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10/3 2011

Know Thyself: What is Personal Intimacy Anyway?


My clients often come into my office wondering how to bring greater joy into their lives. We all – myself included – are looking for ways to bring greater joy into our lives. This quest for meaning and happiness is evidenced through the multi-million-dollar self-help industry which offers techniques, thoughts, potions, and pills to purportedly heal whatever is ailing us.

All of us want to be happy, and we have all heard of the idea of “living life to its fullest.” But what does this really mean? And if we actually happen to know what it means, how do we make sure we do this?

After working with couple after couple on their relationship issues – typically arising out of a lack of intimacy or truly “knowing” the other – what I have come to see is that most, if not all of the individuals in these relationships, do not know themselves.

They do not have intimacy with self…

No Self-Relationship exists.

And if no Self-Relationship exists, how can one fully be in Relationship with Other?

Most of the time, the concept of Self-Relationship is completely foreign to them. Even to me.

Over the past few months, I have been mulling over the best way to introduce the concept of “personal intimacy.” I don’t know about you, but my immediate associations with the term “personal intimacy” include words like masturbation… and Massengill.

Yeah. Not exactly what I had in mind.

But since this Personal Intimacy is at the core of my work with individuals and is critical for healthy relationships, I did what I always do and researched the concept I was trying to communicate – the concept of knowing yourself intimately.

And of course it was already there waiting for me…

The psychology of Self-Relationship (Gilligan) suggests that working with the inner self-relational process within a person is not only important, but is critical and often primary.

If you’ve worked with me, you know that we simply cannot leave concepts just hanging out there; they have to become manifest in ACTION. So, in my opinion (and I am open to hearing yours), the best way to manifest Self-Relationship is through Personal Sanctuary.

How are you building your Personal Sanctuary?

Are you giving yourself permission to nurture yourself – to take care of your Personal Sanctuary?

We can all attest to the fact that when something’s “going on” out there in our external worlds, we often don’t notice it immediately. We only later come to see that we’ve first stopped attending to our own state of health and balance.

We have stopped paying attention to our Personal Sanctuary.

To be able to live with joy, however, we need a healthy Sanctuary. Building a strong foundation – a strong Sanctuary – helps us withstand some of the storms we must weather in our journey called life.

I know what helps me with health and balance – and what helps me stay focused and grounded and better able to deal with life’s difficulties.

This may sound superficial, but for me, a pot of organic tea in a beautiful teapot and cup, with its magical jasmine fragrance wafting from it – is pure heaven. Yes, it’s a ritual, but what it does is brings my attention and awareness to the ACTION of taking care of myself.

This ritual, or action, serves as a “channel” to mindfulness, through which I can then connect more purely to a state of balance – which then connects me more fully to what is healthy and balanced for me.

Think of Personal Sanctuary and Self-Relationship as Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David: you couldn’t have one without the other.

Yoga and meditation are other actions toward a state of balance and, ultimately, Self-Relationship.

We know that exercise of any kind releases healing chemicals into the brain and makes us feel better. After a yoga class, I feel such a sense of exhilaration that then flows over into my feelings about the external happenings in my life – even if I find the external happenings at that moment to be less-than-positive.

The same thing holds true for me with real beeswax candles, pure essential oils (which are always burning during session), nag champa, hot baths, cooking with organic ingredients where you can smell their essence and, unfortunately, with extremely expensive shoes (what can I say? It works!).

These things serve as physical cues which help me connect with myself – so I can then more fully connect with others.

Knowing yourself enough to know when you need to take care of yourself in these physical ways requires a great sense of awareness. I am not advocating mindless or compulsive behaviors that take you away from yourself and your self-reflection. Although these physical acts may seem self-indulgent and selfish, when they’re done with the proper intention and awareness, they can support and further Self-Relationship.

Taking care of your Personal Sanctuary enables you to be flexible in handling life’s trials and tribulations.

Life events happen out of our control much of the time. Other people in our lives may make decisions over which we have no control.

It’s often difficult to really connect to the good in the moment.

We can’t change other people. We can only change ourselves. And change – even when it’s difficult – can be very positive.

We can do it with intention and awareness.

But, again, we have to be kind to ourselves and, through this kindness, build up our Sanctuaries in order to successfully relate to our self.

And only then… Others.

So, what I’m asking you to do is open yourself up to an awareness of the ingredients that create your Sanctuary. And look for the experiences that you can bring into your life that support you and enrich you and build your Relationship with…





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