Time is one of our biggest struggles and a precious commodity. We often find ourselves spending our time according to rules and norms that do not have anything to do with what we truly desire or need. We long to live lives that are both peaceful and vibrant. Instead, we agree to stay that extra hour at work or spend most of the weekend attending to things that are just expected and bring little joy.
How often do we find ourselves trapped in spaces we would sooner avoid? And how do we stay connected with friends and family and still find the time and space to do what brings us life?
Part of the answer lies in our understanding of “Intimacy.” Would you be surprised to learn that intimacy has little to do with sex? And while part of healthy intimacy is the close emotional, physical, and loving relationship we have with a romantic partner it is not the expansive definition.
According to the Miriam Webster dictionary, intimacy is “marked by a warm friendship developing through long association.”
The often-missed aspect is nurturing an intimate relationship with ourselves first. We hear all about self-care and may have even taken note of particularly good social media posts on the subject. But getting a mani-pedi and then taking the rest of the day off is not the full extent of self-care needed to show up for ourselves and others to live with integrity and vitality. How can we even begin to truly take care of ourselves first and our most cherished others if we do not truly know ourselves intimately?
We can make a start by recognizing our longest and most important relationship is with ourselves. But how intimately do we know ourselves? Consider the following areas of self-intimacy:
Let’s consider just the first one on the list. Do we understand our emotions? Have we ever taken the time to consider what we need to feel empowered to be our authentic selves in every area of our lives? If healthy intimacy develops over time then let’s make a start by discovering what our emotions tell us about the deepest desires of our hearts.
Try this exercise and see what happens for you. Take some quiet time, at least 30 minutes, and consider a moment when you felt completely content and happy. Maybe it was in the company of family or friends or a time when you were alone. Make a list of what you remember about this time. Write down as much detail about the memory as you can including what you experienced with your five senses.
Next, reflect on a time when the opposite was true. A time when you felt uncomfortable, unwelcome, and even minimized or dismissed. It may be a work-related memory or one of having been bullied or rejected. Again, write down as much detail as you can remember.
Now compare the two memories and note the differences. Imagine what you had in the first memory that you did not experience in the second memory. Carefully consider your emotional experience in the second memory and begin to identify what would have allowed you to feel content. For many people, this simple exercise may be difficult. This is common when we have not prioritized our own needs.
Familiarity with our emotional landscape is the beginning of self-intimacy. This exercise allows us to understand our emotional needs and then begin to ask for what we need from friends, family, and co-workers so we can remain in a place of safety and emotional awareness.
Many of us have spent most of our lives denying or shutting down our emotions. So, a good place to start on our journey of nurturing ourselves is an understanding of our own emotional landscape. An article found in Psychology Today, What Are Basic Emotions?: gives us an overview of emotions. For further exploration check out Atlas of Emotions. It is an interactive website that helps us identify and understand and deepen our emotional awareness. Remember your emotional health and understanding of who you were born to be is a vital component of your ability to enjoy lives of human flourishing!
About the author: Claudia Nell Hawley is located in Centennial Colorado and sees clients virtually. She offers educational workshops, couples, and individual counseling. Claudia is trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, The Gottman Method, and Eye Movement Desensitization.