Today we explore the 4 big interconnected territories of intimacy and loneliness, communication and our needs…
Intimacy is that feeling of connection and trust that arises from feeling really seen, heard and understood; shared moments of emotional connection in time. That yum yum yum heart smiley feeling that seems to fill us also with optimism.
When we don’t have enough intimate connection in our life, we feel lonely.
We find ourself living in a time where loneliness is endemic. From both my personal experience and what I see in my coaching practice I think there are two main reasons for this:
1. The unique yet solvable problem of the time we are living in
2. Our own internal barriers that hold us back, preventing us to have the connection with others we so badly wish for – also very solvable
In this post I’m going to share with you insights, helpful skills and I hope inspire in you the energy and courage to practice the kind of communication that helps you overcome this very human challenge of our time and feel super connected, loving and loved in your life.
Let's start at the beginning....
Why do we feel like this:
We humans are wired for connection, social creatures, we need each other to survive and thrive. These days we are hungry for nourishing connection, yet we live in a time where the ease of convenience is killing us softly in so many little yet not little ways. Loneliness is as bad for our health as smoking.
The convenience of social networks, WhatsApp, Insta, connects us to others with an unprecedented ease. Yet just as fast-food leaves us undernourished, bloated, sick, this electronic connection can leave us feeling empty and lost without really understanding why.
The problem is we lack intimacy, heart to heart connection.
What gets in the way?
· Do you let them in, or do you hold them at arms length?
Perhaps you’re like me. One of the struggles I have, is that I need a little time to be able to talk about what’s going on in my life. What makes me a great coach is that I am genuinely interested in you and I am well practiced at helping you talk about you.
I realise this now well-developed muscle probably first originated in a defence mechanism formed in the turbulence of my early family life. I can’t tell you about what’s going on with me as my world is crazy, so I deflect and get you to talk about you.
Whether you’re like me or not, a strength overused becomes a weakness. Unless ‘I’ let ‘you’ in, let you in on what’s going on with me, you never really get to know me. Connection is one way, understanding is one way, empathy is one way. ‘I’m’ left feeling a bit empty, a bit meh, a bit lonely.
· Do you notice it’s all about you?
Have you noticed it’s all about you? Maybe you didn’t notice until I said it just now…
Or maybe you have already noticed that your ‘other’ never really shares anything about their life. You’ve settled into the dynamic, you appreciate how much they listen, you figure if they had stuff to talk about they would.
Perhaps now you understand that some people need time to warm up, some find it harder to talk about themselves, you can help foster greater reciprocity, a better relationship together by leaning into curiosity.
Perhaps you could notice when it is all about you and acknowledging that “Oh, I see its all become about me again. Tell me about you, what’s going on for you?” being patient and encouraging and ultimately not letting them off the conversational hook when they try and deflect back on to you :)
I can think of two lovely friends of mine who have greatly helped me by doing exactly this. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate both of you Frank and Petra.
Could you be the Frank or Petra in your other’s life?
· And then there is the crap in our head….
Using the metaphor of the brain as a computer, we also all carry faulty programming. Despite our outward sociability and success, we all of us carry old stories, often deeply hidden.
Common stories I’ve helped myself and my clients uncover include ‘no one really likes me’ ‘when they get to know the real me, they’ll leave’ ‘I don’t deserve it’ ‘everyone hates me’. Stories which so sneakily and silently drive our behaviour, put up internal barriers to intimacy and so become self-fulfilling prophecies.
It really helps through coaching, therapy or hashing it out with a close friend, what are you really afraid of in terms of relationship? This helps us uncover the ‘bugs’ faulty programs that hold us back.
His bug ‘when they get to know the real me, they’ll leave’ means he developed an internal wall that no one could get behind – but then left him trapped behind.
Her ‘no one really likes me’ meant she unconsciously decided on a strategy of work work work, finding relief in the validation of work and ease of work friendships formed, friends for a season which ultimately over the long term left her feeling like she didn’t really have any close friends.
What bug, faulty program could be driving you?
· Also the time of your life matters…what’s going on for you in your life right now?
Our life changes radically over time. We go through stages and phases of life. When we go through inevitable times of transition, we can feel a bit adrift as we cast off from our shore of the known into an unknowable for now future.
My experience tells me we are not always present to these transitionary moments. We often don’t recognise them.
Changing jobs. Changing unofficial role – in a family or a relationship. Stepping up in our career. Stepping down or sideways. Couples forming, marrying or not. Having children, your friends not, you not having kids, your friends do. All the many transitions and gateways in family life, driven by school, or by the ageing of parents. Our own ageing and milestone birthdays…. The seasons, the days…
We need to cut ourself some slack, to take a little time to check in and notice what’s going on with us.
And also please let’s cast off that all pervading lie that we’ve been sold that our life should look like an episode of ‘Friends’ and that somehow everyone else is living deeply rich, socially connected and nourishing social lives.
This leaves us thinking there’s something wrong with us, feeling like we are in an insolvable situation.
I’m here to tell you – are you ready? Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with you. I’ll help you find your way out from this horrible hole.
What helps us? What are the keys that can free us?
1. You be the one to reach out to the ones you love
2. Be the instigator and create the situations that you yearn for
3. Decide to let them in – speak up and tell them a little of what’s going on with you
4. Make a plan of what you want to meaningfully share – our minds tend to blank, the question what have you been up to can leave us saying, um nothing much.
Take time before catching up to look back over your diary, to think through, what have I been up to, what is important to me, what do I want to share that is meaningful and lets them into my life?
Remember it doesn’t have to be super deep.
It’s great to share the joys and humour as well as the heart felt and struggles.
Let me leave you with two of my favourite quotes:
Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Marianne Williamson, A Course in Miracles: “Only what you have not given can be lacking in any situation.”
It strikes me in my own experience and of so many of my clients, that the ones we love so appreciate being reached out to, even if we don’t have much to say!
We are all in the same boat, we are all wishing the ones we loved reached out to us.
So let us be the change, let us bring what we so want to have into relationship with the ones who matter to us.
Let them in to what’s going on with you.
If you are the one that is always sharing, you ask them about what’s going on with them and be patient, be curious, help tease it out of them so you both feel the nourishing sunshine of intimate connection.
I'd love to hear what you think having read this and what you might now do as a result. Drop me a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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