How Can We Create Intimacy in Our Relationships?
I believe there are 3 key steps required to develop true intimacy with another person:
Whether I believe in a Higher Power, am an agnostic, or am an atheist, the first order of business in having a happy life is to recognize that I am not alone in the universe. I, you, all of us need to rely on the “metaphysical” (meta = “beyond”) at least some of the time. Is it our instinct that informs what we are supposed to do when making a tricky decision? Or is it that a “Higher Power” is guiding us? The answer doesn’t really matter. Each and every one of knows what it feels like to have a “gut feeling” about something. This surpasses the physical realm, and sometimes it even seems to contradict logic and/or common sense. Whatever we call it, something other than our own thoughts guides all of us, at least some of the time.
Call it Higher Power. Call it God. Call it “Universal Energy.” Call it the Universe. Or call it “Higher Self.” It doesn’t matter. There is something that is inside of me, working to help me make my way through this world. I can ill-afford to ignore it. I must work at connecting to this “non-physical” reality that seems to want to guide and direct me. I risk making some poor choices if I don’t.
Doing this allows me to get in touch with a part of myself that can inform and enlighten me. This creates the opportunity for more self-honesty, since I’ve now tapped in to something that can teach me more about myself and my truth than I would have been able to learn otherwise.
So, connecting with God/Higher Power/Higher Self opens me up to increased self-honesty. I am now ready to reap the benefits of the next step in the process, which includes self-examination. Having now connected to my Higher Power/Higher Self, I now turn from looking outwards, to looking inwards. I turn to connecting with what’s inside of me, the “good” and the “bad.”
I live too much in my mind, and that usually means one of two things: I’m either focusing on the past (i.e. regret, resentment, anger, bitterness), or the future (i.e. worry, fear, anxiety). When I’m disturbed, I can usually credit it to one simple thing: not being present, not focusing on what’s going on right now, not living in today.
I find it hard to let anything bother me if I’m living mindfully in today. If I’m focused on this very moment, and nothing else, then all the stuff from the past and worries about the future don’t come to mind. They don’t exist for me. The first step in connecting with myself is to practice mindfulness and start living in today.
Next, If I’m to find intimacy with myself, I must be ready to undertake an honest, thorough and open self-examination. This is why being mindful is so important. I can’t afford to focus on the past, nor can I worry about the future. I need to “inventory” what’s there, right now. The things I find may stem from the past, or be rooted in worries about the future, but I can’t let morbid reflection or excessive worry creep in. I look at what’s there, right now, in an effort to identify what it actually is, and then to be rid of it.
Dr. William Glasser, creator of “Choice Theory,” believes that solving the problems of our past doesn’t require delving in to the past. I agree. When I focus on today, on my current relationships (including with myself), I can discover everything I need in order to become the very best that I can be.
So, I undergo self-examination. I make an effort to discover what’s there, now, inside of me, both at the surface, and deep-down. The goal is to discover the characteristics (both “helpful” and “unhelpful”) that make me who I am and motivate me to do the things I do. It needs to be stressed that I can’t afford to forget to look at what’s GOOD and HELPFUL in my makeup. Too many voices want me to believe there’s nothing good about me, but this is a lie. I can always find good inside of me, if I’m honest and look deeply enough. And when I find it, I need to own it.
The next step is to jettison what’s not helpful to me, and to capitalize on what is. Honest self-reflection is the beginning of this process, and sets me up to become authentically me, which I think is a good definition of intimacy with self. Authenticity encapsulates honesty and integrity, the two preconditions for intimacy.
After an honest self-reflection, I’m ready to take the final step, to risk being vulnerable, to connect with someone else at the deepest levels possible.
My honest self-examination pointed out things in me that I need to work on. Sometimes, certain character traits have caused me to take advantage of others, to cause them harm. Others have caused me to allow myself to be harmed. Perhaps I worried about “hurting someone’s feelings,” and I didn’t stand up for myself when I should have.
I need to take a balanced and honest look at what I find on both sides of this question. I can only be intimate with others going forward if I’ve straightened out what’s happened in past relationships. Just setting boundaries, only taking care of me, isn’t enough.
I start the process by making an amends to myself. I give myself a break for my past mistakes. Then I decide to take the actions necessary to avoid doing the same thing again. This often means discovering – and setting – new boundaries for myself, in order to protect me from those who would try to take from me what I can no longer afford to give.
Amends to self are very important in creating intimacy with others, but we must go further. After reviewing the past, if I see that I’ve harmed someone else, I need to be willing to make that right as well. Admitting past wrongs and committing to changed behaviour are essential if I’m to restore relationships where I’ve caused a break. People can’t feel safe with me until I make right any wrongs I’ve committed against them.
When we can live with appropriate boundaries, we can feel safe. When we can admit past wrongs and do our best to make them right, we make others feel safe. When they, and I, are feeling safe, we can now open up to being honest with each other. When both parties in a relationship operate out of a place of honesty, integrity and authenticity, we can connect with each other at the deepest of levels.
This is true intimacy.
My goal is to walk with you as you work through these stages. Whether we meet for a single session, or for several, you’re sure to benefit from an “Intimate Experience” with me. We can customize a program for you that meets your needs specifically.
Why not contact me today to learn more about how I can help you discover deeper meaning and connection in your relationships?
I prefer to use the terms “helpful” and “unhelpful” when considering character traits that are what others might call “good” or “bad.” I use the terms “good” and “bad” here, however, because most people think in those terms. I’d encourage you to move away from using this kind of language, as it’s judgmental and, often, itself unhelpful.