Maria Connolly Somatic Psychotherapy CoachingConnect with me on LinkedInLike us on Facebook

Emotional Polarities – How to Embrace the Good, Bad and the Ugly as You Reclaim Your True Self

To feel completely whole you must accept your emotional polarities, i.e. your humility and your arrogance, and quit judging either emotion as good or bad. “To confront a person with his own shadow is to show him his own light”. ~ Carl Jung

Have you given away your power?

Perhaps it started years ago… Many times when we’re young and go through a crisis – caused by divorce, death, illness, or abuse – we never have the room to explores and process all of the emotional polarities that come along with these experiences.

As a kid, you think you have to be mature. You have to show your parents, teachers and friends that you’re fine, that you can handle it… But what you’re really doing is learning to suppress or disown your real self.

As a child trying to protect yourself, you put on a persona. The problem is that persona lives on and you may stop yourself from saying things you want to say; you hide your emotions or your pretend to feel something that you don’t. You show the world a censored version of yourself.

In time, we can bury our authentic self so deeply that we actually lose sight of who we really are. The persona you put on as a child, or Shadow Self, is still there under the surface causing havoc. (Read my previous blog post that explains your Shadow Self.)

To accept your true self you have to identify, acknowledge and own the repressed parts (the good, the bad and the ugly) you may have been denying for years. Consciously integrating your shadow self allows you to reclaim the power you once gave away. It enables you to recognize your uniqueness and the gifts you have. The ultimate result? Total self-acceptance brings inner peace.

This process isn’t easy. To reclaim your disowned parts recognize that…

  • You can’t bypass your past experiences and the unfelt emotions.
  • You can’t get rid of emotions like you can’t get rid of energy. They can only be transformed (emotions = energy in motion).
  • You must bring adult witnessing, compassion and understanding to those young parts to foster healing.
  • You prolong the disattunement (lack of harmony) that you experienced while growing up by failing to attune to your emotional needs in adulthood.

Are you ready to make room for your younger self? Integration is the healing process of identifying, acknowledging, embracing unprocessed emotions from childhood.

This process involves embracing both sides of your emotional polarities. What does this mean? You can’t have confidence without insecurity; humility without arrogance; compliance without rebellion; tenderness without hardness.

As you read these emotional polarities (opposites), did you judge one emotion as good and one as bad? Is it hard to acknowledge that you possess some of them?

In these polarities, neither emotion is right or wrong, good or bad. They just are. And we need to acknowledge that we possess them without judgment.  

I’m not advocating that you unleash your emotions on others without restraint. I am saying it’s important to mindfully acknowledge how you feel, reclaim your feelings, process those feelings, and then express them in productive, non-destructive ways.

It can be very telling when you feel inordinately irritated when you see such qualities in others. Often this is triggered because you’ve disowned this quality within yourself. Ask yourself:

  • Why does this aspect of a polarity bother me?
  • How do I hold its counterpoint?
  • Why do I view it this way?
  • When did I start to disown this in myself?
  • Was it because of what someone said or something I experienced?
  • What was the context then?
  • What is the context now?
  • What will happen when I acknowledge this disowned polarity in myself?

It’s a fact of life that emotional polarities exist within all of us. Bringing them to the surface and acknowledging them enables you to free energy that you can productively use in your personal growth. This is so much better than continuing to feel irritated when you see it in yourself or others.

You can become resilient, successful and capable despite your difficult or traumatic past experiences. I’d love to partner with you on your journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Discover Your Shadow Self and Embrace Who You’re Meant to Be

If your life appears to be satisfying, yet you feel like an inner struggle never ends, you might need to integrate with your Shadow Self to feel whole again“We tend to think that vulnerability is associated with weakness, but there’s a kind of robust vulnerability that can create a certain form of strength and presence too.” ~ David Whyte

Do you have secrets you’ve never shared with anyone? Perhaps something that happened to you as a child? Maybe it’s simply a feeling that is so raw you’re too uncomfortable to share it with anyone?

All of us have secrets we hide from others and perhaps even from ourselves. (Carl Jung called this our Shadow Self.) We hide what we dislike about ourselves or feel is unacceptable because we want to feel safe, respected or accepted. If we reveal how we really feel deep inside, we’re afraid we’ll be rejected.

When do you develop this Shadow Self? And how does it undermine your life, your relationships and your sense of purpose?

Your Shadow Self is usually developed in your childhood. Maybe your parents or teachers taught you what they’d been taught – “don’t cry, pull yourself up by your booth straps, put on a smile, be strong.” You got the message that it’s good to bottle up or choke back your emotions. Overtime you came to view certain emotions and qualities as “bad” so they must be hidden when you feel them.

It’s a lie.

Denying your emotions actually makes you weak, needy and more vulnerable to life events. Sadly, most of us walk around cut off from our body – the vessel for our emotional experiences – and live our lives from our thinking mind only. This makes us incomplete.

While working with hundreds of clients, I’ve discovered that there’s usually a pattern underlying current challenges. At some point in our past, most of us thought we had to leave behind or abandon our younger self to survive and become an adult.

But that Shadow Self is still there under the surface. Often it shows up as unresolved issues, limiting beliefs or unchallenged “truths” along your journey to adulthood. The associated emotions may disastrously resurface as anxiety, depression, or illness.

When this happens our reflex is to push our Shadow Self back, to get rid of it or deny it. It feels foreign, scary and confusing to acknowledge your past hurt, sadness, grief, or loss. You want to just forget it and keep it in the shadows.

How can dredging up the past possibly bring you closer to healing?

It’s common to imagine that embracing your disowned emotions will devastate you and interfere with your ability to be a functional adult. Yet the truth is that you’re not operating at full capacity when you’re not connected with those parts you have disowned. You are literally missing parts of yourself.

As a child, we have a coping mechanism; we develop adaptive skills to keep the disowned ones hidden. For example when you disown vulnerability you might:

  • Develop an inner perfectionist to avoid feeling “less than” when making mistakes.
  • Develop a tough exterior, becoming overly self-reliant and independent so you’re not disappointed and hurt by others.
  • Develop a need to take care of everyone else because no one is taking care of you.

Yet the truth about vulnerability is that it can be empowering if we develop what David Whyte, my favorite poet, calls “robust vulnerability.” This seemingly counter-intuitive concept is to allow vulnerability into your life so that it strengthens you from the inside.

Do you see how these adaptive skills can keep you from realizing your wholeness and true self? Your Shadow Self keeps you from letting your light, your true brilliance, shine. And when you’re always trying to hide who you are, you won’t have the energy to forge close, rich relationships. (In reality, you’re not hiding it very well either.)

The good news is that you can become whole again! You can learn to welcome, deeply hear, understand, and value everything about yourself, even the disowned parts of your Shadow Self. Then you can integrate them back into who you are and how you express yourself.

For some this can be quite challenging and frightening to do alone. I’d love to support you on your journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Isn’t it time to “see and embrace the elephant in the room” and finally take the steps to feel whole and in harmony with who you’re meant to be?

What is Love and How Many Types of Love Are There Anyway?

If you’re wondering what is love and how can you experience more meaningful connections in your life, this post reveals the types of true love you can feel.“Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.” ~  Paulo Coelho

You love your parents. You love your children. You love your life-long best friend you’ve had since grade school.  You love your romantic partner. You love them all, but not in the same way. Each one holds a special and unique place in your heart.

Why is it that we immediately “fall in love” with some people, while not others? Just to give you an example: I’ve become acquainted with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s work (www.chimamanda.com). And I immediately felt a strong connection with her. What she says and her way of being really resonates with me. She’s funny, graceful, authentic, and the kind of powerful person that makes me proud to be a woman. So I’ve fallen in love with her and have adopted her as my new role model.

From a biological point of view, love is fundamentally chemistry. While lust is a temporary sexual state caused by the release of chemicals such as testosterone and estrogen, true love is caused by the release of a whole range of chemicals such as pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin.

From an evolutionary standpoint, love can be viewed as a survival mechanism because it holds the family and community together for mutual security and shared resources.

The word “love” is confusing, because in English we have just one word to describe so many emotional states. It would be so much better to follow the example of the ancient Greeks who had numerous words to describe the various feelings of love:

  • Philia – the deep intimacy between close friends or family members.
  • Ludus – the playful affection like flirting. 
  • Storge – affection within the moment similar to when you see a child do something adorable.
  • Pragma – the mature love that develops over a long period of time between committed couples who actively practice goodwill and understanding.
  • Agape – the generalized love for all of humanity. 
  • Philautia – the self-love that we need in order to care for others.
  • Eros – the sexual passion and infatuation, which fades unless it turns into a deeper love like philia or pragma.

Even growing up in Italy we distinguished between love towards family and friends by saying: “Ti voglio bene’” and towards a romantic partner using the phrase: “Ti amo.”

Love is never static. It’s expansive. Your heart will never be too full to accept another love. However, it needs to be nurtured and expressed in acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice to stay alive and active.

You can be open to accepting love, but you can’t dictate how, when and where love strikes. You can’t make somebody love you. Love usually arrives in our lives without warning. You can’t buy it. Sell it. Imprison it.

True love is so powerful that it can never hurt anyone. Although, it may cost you dearly because it gives you the courage to speak up and stand up for what you believe in. While it comes freely, it creates an unbreakable bond, one that can be stronger than death. There is nothing it can’t face. If you have love you have a blessed life.

Yet sadly, too many people live without love. They’ve been abused. They’re too busy. Or their fears keep love away. They feel unloved, unworthy, unappreciated. The good news is that anyone can change their situation.

If you’d like to experience deeper, more meaning connections in your life, remember change starts within you. Please check out the Women in Leadership Retreat I’m leading with my close friend Nando Raynolds on May 20 and 21. Everyone gets to choose their own goal to work on so creating loving relationships could be yours. Or feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.

How to Develop True Emotional Intimacy between Friends

Experience the joy of emotional intimacy between friends when you learn how to mindfully accept yourself and can be vulnerable, honest and open without fear“Real connection and intimacy is like a meal, not a sugar fix.” ~ Kristin Armstrong

Does the idea of being emotionally intimate sound amazing or scary to you? Fear keeps many people distant from others. As a result, they become loners or social butterflies that flit from one encounter to another, collecting acquaintances but no real friendships.

Either way they feel empty inside. It’s the difference between having a burger versus an avocado salad for lunch. The first one looks delicious but it has no nutritional value. The second one is deeply nourishing and the benefits can last for a long time.

If you carry such fear, be assured that it’s possible to get rid of the fear. You can experience the exquisite joy of connecting with another person emotionally, intellectually and spiritually – that endeavor we call intimacy.

We all need close friends who are there for us through good times and bad. They are the people who love and accept us for who we are. There are two things that will help you be more comfortable forming intimate relationships.

First, you need to accept yourself the way you are.

When you learn to be mindful, fully aware of yourself, you can be authentic and open with others. When you learn to listen to yourself and trust yourself then you can truly listen and trust others.

Intimacy simply means that the doors of the heart are open for you, you are welcome to come in and be a guest. But that is possible only if you have a heart which is not stinking with repressed sexuality, which is not boiling with all kinds of perversions, which is natural – as natural as trees, as innocent as children. Then there is no fear of intimacy.” ~ Osho

If you long for intimacy, you have to be willing to drop your defenses, repressions, and inhibitions and be vulnerable. If you’re living a simple, natural life there will be no fear of intimacy, only abundant joy and fulfillment. But if there are scars and wounds that you’re trying to hide, these will need to be healed and mended. Otherwise, you’ll always be afraid that someone will “find out”.

These hurts will no longer have power over you when you let them go, because you’ve rid yourself of self-condemnation and judgment. You accept that you don’t have to be perfect. You no longer lose respect, greatness, or ego, because you’re not focused on those things any longer.

Second, you must open up fully to others and let them get to know the person you are inside.

 Platonic intimacy goes deeper than everyday ‘small talk’. It takes time. Lasting friendships grow from having a common interest or shared passion. It’s not that you want to sleep together, but you want to work together towards a common goal. And your differences in opinion and outlook bring richness to the friendship.

Look at the friends or acquaintances you already have and see if there isn’t someone you’d like to get to know better on a deeper level. Look for your common ground and start sharing deeper thoughts and feelings on that topic. Remember, intimacy takes willingness to be vulnerable, to share yourself and risk hurt and rejection. You’ll achieve it only when you’re being deliberate, consistent and exquisitely attentive.

If you’re struggling with how to build intimate relationships, please check out the Women in Leadership Retreat that my intimate friend Nando Raynolds and I are leading on May 20 and 21. We can work with you on this particular goal. Or feel free to contact me and schedule a one-on-one “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.

Platonic Friendships – Men and Women Can Safely Pursue Intimacy!

People are starved from true connection in their platonic friendships, yet men and women can safely pursue intimacy in their friendships without fear.“Intimacy is not a happy medium. It is a way of being in which the tension between distance and closeness is dissolved and a new horizon appears. Intimacy is beyond fear.” ~ Henri Nouwen

Your best friend…who is it? What makes him/her your BEST friend? Perhaps it’s because you’ve known each other forever. Or you have a lot in common as you share similar interests, values and goals. Platonic friendships are held together by intentional attention and nurturing. Friendship is a growing and evolving endeavour. And it will fail if it’s neglected.

Life-long friends are rare, mainly because we outgrow our childhood relationships. They were built around circumstances like living next door, going to the same school, attending the same events. But when we moved past these activities, the friendships faded away because there wasn’t much in common any more.

Platonic friendships take emotional and intellectual connection. True friends really understand each other. They connect on an intimate level, not just superficially. True friends see each other’s faults, but because of caring for each other, they don’t focus on these faults but strive to help each other become better people. It means seeing each other for who you are, not for what you can get from them. It means shifting the focus off of self and looking for the good and valuing them deeply.

Intimacy is not the same as sexuality. Sex is simply one way of displaying intimacy. A person can engage in sex without it being an intimate act. Intimacy is when people openly share themselves, fully exposing their inner being, their thoughts, their emotions, their pains, their desires, and their cherished dreams. And many people have a hard time doing that, because somewhere in their past they’ve been hurt and they haven’t learned to let that go.  

Many people are starved from true connection, attunement and deep presence with one another. Some of us bring this drought from childhood where the connections were sparse and scarce. Or we’ve developed the “I don’t want to get involved” attitude because we don’t want to be responsible. Perhaps overtime this has formed from an emotionally sterile home or work environment.

Others find it very challenging to develop intimate friendships outside of their romantic relationships, especially with the opposite sex, for fear of crossing boundaries. So, they’re okay not taking risks and dealing with a deep longing for nourishing connections.
 
There are a lot of insecurities around forming platonic friendships. Some of the following reasons may resonate with you. As you read them, see which ones you identify with… 

I don’t know how to cultivate closeness in a platonic friendship without risking rejection, awkwardness or sexual charge. If there’s intimacy, do I need to be or do anything different? Am I obligated in any way? Cultivating greater emotional intelligence will help you identify your own emotions and those of others so you’ll know what behavior is appropriate.

I am not good enough. If I give people a chance to get close to me, they’re going to find out all my faults and not like me. Everyone has faults. Look for the good in yourself and others.

I don’t trust myself. Being a friend means you can count on me, and I don’t know that I can always be there for you. And if it’s a member of the opposite sex, I know it’s going to become sexual, because I can’t control myself. You can learn to trust and control yourself.

I don’t trust others. I’ve been hurt before and I’d rather be alone that risk that again. Taking risks is what living fully is all about. Stepping into a risk, without having a specific outcome in mind, frees you to experience the moment joyfully and view it as a gift.

I don’t want to be rejected. What if I invest in a person who doesn’t reciprocate? Being rejected is part of life. What about rejection bothers you so much? Not everyone in the world is meant to be your friend. 

There may not be as many established protocols that facilitate building emotional intimacy in a non-romantic setting. But you can develop emotional and intellectual skills to cultivate platonic intimacy.

If experiencing intimacy is what you’re looking for, check out the Women in Leadership Retreat I’m leading with my colleague Nando Raynolds (a very intimate friend of mine!) on May 20 and 21. We can work with you on this particular goal. Or feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.

Recent Posts

About Maria

Our Address