Tag Archives: vulnerability

“I See You” A New Short Film about Reconnecting

The idea of staring into the eyes of anyone, much less a stranger, is all but foreign to our Western society. We have learned to be wary of strangers, to avoid what is unfamiliar because the unknown can honestly be dangerous.

But is there something we’re losing as a result of our disconnect?
Do we feel like we know anyone and do we feel known? Continue reading

Why Your Voice Matters and How to it Get Heard

girlOver the course of my life I have been given certain “gifts” that have forced me to step into the arena of life. I’m a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, and if we don’t step up and use our experiences as catapults for change and growth then we’re throwing away opportunities to touch and heal other people with similar challenges.

Over the past year I made a conscious choice to step out and speak my truth around my battle with Cancer and the loss of my marriage. My sole intention has been to be honest and authentic about my struggles and imperfections with the hope that my story will inspire and heal the many people who suffer silently.

For most of my life I have stayed silent to avoid feeling wounded, but now my voice has become my medicine, and a necessary part of my survival.

Last week I took a risk with a blog I posted online. It was a very vulnerable and heartfelt blog that I was really excited to share because I truly felt it would resonate with so many people struggling with similar feelings.

While I have posted plenty of vulnerable blogs in the past, this particular post left me feeling like I had stepped up onto a podium completely naked. The minute I hit submit, I wanted to take it down.

While I’m well aware and prepared to encounter naysayers and haters that post provocative comments, somehow the few attacks that immediately showed up below the post rattled me. After the first comment my instinct was to contact the website to ask if they could take the post offline. I felt completely powerless, and like I was standing in front of a firing squad waiting for the next bullet to be fired. I panicked, tried to defend myself, and then had an incredible feeling of wanting to run away to another country.

I was completely enveloped in shame.

I know from working on myself and learning about vulnerability from my mentor Brene Brown that I put myself at risk for shame when I share my imperfections with the world. It’s a conscious choice (and risk) I want to take. I just never thought it could feel so awful.

The hardest blow came from a comment that held the implication that as a therapist I should have “known better”, and that I shouldn’t be dealing with this kind of “problem” in the first place. Apparently there are people out there who think that being a therapist and being human are mutually exclusive. The truth is that it would be impossible to do the work I do without acknowledging my faults and mistakes.

I’ve learned more from my own life than I could ever learn in school.

I share this story with you because I want you to know that we need your voice. It’s lonely out here in the arena of life, and while I know it’s terrifying to show up in this way, we need more people to stand tall in the face of imperfection and vulnerability.

This is particularly true when it comes to the stigmatized and shame ridden experience of divorce and disease.

I realize that when people aren’t ready to play in the game of life, they sit on the sidelines yelling at the players without really knowing what it’s like to be out there. When it comes to my I own life, I would rather be in the game and get injured, than to never know what it’s like to play.

Here are 3 easy ways to make a difference with your voice:

  1. Comment on posts that impact you. Whether it’s negative or positive, your opinion and voice matter and will invoke change. How many times have you thought about something you read, but didn’t respond to it? Keeping your thoughts and ideas to yourself is like holding onto a life preserver while watching someone drown.
  2. Override the discomfort of being seen with being heard. Many of us don’t want to draw attention to ourselves so we stay in the shadows hoping not to get noticed. Remember that it’s not about you; it’s about your message. Your words are more powerful than you could ever be, so don’t let your personal insecurities get in the way of what you have to say.
  3. Share a quote or words from another source when you don’t trust your own voice. It’s less risky to speak through someone else’s voice, so vicariously sharing in this way is awesome as long as it truly represents your point. Use a quote or affirmation to express yourself. Think of it as a form of ventriloquism.

5 Tips for Writing the Perfect Love Letter

shutterstock_67207468Yesterday was National Love Note Day, but I like to think that any day is a good time to tell someone that you love them. Love notes also don’t automatically have to go to a romantic partner – they can go to siblings or parents or friends, anyone that you want to know that you care for them.

Writing love notes – whether platonic or romantic – can be daunting though. Maybe we try too hard to be Shakespeare or Cummings, setting the expectations so high that we give up before we even begin and miss the entire point. In belated celebration of Love Note Day though I say we put those fears aside, break out pen and paper and give our hearts a voice. Still reluctant? I’ve compiled a few tips to help you out. Let’s get romantic, Intent.

    • Set the mood – The best love letters are written when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. The only way that happens is if you write from a comfortable place. For me, that’s at my desk in pajamas and listening to a playlist of songs I’ve curated that remind me of the person I’m writing to/about. For you it could be writing from bed or in the kitchen with the TV playing in the background. Maybe you want to light a candle and dim the lights – whatever allows you to get into the head and heart space that connects with how you feel about your love note recipient.
    • Find an anchor – Why are you writing the note? Is it an anniversary? Great, start by thinking of your favorite memories over the past year with this person. Are you in a long distance relationship? Then you should be mentally compiling the things you miss about that person. Are you saying thank you for them being there during a difficult time? Begin asking yourself why that meant so much to you and how were they able to comfort you. Knowing the motivation for the note gives it a purpose. This helps keep the note grounded and helps you avoid going on tangents. Words mean more when there’s a reason to say them (and yes the reason can be just because you love them – but you still have to answer why).
    • Be honest (and yourself!) – This isn’t your high school chemistry homework, so don’t cheat! Have faith that if you’re moved to be writing your affections and/or gratitude for this person down that they share the same feelings for you. For you – not Pablo Naruda or the sappy movie you found on Netflix. The point of a love note is for you to tell someone you love them, so they should be able to hear it in your voice. When you carbon copy from someone else you’re just telling your note recipient about that other person’s feelings. Why should they care about that? Use your own experiences as inspiration and allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to respond to them. How’d it feel the first time you held their hand? What was the first moment you knew this was a person you wanted in your life? How’d you know? The most romantic things to say are already inside of you, you just have to allow yourself to let them out.
    • Avoid clichés and euphemisms. Be specific – If you’ve already started and there is a line about your recipient’s “ocean colored orbs” then throw it away right now. We can argue that saccharine euphemisms like that are an example of dishonesty, but moreso they are generic and…awful. It’s fair game to talk about the recipient’s physical attributes, but make them as specific to them as you can. So instead of “I love your smile” try “I love the way you laugh with your entire body; the way your head tips back and your hands clap as if it’s the most hilarious thing you’ve heard. I love that it take such a small thing to touch you but you give your all to it.” Look how much more you’re telling that person! It not only shows that you’re paying attention, but that you appreciate these details about them, that the way they laugh tells you something genuine about their spirit. Be specific and you won’t have to worry about about sounding like a Hallmark card and the details are what can make a good love note truly great.
    • Get creative with metaphors – For those looking to take their note writing skills to the next level, try mapping what you want to say over something else you’re passionate about. Since I majored in music in college and spent most of my formative years at concerts or listening to my iPod I often find musical metaphors slipping into affectionate notes I write. Heartbeats become drums, voices are melody and the relationship as a whole is a song, etc. You’re still required to be honest and follow the rules above, but metaphors help you say things in a creative new way, especially if this isn’t your first time at the love note rodeo. I’ve seen both sailing and kite flying as great metaphors for love. I once managed to use eating trail mix as a metaphor for learning patience in a new relationship. You can use anything as long as you’re comfortable, anchored, honest and specific.

Do you have any advice for writing love letters? Share with us in the comments below! 

Be the Author of Your Own Life Story

Too young and eager to die from H1N1As a youngster I never felt young. I remember teenagers and adults speaking freely in my presence under the pretext that my seven-year-old psyche was much too naïve to understand such grownup subjects. I let them believe that, but I didn’t miss a thing. Quickly learning straight A’s said I was smart, being athletic meant I was popular, and hanging with the boys made me cool. As I got older, I equated partying with fun, money with success, and a sparkler on an all-important finger with security.

Despite my quick-witted, adventurous, yoga sculpted, high-kickin’ and high-falutin’ life, I repeatedly found myself in a pool of tears on the floor of the beachfront home I shared with my Internet pioneer boyfriend.

In my limited scope of consciousness, I blamed my man. Obviously he wasn’t doing enough for me… for us. This prompted a stubborn case of the “when we’s”, that ruthlessly hijacked me from the present moment. When he stops working so much, then we’ll be happy. When we stop partying so much, then we’ll be happy; when we get engaged, then we’ll be happy. After all, didn’t I have all of the other ingredients that are supposed to create a happy life?

It wasn’t until years after we went our separate ways that I recognized the real source of my sadness. I’d been unconsciously following a script based on the messages I’d soaked up from the fabric around me, and internalized them as my own. Turns out, I wasn’t as savvy as my seven year-old self would have you believe.

My narrow script left little room for creative risks because taking chances might expose my character as not being the image of perfection I was used to portraying. Of course I had no idea I was doing any of this; I just assumed the creative gene had unceremoniously passed me by. So instead, I partied. And believed myself to be a rebel in doing so, unable to grasp that real rebels don’t escape. They seek truth, and challenge the status quo with the audacity of the truth they’ve uncovered. Rebels walk the walk of the change they wish to see in the world, despite how uncomfortable it may be.

Rather than cultivate my own unique genius and inner beliefs, the competition element in my script attracted me to the smartest, most athletic, most successful alpha male. It read: basking in his glow, girl feels secure. Vulnerability, gratitude and authenticity weren’t traits that had been written into my part, which made fulfillment for much of anything nearly impossible. Looking back, I sometimes wonder how I got along at all with that befuddled script.

As I panned out to a much wider view of reality, I was able to see that while I didn’t necessarily write the script, I’d followed it blindly for years. By identifying the illusions that caused pain, I was able to let go, and open my mind and heart to the possibly of creating a new script. With the understanding that life is merely a reflection of our inner thoughts, I awakened to new information and aligned with spiritual truths. As I did the inner work, I watched in amazement as my life transformed into an vibrant expression of gratitude, acceptance, creative passion and wonder.

I Met My Soul By the River, and This is What She Said

616769_555556097842206_410897137_oWe are hilarious creatures. The things we put ourselves through in the name of enlightenment, evolution, understanding, knowing. It’s times like these I wonder if not knowing anything would have been safer. Maybe being asleep is actually a better way to be…

Alas we are seekers, even those of us who live quiet lives, going to work everyday, leaving our little boxes by 7:30 am, work the mundane and go home by 6, cook a microwave dinner and watch reruns of Friends. There is a spark somewhere deep down inside there, there is an impetus to do, something, even if we don’t know what…. and yet so often we don’t, frozen by confusion and fear of the unknown. Yes I suppose that it is safer, to squash that urge and hit the play button on the TiVo… The known path is easier to walk with our eyes closed, we’ve done it for so long. There are those who seem to just live and die and I can’t tell if they were happy with that or not. Is not knowing better? Safer?

I suspect I will never know, because I am not one of them. We are the rabble rousers, the misfits, hell bent on finding the holy grail, the reason for being, we do all sorts of astounding things to find the illustrious golden chalice filled to the brim with the wisdom of us.

One day we will know we tell ourselves as we head out into the abyss. The answer lies somewhere, and with each passing day we search high and low, inside and out, we fire walk, we meditate, we chant, we trance dance until our limbs are numb, seeking, asking, wondering if we’ll ever find the answer. And with each piece of the puzzle we find we sometimes get cocky, we start to believe that we’re close to the end, the answer is on the tip of our tongue.

Since my divorce I have been on the fast track of discovery. I decided 40 years of walking into walls in the dark was enough and it was time to get to know the real me. So 3 years ago I started a tradition. Every year I visit a river and in this river I drop things that represent pieces of me, hurts I have carried, beliefs I have carried, fear and doubts about the anything’s and everything’s we conjure in our head- I drop them one by one, and if they get stuck and stay close to me, I know I’m not quite done with that thought monster yet, and if they float away, then I wish it well and move on.

This year on my visit I struggled for weeks about what I should send down the river. I finished my book, life is good, seriously, I’ve got this…. Yeah right. Isn’t it hilarious when we convince ourselves of that? That’s like inviting someone dangerous to tea and that someone is you- the true you- your soul. Imagine having tea with your soul. Shit, that is downright dangerous.

So we sat there, the river, my soul and me, silent except for the subtle whoosh of the river, whispering with the soul, telling my secrets with a knowing giggle and a smirk, conspiring as they do, and so finally I said out loud what they couldn’t, or what they wouldn’t say because only I could call it by name. Trust and vulnerability.

This is one thing I have never been able to drop into the river. My guard, my shield and my sword. From the time I was eight I have worn that armor, I have carried a weapon, ready, willing and able to strike. And with each passing year, my sword has been unsheathed faster and faster at the first sign of betrayal, real or manufactured. It didn’t mater because I could no longer tell the difference, and the pain was real either way. Striking first saved me from certain death. And I have killed many who loved me.

So, I wielded my sword and stood in defiance against the soul and the river, how dare they mock me. I have lived through all they have thrust upon me. Fuck them, I thought. Sure test me on trust and vulnerability, I challenged like a rebellious child and I sauntered away.

The next day, I broke my collar bone, and after I heard the pop of my bone I could hear the whoosh of the river and the cackling of a crow and the whisper in my ear: Be careful who you invite to tea, young lady, and to whom you challenge with your sword, you’re only killing yourself.

8 Tools to Free Yourself from Bullies and Attract People Who Respect You

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 1.19.20 PMHave you ever been bullied? Were you able to respond to the bully in a way that valued YOU?

I grew up with a mother who was a bully. My response was to shut down into a kind of frozen numbness. When I was 12 I started smoking cigarettes and at 16 I started drinking – all to continue the numbing process so as not to feel the pain.

Now, many years of therapy and meditation later, I’ve un-numbed myself, let go of cigarettes and alcohol, and found my true self. Life is filled with love, joy, and inner peace. Along the way, I had to learn how to stand up for myself and speak my truth. It took courage and perseverance, but  I arrived at a place where I can respond to people in-the-moment if they are disrespectful.

I continued to attract bullies until I learned to step into my power, be vulnerable, and state my truth.

Here are my 8 Keys to addressing a bully and giving them an opportunity to apologize. They might apologize, or they might not – I’ve experienced both. Either way, the success is yours, because you have spoken your truth. Your self-confidence builds and eventually, if a bully starts up, you can dismiss them quickly, and easily, without getting upset.

1. Be Emotionally Honest With Yourself.
Are you emotionally honest? Ask yourself: How do I feel when a person is abusive to me? Angry? Hurt? Paralyzed with fear? Numb? The important thing here is to be HONEST WITH YOURSELF about how you feel. This is the primary key to freeing yourself from the prison of victimization.

2. Accept – Don’t Judge Yourself
Keep the focus on yourself, not on the bully. Accept your present moment, whatever it contains. Beware the ego coming in and dismissing your feelings, saying things like: ”It’s no big deal”, “I’m fine” etc. The Ego doesn’t like us being put down so it might try and distract you by focusing on the bully or rationalize you out of your feelings. Stay with your present-moment reality, no matter how uncomfortable (uncomfortable is good because it means you are moving away from  an old habit that doesn’t serve you) – simply allowing things to be as they are, without judging yourself. And have compassion for yourself – you’re doing the best you can with the best conscious awareness you have in the moment.

3. Listen To Your Body
If you don’t know how you feel, your body will tell you. Are you contracted in fear or rage? Is your heart heavy with pain? Or do you just feel numb all over? Whatever is happening, allow it to be so. Your body is your friend. It acts like a shock absorber in stressful situations to help you deal with things. Pay attention because the body gives us warning signals when we are not in harmony and at ease with a person/situation. The more in tune you are with your body, the easier it is to address things early on, before they escalate into something worse.

4. Get Support
Find a friend or a family member you are close to, someone who loves you very much. Tell them what happened. This will bring you some instant relief and the powerful loving support you need to speak up to the bully. Allow yourself to RECEIVE the love of your friend to fill yourself up and build your confidence.

5. Be Willing To Let Go of the Person/Situation
Before you address the bully, spend some time in self-reflection and realize that you might have to walk away from this person, or from this situation. Friends can be helpful here to help you see things clearly. You might not have to let go, but you might. A lot depends on the response of the bully. Do they apologize? Do they “get it”? If not, they are highly likely to bully you again.

6. Speak Your Truth
Speaking your truth means respecting yourself enough to let people know that you deserve respect. Bullies will transform, or leave. Either way, you win!

Best case scenario is to speak to the bully in person, in a calm, courteous, respectful manner, simply stating how you feel about what happened. Bring a friend as a witness and for support. If that is not possible, talk on the phone, your friend standing by. Third best option – send an email or letter. Know this truth: bullies, underneath their aggressiveness, are cowards. In many instances, they are embarrassed you’ve called them out and apologize, which allows the possibility of taking the relationship to a whole new level. If they don’t apologize, see #5!

7. Be Courageous and Allow Yourself To Be Vulnerable
Courage means going into the unknown in spite of all the fears. Courage does not mean fearlessness. Fearlessness happens over time when you go on being more and more courageous. In the beginning, the only difference between a coward and a courageous person is that the coward listens to their fears and follows them; the courageous person puts them aside and goes ahead. The courageous person can say, for example: “What you said hurt me”, in spite of  inner trembling and a constricted throat.

Be willing to be vulnerable, befriend your fears, and remember that this situation is happening for you, not to you. It’s helping you step out of victim into mastery of yourself. It’s helping you expand even more into who you are.

8. Practice Expressive Meditation
Expressive Meditation techniques can help you become more aware of your feelings and be honest with yourself. The Gibberish expressive meditation is great for releasing the charge of  anger, rage, frustration and resentment, and helps you come back to a calm, neutral place of clarity.

You can learn to express your emotions without being emotional.

Expressive techniques for healing grief, sadness, and emotional pain, help with the emotional wounding that can keep you in a victim state. You will experience pain transforming into peace and love.

From personal experience these 8 keys work! By speaking your truth you attract people who treat you with courtesy and respect…. because you are treating YOURSELF with courtesy and respect!

I look forward to your comments.

Are You Blocking Love? (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 11.52.49 AMWhen I first met my now husband Noah, who I affectionately refer to as “Walking Love” for his great ability to give love fully and freely, my love quotient – my capacity for receiving love – was the size of a pea. Which meant that although I had finally manifested a man into my life that could offer the love that I had yearned for in other relationships, I was unable to let all the love in. At times, he and his love were so much to take in, that my stunted capacity to receive love would become completely overloaded.

Sure, I could allow bursts of love in – hand holding, public displays of affection, and his unconditional kindness and consideration felt so good to my love-starved heart. But there would always come a point where the love Noah gave reached a threshold that was way too much for me to receive and my internal system went haywire.

In these moments, even though my heart knew I had hit the jackpot of love, I did what any scared-to-death-of-real-vulnerability girl would do in this situation of love overload… find reasons NOT to like this man! Too bald, too many holes in his socks, not ambitious enough (by my over-achiever standards), whatever excuses my self-sabotaging subconscious could find to eject this love out of my life, and it found plenty to obsess about.

While I couldn’t see it at the time, the truth is that I was pushing out and blocking the very love my heart and soul craved. Why? Because I was scared to death.

It was like there was an emergency RED ALERT system that when Noah got too close, would trip a wire that activated a warning system that blasted, “Intruder on the premises! Security about to be breached!” Noah, because of his ability to offer love freely was about to get through walls that for many years, no man (or woman) had ever breached. He was becoming dangerously close to penetrating the deep layers of protection I had spent years building up around my heart to keep away any chance of being hurt. Until this point, however, I had no idea that these walls were there. A loving, smart, outgoing person with lots of friends and family, you never would have known either. My pea-sized love quotient at the time, unfortunately is about average in size.

We all build walls of protection – you, me, your sisters, friends, mother – because we’ve all been hurt. Our beautiful, loving, open hearts have at one time or another been tromped on, broken or betrayed and so our normal, and probably necessary action at the time, was to build walls, force fields, layers of protection around our hearts… resulting in the miniature, shrunken love quotients most of us walk around with. But there comes a time in each of our lives, when, if we truly want to experience love to the capacity we all yearn for deep inside, then we have to be willing to melt away the force fields, take down the walls, and slowly step forward to reveal ourselves, our hearts, our vulnerabilities, and our innocence to others…

It means opening up ourselves to RECEIVE more love,

which in turn allows us to FEEL more loved,

which then allows us to GIVE more love,

resulting in love quotients that grow to be as wide and vast and deep as the Grand Canyon.

Over the past 10 years, I have made a conscious effort to increase my ability to receive love. It has been my intention to create a life in which I am surrounded by love. This past month I celebrated my birthday, marking a decade of a commitment to self-love I made to myself, which I know is where all love starts. As I looked around my life and as I received all the love that came my way – from Facebook, to phone calls, to celebrations – I felt like a Rockefeller of Love. Wealthy beyond wealthy in love. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!

You too have the ability to increasing your capacity to receive love, to expand your love quotient, and like building any muscle, I recommend starting with smaller emotional practices and risks and building up over time, so that when the big kahuna of love walks in, you are ready to receive baby!

Stay tuned for the 5 steps that will open your heart to love and change your life!

 

Originally published March 2011.

Why Vulnerability Will Help You Access the Life You’ve Always Dreamed Of

We get it. Vulnerability is probably the last thing you want to be feeling when you go in for that interview, or start writing that novel, or hold your baby for the first time. Most likely you want to feel strong, competent, and powerful. Every word must be direct, every action swift, every feeling resolute. But guess what? Those hard edges may be keeping you from experiencing the fullness of a life worthy of such strength and potency. Case in point: What’s the first rule of love? Open, soften, let love in.

One of the most poignant TED Talks out there – which you may have already seen because it’s just that darn good – is one by social work professor Brené Brown. In her research, Brown focuses on the relationships among authenticity, courage, empathy, and, you guessed it, vulnerability. These ‘virtues’, you might call them, come together in the following simple but intimidating formula:

accept imperfection + welcome vulnerability = banish shame and live authentically

Do you agree with Brown’s thesis? Are you ready to be vulnerable? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

When More is Never Enough: My Triumph Over Addiction

200559715-002Food, work, the internet, caffeine, booze, exercise, shopping, lovers… many of us grapple with addiction in some way. Many commonly ascribe genetics to addiction, but it’s actually a complex spiritual condition stemming from unresolved emotional pain. Regardless of whether it is pain originating in childhood, or another lifetime, unresolved pain shows up on the physical plane as a voracious appetite for more. To constantly need something outside of ourselves to be OK is a very legitimate state of dis-ease.

Addiction comes in many shades, and while I (maybe) didn’t look like a person who was suffering from addiction, I, too, used to be trapped in the insatiable cycle of more – that never seemed to be enough. I was young and fit, but it wasn’t enough. I had a good job and a boyfriend, but it wasn’t enough. I had a closet full of designer clothes and a home on the beach, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t know what was missing exactly, but I still felt like I needed something more, and then I’d be happy.

The belief that more money, more work, more accolades, more food, more alcohol, more clothes, more concerts, more lovers – whatever it may be – will make us whole/better/happier is an indicator that we are in emotional pain. With this corrupted thinking, we believe we are not enough just as we are, making it very difficult to value ourselves. If we can’t value ourselves, it makes it very difficult to value anything thing else we create.

On the spiritual plane, when we’re in emotional pain, we go “out-of-body” as spirit. You may be familiar with going out-of-body from instances when you are driving and suddenly you realize you have no memory of the road you’ve traveled down for the past twenty minutes. Where did you go? If you weren’t there, who was driving the car?

Every spirit creating through physical form is innately a trans-dimensional creator, meaning we go in and out-of-body many times throughout our day. What people call “spacing out” is more accurately understood as “going out” of our physical form. When we are struggling with emotional pain, we go out-of-body more frequently because we are living in a pain body and it doesn’t feel comfortable to be in-body. What’s more, we go out-of-body to a greater degree when we ingest drugs or alcohol. You may recognize how people you know seem to have different personalities (alter egos) when they’ve ingested drugs or alcohol. This is because going out-of-body leaves our bodies open to a number of spirits who then direct through us. Just as if you were to leave your house with the door wide open, lights on, and the music blasting, some people might take up residence in your home and party down while you’re gone- the same goes for your physical form.

In other words, the sensation of lacking control, otherwise known as addiction, is a result of literally not being in-body enough to maintain ownership of your body; therefore multiple spirits direct through you, making it feel like you have an insatiable appetite for more. These spiritual dynamics – compounded with the inability to value ourselves – prompts us to feel like we need even more, sending the cycle of compulsion spinning round ‘n round and making it nearly impossible to sit still and even enjoy the present moment. As we heal old emotional pain, and cultivate our own personal self worth, it becomes easier to be in-body and present in our lives a greater percentage of the time.

Despite the our society’s vague promise that net worth equates to self worth, I discovered that the real seeds to self worth – and ultimately a much happier life – are Dollars funnel.authenticity, vulnerability and integrity. Probably much to my parents’ dismay, these weren’t attributes I emerged with from childhood. I was pretending on the pretending and I didn’t even know I was pretending. Most people don’t. They just know they want more.

So how does one go about cultivating authenticity, vulnerability and integrity?

Authenticity means being true to yourself. Not going with the crowd just because that’s the easiest way to win approval and acceptance. Taking time to truly find what lights you up inside, and not just doing what you think is expected of you from your parents, teachers, and friends. It means making hard and sometimes unpopular choices, but if you find the courage deep inside of you to do so, you’ll find the authenticity, and power, you never knew you didn’t have.

Vulnerability means expressing the full rainbow of emotions we human beings are capable of feeling, rather than just portraying a picture perfect veneer. Only when we are truly honest with others about who we really are, and what we’re experiencing, can we share a genuine heart connection. If you are being validated for an image of perfection you portray, your performance is being validated, not your authentic self; therefore, you don’t feel seen or loved.

One of the most effective ways I’ve found to get comfortable being vulnerable is to create art of any form. Art is effective in drawing out our vulnerabilities because in order to access our creativity, we must suspend our judgment, and let go of fears of what other people might say or think of us. In creating (paintings, music, writing, acting, dance) you are removing the mask you may not even know you hide behind. The more I did this, the more comfortable I got feeling exposed, and discovered in the midst of creative passion, the tell-tale signs of being in body – hot hands and feet, heightened concentration, and unabashed enthusiasm – appeared and I found myself relishing the elusive, present moment. In the throws of inspiration, there was no place I’d rather be, and the last thing I needed was more.

Integrity is being honest with yourself and others. It means telling the truth, and following through with what you’ve committed to do. Integrity is the willingness to apologize when you’re wrong and pave the way for forgiveness. A common saying amongst people healing from addiction is “you are only as sick as your secrets.” Integrity means telling the truth – even when it’s uncomfortable – even when it can get you in trouble. I grew up stretching and bending the truth because I pushed and rebelled, and when I got caught, I didn’t want to get in trouble. Sure I escaped being punished, but years later, in a never-ending quest for more, I found myself in a different kind of trouble. I had fear and shame (emotional pain) and as a result I was “out of body” and on the never-ending quest for more.

I finally resolved to tell the truth, even if my voice shakes. I committed to show up and follow through with what I set out to do; I began creating art, making music and writing. As I cultivated my authenticity, vulnerability, and integrity, I started to experience a contentment I’d never known before, and was surprised to see my addictions lose their grip on me. I still work, eat, shop, drink, love, and of course use the internet, but none of these things dictate my days or nights and rather than feeling like it’s not enough, I feel gratitude for my life and what I’ve created.

I now know the aforementioned practices were immensely powerful because they served as building blocks for what I now know as self worth. While there are certainly many different pathways to healing from addiction, I’ve found it cowers in the face of true self-worth. I realized this one day, when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and felt sincere love and respect for the woman staring back at me, and it felt really good to be in her body.

The Four Faces of Intimacy

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 5.16.10 PMIt started with a simple question. That question (not surprisingly for anyone who knows me) led to a series of additional questions. When I couldn’t get clear answers for myself, I started asking others. The results of this process have fascinated me, and I wanted to explore the topic more fully. The basic question: “What does intimacy mean to you?”

The range of responses I received was wide and varied. I asked both men and women, different ages, some in relationships and some not. Most people had to stop for a moment to really think about and put into words what intimacy meant to them. As I looked more deeply at the topic, I found that there seem to be four types of intimacy we engage in in our relationships.

1. Sexual Intimacy

The people I asked generally started describing the most common of the four types of intimacy: Sexual. This wasn’t too much of a surprise, as sexual intimacy is probably the most stereotypical and most familiar definition of the word in modern society. Having sex, however, often has less to do with intimacy and more to do with a physical act between people. As it ended up, the people I spoke with desired more than just the physical act of sex, they wanted depth. They wanted to feel safe being vulnerable, wanted to be seen by their partner. That makes sense, as this form of intimacy also includes a wide range of sensuous activity and sensual expression, so it’s much more than having intercourse.

It is interesting that the word intercourse is actually defined as “connection between persons or groups” and as an “exchange especially of thoughts or feelings.” Curious to explore why intimacy is challenging to people in their relationships, I continued to look further.

2. Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy occurs when two people feel comfortable sharing their feelings with each other or when we’re able to empathize with the feelings of another person. The goal of emotional intimacy is to be aware of and understand another person’s internal experience. My guess is that women have an easier time with this, but I’d like to believe that men too are becoming more comfortable experiencing emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is a healthy part of the exchange in all relationships, whether female or male. But not everyone is comfortable with it.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D, refers to the fears people have in relation to emotional intimacy. She says that, “Many people have two major fears that may cause them to avoid intimacy: the fear of rejection (of losing the other person), and the fear of engulfment (of being invaded, controlled, and losing oneself).” This makes sense to me.

In this area of intimacy, people must act from their hearts and love unconditionally. As I talked about in my piece on what makes a good relationship, the heart of a spiritual partnership is love. Love is also at the core of emotional intimacy.

3. Intellectual Intimacy

Intellectual intimacy is personally the face of intimacy I am most comfortable with. This one is all about communication, and as someone who lives and breathes words, it’s extremely familiar to me. Intellectual intimacy happens when two people share ideas and explore the similarities and differences in their personal opinions. The ability to do this in an open and comfortable way can lead to a very intimate relationship indeed. As someone who engages in this type of interaction all the time, I can say that it has offered me a wonderful and fulfilling form of connection with people I care about. I think this may be my strongest area of intimacy.

4. Experiential Intimacy

Experiential intimacy is the intimacy of activity, and it happens every time we get together with a group to create art in a silent process. This type of intimacy is all about letting the art unfold and working together in co-operation. This form of intimacy is not about a verbal sharing of thoughts or feelings, but more about the activity and feeling that emerges from this involvement. I recently experienced this at a Contact Improv jam with a complete stranger. I interacted with a young man, letting our body energy lead the dance, with no eye contact and no words, just movement in a sensual and open, if not dramatic, dance. I was somewhat surprised to learn that experiential intimacy actually is in my intimacy vocabulary.

According to Rick Hanson, Ph.D, to have intimacy in our life, we must have a natural balance of two great themes — joining and separation — which are in fact central to human life. Almost everyone wants both of them, to varying degrees. He goes on to say that “individuality and relationship, autonomy and intimacy, separation and joining… are often seen at odds with each other, but this is so not the case!” This also made perfect sense to me. Yin and yang. Light and dark. All the polarities we live in life, lead to a balance.

My understanding and curiosity about intimacy were greatly expanded by asking others about what intimacy means to them. I  believe that when we establish balance in the four faces of intimacy, we find a deeper connection and understanding in all the relationships of our life. I also fully recognize that we all have different definitions of intimacy. Are men and women’s definitions dramatically different? A fascinating conversation to continue to explore.

I recently received a daily Gaping Void email by Hugh MacLeod with the subject: Has your soul been seen lately? Synchronistically, the topic was intimacy. What followed was a beautiful way to end my piece:

Intimacy isn’t strictly about romantic relationships, or even relations with family–sometimes it happens quickly, and often times in ways we hardly notice.

I’m talking about that moment when someone allows the world to see what’s inside…what they are really about. It’s about seeing someone for who and what they are and that the glimpse was offered either voluntarily or without the person’s knowledge. This is an incredible moment where our existence suddenly makes sense and all comes together in a singular place. 

For those of you who have experienced this, it’s something that never gets lost in memory or time. It’s like a little mirror we take out every now and then to remember a time when something so complex became so inconceivably simple. It’s pretty incredible.

For me, this is the essence of what intimacy is really all about. Dare to be vulnerable, dare to be seen.

Now let me ask you the question I began with: What does intimacy mean to you?

Visit me at: beverleygolden.com

 

Originally published February 2012

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