, we have more energy. With less depletion, there’s more resources available for the relationship and our thriving life.

Examples of… Right Distance Right Depth

Frequency and Duration

For some people communicating every day is just right. For others, that would be way too much. Same with visits, length of time together, bids for attention, requests, touch…

Vulnerable Sharing and Intimacy

Sometimes less is more. And sometimes less is… less.

Discovering how much to share and with whom is a real skill. People do reveal their nature, and if we’re open to adapting our Right Depth then we may discover with some that sharing our more vulnerable feelings does NOT give us back the energy we want… even when we’re explicit about what we want and why.

Other times, we may discover as we reveal a bit more of ourselves, we actually relax! We can even feel excited to be closer and match up at a deeper level.

Some people do not handle intimacy well, at all. Some people criticize rather than support. Some people judge more than accept. Some people vary from day to day, so Right Depth varies with them, too.

We invite you to share life examples where Right Distance Right Depth has played a role in relationship.

Useful Questions

  • Would I/we feel better with less closeness or more?
  • When I reveal my deeper thoughts and feelings, am I getting back from the person or group what nourishes me… or depletes me?
  • Do I have phases where being closer and more engaged is what I need, and other phases where solitude and separation are important for my well-being? (If so, how can I communicate that with those affected and reach healthy understandings?)

What other questions come to mind for you? Please reply and share your wisdom.

Resources for… Right Distance Right Depth

  • Boundaries can include Right Distance (although there’s more to boundaries than distance, and boundaries are what apply when someone is breaking the Right Distance we need to feel safe and respected.
  • Intimacy resources can help us explore and understand Right Depth.

We welcome links to audios, videos, books, and courses that add to our shared understanding of this concept. Memes and quotes are also welcome.


Contributors: @Rick @Glenn

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When I first heard you use that phrase it really made sense to me. Here’s how I unpack it…(if you’re asking for people’s input that is…are you?)

What Is It?: To me it means how much, how intensely, with what level of vulnerability, do I invest emotionally in a relationship with any person at any particular moment in time. It can literally mean physical distance too but mainly I sense it to mean emotional distance.

Benefits: Allows me to stay centered and calm/confident; allows me to not get pulled into another person’s story, behaviours or feelings when I judge they might be unhealthy for me physically or emotionally

Examples: I see it as a dynamic process rather then an unchangeable ‘right distance/right depth’ for an individual. I may decide I feel safe to be very vulnerable and interactive with someone and then feel the need to increase the distance and lessen the depth if that person speaks or behaves in a way that is not congruent with my values. There are people that I also have a default distance/depth with and it’s unlikely that I will venture closer than those established boundaries. I know those aren’t specific examples but my brain is a bit slow and foggy at the moment.


That’s what I’ve got for now. I’m sort of rambling in an unedited fashion so I hope it mostly makes sense and that it mostly jives with your intended meaning of the concept Rick.

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This concept of Right Distance Right Depth has been transformative in my life. I always had this question about “Why can’t I relax with this person?” or “Why do they get close and then pull away?” Other questions, too, as they relate to closeness, intimacy, and length/frequency of interactions.

I love the sun!

I do. Beyond its fundamental life-giving energy, the energy of the sun feel like it touches core parts of my being… helps me re-tune the most unconditionally generous parts of my soul again, and again.

But I die in the desert. Too hot and dry, and I get really uncomfortable. I need more moisture than most desert climates have.

Twenty-minutes of sun is plenty on my skin. I’m quite pale and while some sun on my skin feels soooo yummy, within 20 minutes I’m done. Sunscreen might keep me from burning, but (in general) 20 minutes of sun is fun, 2 hours is too much.

Right Distance Right Depth, eh? Yes, when it comes to the sun, I can feel into the distance (intimacy with, putting barriers for example between the sun I love and the bald head I have). And depth/frequency.

I believe most of us, if we look at our relationship with the sun, can feel the Right Distance Right Depth and… the impact when we are too much or not enough.

I’d say the same can be true of a campfire. Too close? Too far away?

Extending these primal awarenesses into relationships, we can feel longings for closeness and longings for more time alone. We can feel “too exposed” or that we want to strip off our clothes (or emotional armor) and dance free.

Once we realize that there is this concept that then becomes a lived experience for us individually, it makes it a LOT easier for us to be okay when someone has “had enough of our sunniness” for the day, or they need to keep more “protection” on even if (like the sun) we know ourselves to be radiant and beautiful and our energy quite… useful!

How does this fit (or not) for you?

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This fits very well for me. I have this mantra in my head frequently…right distance, right depth. Pleeeease may I find that. Thank you for this, @Rick.

I recently reconnected with my sister, or rather she was finally ready to reconnect with me. It was a painful two plus years where she was not in communication and didn’t say why or what was going on. Man that sucked. I felt terrible missing pains and also lost time with my nephew since my only connection was through her. I even decided to move away from her since it was too painful to be close and not in contact (among other reasons). And, I really struggled with my default of blaming myself.

She told me her actions had nothing to do with me, it wasn’t my fault, and even she couldn’t figure out what was going on for her until now. Goddamn! So much suffering and what I feared wasn’t true. I want to hold this lesson as a gift for future interactions when someone checks out or pushes me away with emotional meanness, etc. Maybe they are practicing right distance, right depth…in their own (harmful) way. I want to not take it personally. Really. Truly. And I also want to figure out my own ever evolving right distance right depth with them.

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The concept of Right Distance Right Depth solidified as a practice for me in respecting and honoring the distance others needed from ME!

But but but I’m a good person, right?
But but but you love me, right?
But but but aren’t I worth it?!?

I could give at least 6 poignant examples where people who I know love me have needed a right distance right depth that was (and is) far less connected then a part of me thinks I want.

But do I want to be “closer” if it means my presence reminds them of pain of lost dreams, or not having a child of their own, or…?

What if our platonic friendship and deep respect triggers a partner and causes discord that impacts their kids?

What if there’s a subconscious trauma that they are dealing with that me, with so much experience with trauma, might be MUCH harder to hide it from than the others who are “closer” to them?

We assume it is “better” to be closer to the Light and Love we want to offer. Uhh, not (!) always.

When we get that, really get that, we’re so much more free. We can accept and recognize when others need right distance right depth, and allow ourselves to do that, too.

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Yes! Oh man do I know what you are describing. It’s challenging to turn the spotlight on yourself that way. Like you say “But but but…!!!” And and and as I try to remind myself no one, not even people I love and cherish in my life, are under contractual obligation to behave in accordance with all my expectations…expectations that fundamentally suit me and what I believe are my needs for reassurance and certainty. That’s a HUGE practice.

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It was heart-opening to discover that some people were keeping a distance not at all because they thought ill of, or didn’t want me around, or didn’t love me… it was that their lives and nervous system and other parts of their ecosystem didn’t fit with a close, intimate kinship anymore.

That cemented in me the understanding that to make it “about me” isn’t always helpful – indeed, when feeling into the mutual Right Distance Right Depth, it would seem that being aware of each others limits, needs, activated traumas, and other life demands would be… mutually respectful.

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Yes, absolutely. I’ve experienced this from both sides of the emotional equation. And also, it occurs to me, that these ‘RD/RD’ considerations don’t necessarily have a ‘forever’ timeline to them. They can be a moment by moment sort of thing. Like when a young child fervently attempts to interrupt a conversation a parent is involved in, the heart-connected parent doesn’t simply turn and communicate “you can’t speak to me ever again!”…what they communicate is “now is not a good time…but we will definitely talk after I’m finished here.” There’s a time stamp placed on the ‘RD/RD’…(that’s if it’s not an emergency of course! If it is an emergency than the ‘RD/RD’ is to interrupt.) And those moments are what teach a young nervous system to become skilled at managing and intuiting ‘RD/RD’. Man, it’s such an important concept and template for thriving that it bears lots of discussion, consideration and practice in real life in my opinion. It’s foundational to emotional maturity and wellbeing I believe.

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Sometimes, we don’t need to focus on cutting people off and away.

If we just focus on our own growth, strengthening, respecting and loving our own core, our own path.

They will, quite naturally, just fall away.


• Words by Brigit Anna McNeill

• Art by Tijana Lukovic •

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That’s been true in my life that as I have grown, strengthened, and deepened in clarity about my own values – what matters to me – that people not close kin to those energies tend to flow towards a right distance right depth that is less close and less intimate… and those who are even more kin to those values get closer, without much “effort” other than listening to the “call” inside of who lights up in my awareness and following impulses to connect and share.

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There is so muchh great points here that I’ve taken it in! wow!

I find that these phrase is singing in my head whenever i’m actually practicing putting myself away from someone or something!

But the force of needing to"power through life" or “endure life’s stress and pains” is so much stronger than it leaves me “stuck” sooooo easily, such that right distance and right depth feels not feasible anymore…! I feel like everyday at my internship, I’m constantly struggling with trying to calm myself down with all the triggers that is present and, it would’ve been better if I wasn’t triggered in the first place with right distance! But I’ll be here till november, and I know that I shouldn’t be constantly running away from my anxiety and use this chance to heal with the triggers being exposed. I was regarded by my supervisor as someone that works “too slow” and that I need to pick up the pace in my work. I know that if there weren’t so many triggers “holding me back”, and all these stressors popping up, I would be able to do things way faster…!

But yeah, I just somehow really feel like everytime after I’m able to take 1 step forward in finding relief on that triggered situation through some tapping, it’s always a 1000 steps back with just a new minute trigger in the workplace. :exploding_head:

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I invite you to start a new topic and pick ONE trigger that seems to come up for you pretty commonly.

No, right distance cannot always mean fleeing from anything that’s a trigger. A trigger is, I believe, a trauma to be healed and a belief to change. Right Distance Right Depth does need to honor our triggers, and perhaps some we decide to keep as “if this is present, I am OUT of Here.”

But we do need to be more resilient in the face of judgment, because it’s a Magical Misconception to believe that there will ever be a workplace for example where judgment isn’t present. Like water in the air, even in the direst desert there is water in the air. Judgments will always be in the air, sometimes thick, sometimes pretty minimal. If we’re triggered by judgments, for example, there IS no “right distance right depth” from any and all judgments. Heck, we judge ourselves!

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Thanks Rick! I wanted to, but went ahead to just lump all my thoughts here since I happen to relate to right distance and right depth!

Rightt, there’s clarity in this! I’m often confused as to whether I should leave, or honour my triggers and be comfortable working through them as well!

Yes, sigh I guess that’s the hard truth…! All along i’ve been trying to run away from as much painful situations where there is judgement involved! But yeah, avoidance isn’t the best way to live for sure!

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I’d like to live in a world where there is NO Pollution!

But for me as a humanoid, a forest fire 3000 miles away is pollution, as is volcanic ash… even if completely “natural.”

Judgment at this point is utterly natural! It may be hard on us. It may be something other humans use to manipulate our energy to push, control, dominate, or suppress us. Heck, that’s why we’re even engaging around emotional freedom! We’re looking to evolve from what is natural “now” to something that may grow and evolve to become more natural “then.”

So if judgment is a thing… like smoke… do we… light up and inhale? Do we still sit by the fire but move where we are sitting so the smoke isn’t blowing right AT us?

I aspire to shift from black/white good/evil right/wrong judgments into more awareness and discernment. Discernment allows us to feel into right distance right depth.

If we’re in judgment, we’ll react: “Smoke bad! Put out fire!” I suspect some ancestors took that reaction and… didn’t make it through the cold winter. :wink:

There are people whose judgment is more like the smoke from burning tires than from wood. I do my best to keep distance from them, as much as possible. Indeed, I’ve crafted my life, consciously, so I minimize being forced to put up with that shit.

For example, as someone who is self-employed, if I had a really profitable customer but one who I found toxic to work with, I can “fire” them – right distance is “not my customer anymore.”

If I work for someone else, which I have, I’ve had to “cope” with customers the business valued that were really… nasty people. Miserly rather than generous. Always pressuring for more… faster… cheaper.

It’s been my experience that being in such places where we’re not free can create the contrast and clarity in us to refine what is right for us. As long as we are listening and actively aware, refining our approach and values rather than reacting and raging impotently.

It’s why for me the activeness of Calming and Confidencing reminds me of both my freedom to self-manage my energy and the empowerment to evolve my life and lifestyle. I wish the same for anyone who craves that!

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That is so true! And I just can’t agree more! I think as I grow through tapping and being in this community, I can finally learn to move away from the smoke, than stick my head in the engulfing smoke and tell myself that “it trains me to be more resilient with the smoke, or deal with life stronger” shit will always stay as shit, and pushing myself to stay on just makes life harder for me. Life is too short for more suffering and even though people make misunderstand me as not being “daring enough”, or “the weak ones”,

Though I must say that the line between “positive” suffering(?) and negative suffering is at many times still unclear.

I hope that slowly, I can learn to let go of the accelerator pedal and nourish myself with more fresh air…! And this community and all the resources available is definitely that daily/weekly breath of fresh air! Letting go and admitting that I “want” to move away from the threat that society might posit are the hard moves in life. Yet, those are the ones that brings relief, and peace from all of life’s “smoke”…

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So… I look at it this way right now: if what I am doing matters to me – perhaps because it is something I value, perhaps because of the learning / growth I am choosing for myself – then there is a real benefit even if I am also “enduring” some other unavoidable aspects of the situation.

For example, we can choose to endure a series of classes not all of which we want to take in order to get a credential that is required (!) to do the work we want to do in the world.

I also know, for example, that I can benefit from doing the work I do without being employed by anyone else. Yes, I have clients. Without clients I do not have a business. Still, I am not reliant on ONE client (boss). When we work for another person, everyone up the hierarchy is a client who can “fire us.”

Which is fine! It’s useful to shift the energy around being “bossed” to serving “clients” for example. You can do that right now. Practicing that not only can your clients (bosses) fire you… YOU can fire THEM!

I am not required to keep anyone as a client. Freedom!

You’re not required to keep any specific job, either.

I don’t know of any money-making businesses that do not have some hard stuff, or shitty tasks we don’t necessarily want to do. But clearing out the manure isn’t horrible if you know it is part of “the business.” We had 4 family horses, 1600 pounds of manure a year we had to shovel… each! Unless we were clear on the benefits of the horse-rider relationships, that would have felt horrible. Since we were clear about what mattered to us, shoveling shit was just part of the ecosystem.

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image
See the book

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My impetus is to edit the quote slightly…“The closer you want to get to me, the more harmonized your values have to be with mine.

There’s something about the word ‘better’ that just doesn’t sit easily with me even though I believe I understand what the author is describing.