This blog will be light on the prose and heavier on just a few exercises/tips/doorways into a fuller heartfelt connection with yourself, or with your intimate partner. It is also worth mentioning that greater intimacy with self always has a positive impact on your openness to intimacy, vulnerability, and thus connection, with another, from the cashier to your partner to everyone in between. The exercises below are for when you are feeling disconnected, including those nuances of overwhelm or flooding, shut down, sad or lonely, to name a few..
- Sit quietly, in solitude, for 2-5+ minutes, place your hand on your heart and breathe naturally. Tell yourself, silently or aloud, that you deserve love, care, attention, and deep listening first and foremost from yourself. Give that to yourself now, breathe it in each breath, feel the warmth and grounding presence of your hand on your heart, and know that you always have your own back, that you are here for yourself, always and every time you remember. Intend to remember more and more often in your day to day life. Focus on what it feels like to already, right now in this moment, be the person for yourself you want your partner to be toward you, or wish mom or dad had been when you really needed that. Again, your hand on your heart is your tether to your warm, open heart, and an embodiment of this radical self-love.
- This can be done at home, at work in a bathroom stall, in your car, anywhere you feel comfortable.
This can be a powerful and potentially quite fast 'freeway to groudedness and self-love/rememberance'. You could also choose to do it when you or your partner has stated that he/she needs a break or space from conflict, to take care of yourself, ground, and love yourself.
With Each Other
- Do your best to become more and more aware of how flooding feels in your body, toward being able to take care of yourself when you feel the signs of it coming on. i.e.-- often an intensifying of physical sensations of energy surging through your arms and/or torso, constricting of eyes, loudness and intensifying of voice..
-When you feel yourself approaching this flooded state, or already in it, reference 2 or 3 things you can easily choose from to do, to take care of and soothe yourself if you feel like you're not going to get your needs met from your partner. Think of these when you're not flooded, like right now or soon, and have them in the background of your mind for when you are.
-Some examples would be: make yourself some soothing warm or hot tea to hold and sip on (grounding to feel non-painful, slightly intense physical sensation), take a warm/hot shower, call a friend you trust.
- Do your best to become more and more aware of how shutting down feels in your body (and mind), toward being able to take care of yourself when you feel the signs of it coming on. i.e.-- cognitive functioning often decreases, difficult to formulate thoughts, a slight dizziness, body feels heavy and 'once removed' from experience..
-When you feel yourself losing connection with yourself and/or your partner, and communication is breaking down, take a 5 minute break only, the first time, or even the first few times if needed, and come back together for contact, after applying the following 'Principles of Presence':
1) For 60 seconds, let yourself feel, directly, in the body, whatever you are feeling, i.e.- anger, sadness, hurt.., and just let yourself really feel that, the physical sensation of it, rather than the thoughts or stories connected to it.
2) Say to yourself 'I now choose to reclaim my power and presence that this feeling(s) is made of'. Really feel the truth of this. Take another 60 seconds to do this.
3) Now say, and feel, 'As I reclaim this power and presence, I can really feel it surging through my body and mind'. Breathe deeply as you do this, throughout all 3 of these steps.
4) 2 minutes left now before coming back together. Really picture now what you want from your partner, and feel intimately into how it would feel to be getting that right now, already getting that from them. This is classic law of attraction here, and is actually a very powerful practice. It is deeply nourishing to feel this, and also opens up the heart and your energy. Realize how neither of you really want to fight with each other, and that you just might be blaming the other person for your own disconnection from yourself, at least as much as for whatever he/she said or didn't say, did or didn't do. Really picture him/her responding the way you would ideally want here, and let yourself feel that as intimately and in as much detail as possible. Just as some scientists have noticed how their expectations of the outcome of an experiment have actually directly impacted the results of the experiment, so it can be with our partners.
- Finally, and very importantly, do not use the above-mentioned visioning exercise re: feeling into how you would ideally want your partner to act or respond as fodder for now going and telling them what is wrong with them and how they don't measure up.
Now go back to being in contact with your partner. The 5 minutes is up. Do your best to love yourself, be vulnerable, i.e. your anger/frustration may really be hurt or despair or helplessness deep down, and communicate as nonviolently as possible. For some wonderful introductory and eloquently written information on nonviolent communication, see blogs on this site written by Ali Miller. Good luck!
Tom Rhodes, MFT has an office in the San Francisco neighborhood of Noe Valley, where he provides psychotherapy & couples counseling. He specializes in working with people suffering from issues including anxiety, panic attacks, spiritual crisis, men's issues, break-up crisis, and couples conflicts. He can be reached at 415-574-5799, or at email@example.com.