Monday, January 28, 2013

Love and Intimacy by Delia Nessim

Love is a wonderful feeling, but it can also be frightening and confusing.  Sometimes we can love someone and still say and do terrible things to him or her without even understanding why.  Afterward we are often filled with guilt or remorse.  Depending on the circumstances and our personal style, we may argue or distance ourselves from people we love.  According to Dr. Harriet Lerner, author of “The Dance of Intimacy,” these reactions (arguing and distancing) are two sides of the same coin.  When the anxiety of a relationship becomes too hard to manage, our instincts of fight-or-flight take over.  The challenge is to learn how to control our tendency to over react while stating our truth in an open, honest manner without blame or criticism.  Maintaining a loving relationship requires both partners to stay engaged, take healthy risks, and continually strive for greater intimacy.

       The word intimacy may initially cause many women to sigh with longing desire - and many men to run for the hills.  Intimacy is the ability to trust another person enough to express your honest feelings, beliefs and wishes without fear of recrimination.  In relationships, both men and women often hide their true feelings, albeit for different reasons. Cultural messages for men to be "strong" may interfere with their comfort and confidence in expressing their feelings, especially vulnerable emotions, and in asking for support when they are struggling. Men may isolate themselves when struggling with difficult emotions, for fear of being misunderstood or judged.  It is almost as difficult for women to be intimate as it is for men.  In many families and through cultural messages, women are taught to sacrifice their own desires in order to please others, to be passive, and to avoid “rocking the boat”.  In addition, women are more likely to prioritize family over career and to be financially dependent on their partners, increasing their sense of vulnerability.  This real or imagined insecurity may fuel a woman's reluctance to speak up and ask for what she wants or needs.  

       Although it is very difficult, intimacy is a necessary component of love.  When people don’t grow closer, by getting to know each other on a deeper level, they often grow farther apart.  Nothing in life stands still.

      How does a person create greater intimacy in a relationship?  First, we have to try to step back and observe our relationship.  It may be easy to see the other person’s behaviors that interfere with intimacy, but it’s not as easy to recognize the role we play in perpetuating the ineffective patterns.  Second, we work on reducing our reactivity to triggers. Just think, “Okay, I feel my buttons being pushed. This is my opportunity to practice staying calm and cool and see what happens next.”  People cannot hear each other when emotions are high.  Third, when the time is right, find your voice and express your concerns using "I" messages.  An example of an I message might sound something like this: “I feel nervous that something has changed in our relationship. Even though you keep telling me it’s all in my head, my anxious feeling that something is wrong isn’t going away.  I’m sensing a distance between us and I‘m not sure what to make of it.”  It’s important not to berate, judge, generalize or blame the other person.  Those kinds of comments just serve to block the lines of communication. It is also helpful to avoid making "you" statements (e.g. "You make me so angry"), as they tend to elicit defensiveness. Try to stay with  "I" statements, especially expressions of how you are feeling (sad, anxious, hurt, frustrated, loving, grateful, etc.).  

If you feel as though there is an injustice that is intolerable, define and state your intentions, wishes or “bottom line.”  Just explain what you will and will not accept and stay firm.  An example of a bottom line might be, “I won't lie for you anymore. Lying is against my values, and it makes me very uncomfortable. I do really care about you, understand you are in a difficult predicament, and hope that you will find a solution.  You may have to repeat some version of this message over and over until it becomes clear and new patterns emerge.  The other person may resist change and try to convince you to keep doing things and accepting things the way they have been. You may also notice yourself resisting change, even when you really want it. Changing patterns is hard work!             

       It is important to realize that behavioral patterns are created over many years, often over many generations, so don’t expect to see changes overnight.  Be patient and focus your attention and energy on clarifying your own beliefs, values, and goals. According to Lerner, “Real closeness occurs most reliably not when it is pursued or demanded in a relationship, but when both individuals work consistently on their own selves.”

Remember to approach any and all changes very slowly and with caution.  Our fears do serve a purpose and that is to protect us.  Sometimes, it’s best to seek professional counseling - either individually or with your partner in couples counseling - rather than trying to tackle difficult emotional issues alone.  There are several therapists here at The Resiliency Center that can provide the support you may need. Learn more about the Counseling Services at The Resiliency Center at

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beginning Anew by Dean Solon

this world presents as reality,
and may be experienced as apparency,
and when it is,
all that is
can be seen as transparency.

often it is asked:
if this is the way it is,
why get out of bed in the morning?
why care about any of it?

because you care about the well-being of all the manifestings,
the embodyings and expressings,
of form, and of life.
because you care about this world and all that is in this world,
whether it is reality
and-or apparency
and-or transparency.
because of the bodhisattva vow of intention be working---and playing---
   for the awakening
   of all sentient beings.