Lowering the Barriers
Opening yourself to what you are feeling is an important first step towards increasing your capacity for intimacy. Take a breath. Notice what you are feeling in the moment. Learn to recognize the sensations, including the bodily sensations, which accompany emotions. Shallow breathing may indicate anxiety, for instance. In fact, psychotherapist Fritz Perls called anxiety “excitement without the breath.”
The next step towards lowering the walls and increasing the intimacy in your life is to become more comfortable with sharing your feelings with others. Take responsibility for what you are experiencing rather than attributing it to someone else. Keep it simple and direct. Remember that emotions don’t always have to be monumental things; sharing your feelings about a piece of music or a movie you’ve just seen with a friend can be a great way to gain more experience.
If you develop greater capacity to communicate your feelings with others, you’ll soon find that people do one of two things. Some folks will reciprocate and share their feelings. Others will not, and may even feel uncomfortable with your “opening up.” Don’t allow others’ responses to put you off-track. People choose different levels of intimacy with one another. If your goal is to open up the walls and have more intimacy in your life, look for people who respond positively to your initiatives. These are the people who have the greatest potential for giving you what you are seeking.
Intimacy requires being genuine and sincere with people. Genuineness and sincerity require telling the truth. Learning to tell the truth about your experience can be challenging – especially if you’ve been raised with the belief that “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” Small wonder that learning to speak truthfully about your feelings, experiences and desires takes practice for many of us.
Someone once said, “Sincerity is the most important thing in life. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made!” Beware of false intimacy. False intimacy can easily develop in online chat rooms, for instance. It seems you are having a heart-to-heart conversation with someone. Then you make plans to meet and they don’t show up, or they aren’t who they represented themselves to be. Or the chat-and-email connection is suddenly just dropped without explanation. These folks aren’t practicing intimacy. For them, relationships are simply a source of entertainment or diversion.
The party drug Ecstasy also can lead to a false sense of intimacy. One of the things many men like about X is that it increases their sense of well-being, connection and affection. The problem is, Ecstasy produces this out of a neurochemical reaction, not a relationship. I’ve known men who despised one another and would do well to avoid each other who, under the influence of X and a driving musical beat, resurrected unhealthy relationships that should have been left dead and buried. If you rely on Ecstasy to provide opportunities for experiencing intimacy, you are only fooling yourself.
With practice, experience and occasional coaching, we can learn to open our hearts and develop closer relationships. You have a right to healthy, affectionate closeness with others. Don’t let the fact that these don’t happen automatically talk you out of getting what you want.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions. It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist. I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.