“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.
“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Have you ever tried to talk with a person who was stone-faced, showing no facial reaction at all to what you were saying? It didn’t take long before you began faltering for words, losing your train of thought and finding it hard to carry on, did it? Why is that? Because when there’s no emotional attunement, no empathy, we don’t feel connected, understood or valued. We need to feel like people are getting what we’re saying.
Emotional attunement takes more than looking at someone or hearing their words. It means using all of our senses to understand what they’re feeling so much that we feel it too. It takes being able to sense, interpret and respond to someone so that she/he doesn’t feel alone any longer. Our eyes become moist with tears when they hurt or beam with happiness to mirror their joy. We lean in and touch their arm with a gesture of compassion. We reflect back to them their emotions with words such as, “That must have been so frustrating!”
We learn to regulate and manage our emotions at an early age from our mothers. She reacted to our emotional state and responded in a way that cared for our needs and soothed us, making us feel secure. A mother gives her child this wonderful gift – the ability to decipher feelings and learn to self-regulate them. If, however, feelings are ignored or put down, the person will carry an inability to interpret and express emotion into their adulthood. The good news is that even if this gift was lacking from your life, you can still learn how to experience emotional attunement in your relationships today.
At times, everyone struggles with emotional attunement. We get caught up in our own drama or daily pressures distract us from really connecting emotionally with others, whether you’re an intimate couple, friends or business associates. If the situation makes you feel blamed, you may fall back to a defensive mode, which makes it impossible to see what the other person is feeling. It’s easy to settle for a transactional kind of relationship, solving problems and sharing responsibilities, without sharing your emotional self and listening for each other’s emotional needs.
The magic and power of emotional attunement is that it doesn’t require a lot from you. It simply takes listening with your ears, mind and heart. You don’t have to “fix” anything or offer advice. This is a huge aha moment for many men especially. You can do so much by doing nothing but tuning in!
Here are some reminders for fine-tuning your emotional attunement:
- Be fully immersed and attuned to what your friend is experiencing.
- Remain emotionally open to her friend’s feeling even if it makes you uncomfortable.
- Use subtle bodily reactions to make powerful connections – shed tears, touch her arm, nod, tilt your head in sync with the tilt of your friend’s head.
- Reinforce your being present by saying a few words that convey that, “I’m here for you” or “Yes, I understand”.
- Keep this as your goal – make your friend feel less alone.
Emotional attunement can be learned, but it’s learned experientially. It takes time, but you can learn to sharing your emotions and to trusting your own judgment in reading other people. When you surround yourself with people who practice emotional attunement you can speed up your own progress. If closer emotional connectedness is what you’re looking for, check out the Women in Leadership Retreat I’m leading with my colleague Nando Raynolds on May 20 and 21. This can be your Big Goal that we work on together.
“No mud, no lotus.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Discomfort. Sweat. Getting dirty. Roughing it. Exhaustion. Frugality. When did these words take on a bad connotation – things to be avoided at all cost?
Luxury. Easy Living. Excess. These are the things that people are pursuing with damaging results to their health and happiness. It’s no exaggeration that, for some people, missing their morning latte can ruin their whole day.
As Thich Nhat Hanh noted, without slogging through the mud, you can’t find the happiness of the lotus. He also said something else that I think is very profound, “When you learn how to suffer, you suffer less.” Isn’t it true that when you know how to do something, it’s easier to do it…even if it’s enduring through challenging times in life?
So the question is: how do you go about developing discipline and mental strength? Waiting for a challenge and hoping you survive isn’t a good option. That’s like trying to run a marathon after being a couch potato for years. You’re going to get hurt. It would be advantageous to start developing discipline, more grit and mental toughness right now. Then you’ll be better prepared for whatever comes.
I’ve been enjoying a book by Joe De Sena called “Spartan Fit! 30 Days. Transform Your Mind. Transform Your Body. Commit to Grit.” It refers to Seneca, a Stoic philosopher, who was one of the wealthiest men in ancient Rome, yet he spoke out against the corrupting influence of wealth and leisure. He practiced a series of mental exercises to ensure he would never become dependent on his wealth. Every month he spent a few days living in poverty until he became content with only the necessities of life…the clothes on his back and the food for his next meal. He said:
“In times of immunity from care the soul should toughen itself for occasions of greater stress…In times of peace a soldier performs maneuvers in order that he may be equal to the strains of war. If you would not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train him before it comes.”
Our physical strength only grows as we push ourselves and challenge what we think we can do. Run a little bit farther…Lift a heavier weight…Hold the position a little longer. It only makes sense that we can prepare our minds and spirit to handle hardship and challenges, too.
Make a practice of looking for ways to challenge your mind with mental obstacles in the same way you challenge your body with physical obstacles. Here are some ways that you can begin developing discipline and mental strength.
Start every day on the right foot. Find a routine that allows you to set a positive and productive mindset. For me that’s making my bed. It’s an immediate win!
Prepare your mind and spirit through a practice of journaling, meditation, prayer, or motivation mantra.
Reinforce your values and personal boundaries as you review situations that didn’t have the desired outcome and consider how you’d handle it differently in the future.
Avoid negativity and distractions, like checking emails or listening to the news, until you’ve set your intentions for the day.
View all movement as exercise and training. Your mental health depends on your physical health. It’s time to take control and make time! When you have the mindset that you’re constantly in training, you’ll look for opportunities like taking the stairs, parking at the furthest spot in the lot, and so forth.
Recognize “resistance” as a force within you that you can control. When you see a resistant attitude as an enemy you can defeat, you’re not judging yourself any longer by thinking there’s something wrong with you. You can see that it’s simply a wrong attitude, and you have the power to change your thinking.
When reflecting back, almost everyone agrees that their happiest times are during the pursuit/work/action that got them to a particularly triumphant moment. I would love to partner with you as you push your boundaries to excel. Please feel free to schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation. I’m happy to meet in-person, by phone or via Skype.
Have you ever bared your feelings to someone you trusted, but they responded with a dismissive or judgmental response? Perhaps it even caused a rift in the relationship that has never healed?
That rejection can cause a life-altering pain. In order to avoid experiencing that pain again, you may adopt a people-pleasing behavior. You hide your feelings, needs and opinions, so they won’t be trampled on again. And over time you find that your inner strength has seeped away. You can’t even say “no” when you need or want to. Instead you remain quiet and acquiesce; silently berating yourself because you wish you could stand up for yourself.
Perhaps this is how you’re feeling right now. Painful life events can give you a double whammy – the initial pain and then a lingering unresolved hurt that actually redefines who you are and robs you of your power. Would you like to become more assertive as you restore your inner strength and reclaim your authentic self once again?
Let’s first examine some situations that can destroy your inner strength and rob you of power. It can happen…
- When someone says something negative, critical or judgmental about you and you remain silent or mentally agree.
- When you shift into a reactive mode and you don’t give yourself time to think and be who you really want to be.
- When you stay so busy you don’t have time to think and process life.
- When you don’t mindfully and daily reflect on what’s important to you.
- When you’re emotions are out of control or you’re discouraged and depressed.
- When you’re not getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and exercise.
- When you isolate yourself and aren’t making meaningful connections.
All of these manifest a lack of self-love, which drains your inner strength. But you can restore your self-worth! When you retrain your brain, you’ll be able to access your inner strength and power again.
How can you replenish your inner strength and reclaim your power? Here’s a practice that can help you reconnect…
- Close your eyes and become fully aware of your breathing and your body sensations.
- Breathe deeply from your belly until your body and mind relaxes.
- Now, think of the last time you gave away your power and scan your body, noticing where you feel tense.
- Welcome whatever emotion arises and accept it with kindness.
- Ask yourself, “What past story is this emotion connected to?”
- What happened then is not your reality today, so tell yourself, “I release you,” and let it float off into the sky.
- Open your eyes and shake it off.
- Do a few somatic movements to discharge any lingering self-limiting beliefs.
- Now bring awareness to your core, and connect to all that empowers you – your strengths, talents, resilience, and good qualities.
- Focus on these empowering thoughts to restore your self-love, inner strength and power. Be convinced you can do and be anything you want.
A consistent mindfulness practice gives you the inner strength to turn toward your feelings with acceptance. When you quit ignoring and fighting them, something will shift within you. You’re self-love will reassure you that you are worthy. You are loveable. You are valuable. You do have people who care about you. You do have a meaningful purpose in life. When you feel empowered in this way, you’ll be able to stand up for yourself, speaking your truth.
If you’d like a guide to restoring your balance, please, download my free 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment. It will help you identify the areas that most need your attention right now and what you can do to bring healing and empowerment to your life.
Are you a fan of the Olympics? I’m constantly amazed at the skill and dedication these athletes bring to their events. How do they do it? More importantly, how can their example help “ordinary” people be successful in life? Of course, they train for years, but the significant key to success is that they’ve developed an essential mindset – they’ve embraced the concept that failure leads to success.
Normally, how does failure feel? Even now as you think about it, does the heavyhearted feeling come creeping back? Do you sink into your chair as you relive the embarrassment and discouragement? Many people view failure as something to be avoided at all cost.
But highly successful people, no matter what their field of expertise is, know that failure is essential for success. But knowing it and embracing it are two different things. What’s their secret? The strongest predictor that failure will lead to success is when people have resilience and perseverance. They just never give up because they know that everything they experience teaches them something and gets them one step closer to where they want to be.
This attitude toward mistakes and failure makes all the difference in the world. Those who excel in life have worked hard to develop this attitude that hardships, obstacles and challenges are opportunities for learning lessons about themselves and the world around them.
An interesting example of how failure leads to success is that of Lex Gillette. He’s a silver and gold medal winner from past long jump competitions and will be representing the U.S. in the 2016 Paralympics. He is also completely blind! He trusts his coach to set him straight for each sprint and guides him with clapping and cries of “Fly, Fly, Fly” until he reaches the spring board. (Watch it here.) Before each competition they walk around the boundaries of the sand pit to help him create a map in his mind. What powerful proof that mastering your inner game really works!
He hasn’t gotten to where he is without his share of failures, however. And he makes this interesting observation, “Failing at something is essential. You go through some sort of hardship, and it helps catapult you to a higher level. I’ve had a number of failures in my life, and I’ve been able to tap into that inner strength in order to come back and be resilient. I see failures as stepping stones and things that I’ve had to do to get to my destination.”
Interestingly, Michelle Segar, a motivation scientist and director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan, noted that once a person fails, “you don’t have that fear over your head anymore, then you can really focus.”
Another study interviewed 10 Olympic gold medalists and found that they all consider failure to be essential to winning their gold medals. “The majority of participants stated that if they had not underperformed at a previous Olympics, they would not have won their gold medals.”
The researchers hypothesize that learning from previous failure happened in two ways: 1) the athletes focus on why they feel distressing emotions, not on the emotions themselves, and 2) they distance themselves psychologically from the negative experience. They think about what went wrong and use it to propel themselves toward success in the future.
The only way to truly fail is to give up and do nothing —failing to properly prepare, failing to give it your all or failing to learn from past experiences. Would you like to learn how to reframe your thoughts so that every failure leads to success? Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) is a highly effective set of tools for accomplishing this. Please join us for the fall session of our Foundations of Life Coaching and NLP Class. Click here to learn more or contact me with any questions. It’s going to be a life-changing experience!