“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.
If you’re an adult there’s no doubt that the world has changed significantly since you were a child. We didn’t grow up with smartphones, Twitter, Snapchat…
But how have you dealt with this ever-changing world we live in? Hopefully, you learned some basic survival skills from your parents – like how to adapt, deal with change, and basically be prepared to face any challenge head on.
When I think back to my childhood I see how my parents prepared me in some important ways for life in the 21st century. Yet there were other key skills I had to learn the hard way. As you read this article, think about how you can strengthen some of these psychological survival skills in yourself. It’s really never too late! If you’re a parent, teacher, or mentor of children think about how you can instill them in the next generation.
Here are five basic skills that we need to not just survive, but thrive:
- Self-discipline. A meaningful and fulfilling life is built gradually and purposefully. There are no shortcuts. I recently shared how important making your bed every morning is – this habit requires self-discipline and I’m grateful I learned that as a young child since it has served me well ever since.
- Emotional literacy. This one is huge! Our emotions affect everything we do. They influence our perceptions and opinions about ourselves, and others. When we can identify our prominent emotion, we’re less likely to project that emotion onto the situation. We’ll recognize that yes we’re sad, but the weather isn’t really worse than normal, our spouse isn’t being insensitive and we aren’t lazy because we didn’t workout yesterday. Practice labeling your emotions and teach your children to do the same and you’ll be far more objective and reasonable with yourself and others.
- Stress management. Our natural inclination, as children and adults, is to avoid pain. But meeting difficult challenges is how we grow as human beings. Make a practice of looking for ways to challenge your mind with mental obstacles and your body with physical obstacles. If you have children, don’t immediately solve all their problems. Let them experiment with various solutions so they learn to tolerate stress and gain confidence in their problem-solving abilities.
- Dealing with change. Life is full of uncertainty and change. If you’ve learned how to deal with change, your attitude, outlook, and ability to function in the real world will benefit, despite what happens. So try to view life as an adventure. When an unexpected change comes your way, lean into it and embrace it. The best way to teach this to your children is to model an adaptable, flexible attitude.
- Gratitude. Most of us learned to say thank you as children and we’ve probably taught our children to do the same. But true gratitude goes far beyond a perfunctory “thank you”. Gratitude means a deep awareness of why we are thankful and appreciative. I recommend you keep a gratitude journal and daily enter at least five things for which you’re grateful and encourage your children to do the same. When you begin and end each day with gratitude, your whole life shifts in a more positive direction.
Did you see areas where you could strengthen your skills? Don’t be discouraged. As I mentioned earlier, it’s never too late to enhance these life skills. Or maybe this article got you thinking about your child? Do you see her struggling in a certain area and you want to coach her through it? Please consider joining me at my upcoming Foundations of Life Coaching and NLP class in March. This is your opportunity to work with me personally and learn life-long skills so you know how to coach both yourself and others. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about whether this training is a good fit for you personally.
Do you really want to improve the quality of your life and the lives of those around you? If you do, it’s going to require serious effort to become a better version of yourself. It doesn’t work to keep living the same old stories you’ve been telling yourself for years.
What do I mean by telling yourself stories?
Every day we change for the better or worse. Over time a person can become so beaten down that they lose all self-confidence and start telling themselves that they’re stupid and they don’t deserve any better. It’s just a story, but they believe it and act in accord with it! On the other hand, shy, introverted people can build confidence and become world leaders by telling themselves that they have something remarkable to share with the world. And because they believe it, they actually do it.
As you can see, your story is formed by how you view yourself and how you react to the world around you. It’s very empowering to realize that you are the ultimate storyteller of your life and you can rewrite your story at anytime. Even if you’ve heard negative and limiting things your whole life, you don’t have to believe them.
How do you gain independence from your past self?
Recognizing that there are things you want to change about yourself is the first step. This discontent with self will start you on the path to becoming a new person. It won’t matter who you were yesterday. Do your best as you mindfully live in the present moment.
Yes, this is easier said than done. We all tend to bring self-imposed limitations of yesterday into today. That’s what keeps us stuck. So how do we break free?
Here are three steps to gaining independence from your past self…
- Create a burning desire to change by understanding your “why”. You may want to exercise daily, write a book, or start a business, but until you know “why” it’s so important to you, you won’t have the motivation to make it happen.
- Envision exactly what your life will become. Start planning. How will each day be different? In great detail, list the ways your life will be better tomorrow and five years down the road. It works a lot better to set intentions as you move toward these goals. Once you get the ball rolling, you’ll create momentum. Each day you’ll like yourself better. Even if you stumble or fall back into old patterns, you’ll be able to pick yourself up and keep going, because you’ve had a taste of becoming the person you want to be and you’ll see it, not as a failure, but as a learning experience.
- Rewrite your story. Start living the life you want. Trade in your jeans for the dress slacks that make you feel like a professional businessperson. Treat yourself to a monthly massage. Eat healthier. Get up earlier and enjoy more productivity. Speak positively of others and of yourself, not allowing any negativity to enter your story. Step by step, create the life that you want. Believe you can and you will achieve the progress you desire. Because you’re really enjoying the improvements in your life, you’ll look for ways to continue on. Your new story will work for you, because it’s in alignment with your desires and actions.
Don’t allow a moment, a situation, or an experience to define who you are. You may have a moment of depression, anxiety, or anger. But that’s not who you are. You have the power to identify what triggers those emotions and you get to choose how to deal with those emotions. Take my 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment to see areas in your life where you want to rewrite your story to become the best you possible. Click here to download your free copy.
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!