Intimacy with Others
And Pema Chodron says, “Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.”
In my last article, we talked about deepening our connection to self. Today, we’re going to branch out from those lessons and discuss kindness toward others.
Let’s start with an inventory of your relationships and see what you would like to shift/deepen:
Score yourself on these questions from 0-5, with 0 being “Not satisfying” and 5 being “Totally Satisfying, no need for change.”
• Presently my relationships are satisfying.
• I tend to get along with people I work with.
• I have an intimate relationship that is satisfying.
• I am working well towards developing a more intimate relationship in my life.
• I enjoy being with my friends.
• I enjoy being with my family.
• I keep promises with others.
• I share how I feel with others in my life.
• I express my gratitude to others in my life.
• I feel loved by friends/family.
What I enjoy most in my relationships is________________________________
I also enjoy________________________________________________________
What I enjoy least is_________________________________________________
I act the most irritated when____________________________________________
What Does My Score Mean?
The highest score you could have gotten is 50, meaning you are 100% satisfied with all of your relationships. Anything less means your connections are lacking in some way.
Knowing that we all long for closeness to others, to be heard, and to be understood, we can use our inventories to help determine where our connections to others need help. Do you feel disconnected from the people you work with? Is your bond with your friends not as strong as it should be?
Here are some ways we can all improve and develop those special relationships:
• Watch and Smile. When living in New York, I used to enjoy the process of watching people and smiling at them – especially on the subway. I liked to imagine them at different ages in their lives, wondered about them and how they experienced life. I liked offering a smile. It felt good, and many times it appeared that we connected when they smiled back.
What might happen if we treated everyone as a friend? Maybe they are. After all, on some level, we are all connected.
• Look. Have you ever taken the time to look into another person’s eyes? In the last article, I wrote about looking in a mirror. Now let’s consider looking into someone’s eyes. Try this with a stranger, family member or friend. Take time to notice them. Get curious about them. And with your beloved, notice how it feels to really see one another – it can foster great intimacy during your sexual moments or at other times.
• Listen. See what it feels like to really listen versus waiting to share what you want to say. Conversations can be like tennis matches, watching who takes the ball to their side of the court. What happens if you leave it on the other person’s side? Next time you speak with someone, get really curious and ask more questions about what they’re sharing.
• Pause, listen and reflect. Just like looking in a mirror, we can mirror back to each other using words and body language. It’s very revealing. Try the process of W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking – something we are trained to do as Brainspotting therapists). It’s amazing how much more connected you can feel with another.
How Can We Deepen Our Connection?
There is an old Amish proverb that says, “Instead of putting others in their place, put yourself in their place.”
When you start to listen to and see other people, you begin to develop bonds. But there are things you can do to further that connection even more: develop empathy, compassion and a sense of appreciating differences.
If you consider all of humanity, we’re actually not much different from each other. Have you ever been to the Body Exhibit? It shows you that beneath our skin we are all the same.
What makes us different is how we choose to think. To help bridge the gap, start to consider what we have in common. The more we practice things like this, the more we can open our minds and hearts to one another.
One of my favorite practices for learning to “see” others comes from Ode Magazine. The simple five-step exercise teaches you to be present in the moment during all of your interactions.
If you’d like to try it out, next time you are with another, or even just thinking about another, consider:
• Step 1: “Just like me, this person is seeking happiness in his/her life.”
• Step 2: “Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”
• Step 3: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness, and despair.”
• Step 4: “Just like me, this person is seeking to fill his/her needs.”
• Step 5: “Just like me, this person is learning about life.”
One of the best ways to deepen your connection to others is through proper communication – and there are many forms of communication to draw from. A few that I recommend to clients include:
• Reflective Listening. Much like the mirror exercise, this is a way of reflecting back to the person what they said. Just summarize to the person what you heard, or you repeat back to them: “I heard you say…” or, “What I hear you saying is…” or, “Let me see if I can repeat back to you what I think you said…”
• Intentional Dialogue: The Four-Step Intentional Dialogue is an amazing way to validate and empathize with others. This is how I typically summarize it for clients:
o Observe and describe the situation. When you . . .
o State how that affected your feelings. I felt . . .
o What I wish to change within myself is . . . (based on how you hope to react going forward or what you need to change so you can detach with love from their experience)
o What I hope/request for you is . . . (know that you have no control over other people, places and things so this is merely a request with no expectation or demand).
• Challenging/Inspiring Conversations. Take the risk to share the things that are hard to share. The 12-step programs use the phrase “We are as sick as our secrets.” We can only get over that sickness by speaking about our dreams, desires, fears, and/or needs. Start with something small and build up from there.
The conversation may feel like a challenge at first but can grow into an intimacy-builder as you reflect and review what matters together. As an example, at the end of the day share with another:
What mattered most to me today was_________________
I learned today___________
What I am grateful for is___________________
We all fall short when we want other people, places, or things to go our way. Granted, that is good positive thinking – but we can’t force an issue when it is not ours to be living.
How often do you become upset because someone doesn’t live up to your expectations? At least once a week? Maybe once a day? The one person who can change this disappointment is you.
You can realize that as you live and let live you will feel free and happy. Whether you are a parent, friend, partner, or child of another they will do what they intend to do. Yes, you can give support and input – but after a certain point we need to, as they say in Al-Anon, “Detach with love.”
Detaching with love is another way of expressing compassion.
Ready to deepen your connections? Schedule a free phone consultation today to see if integrative therapy may help.