“Real power is showing up with your heart on your sleeve and absolutely refusing to waste one moment of your life hidden behind edginess and armor. The art of enheartened presence. Now that’s power.” – Jeff Brown
It isn’t rocket science that the creation of intimate relationships requires revelation of Self through deep vulnerability. Being vulnerable is a conscious choice to keep our heart open, to be willing to reveal and hear the expression of difficult truths. Of course, to be vulnerable we must feel safe within ourselves and within the process of relating to another; and, that internal safety is a by-product of how intimately we relate to our own Self. We cannot be more intimate with another than we are willing to be with ourselves.
Intimate relating also takes listening to the whole experience of another without infringement or imposition. It requires putting down our armor and dismantling walls (note, not boundaries) so that we are willing and able to reveal and receive authentic truth. This process requires a mindful letting go of notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and ‘should, because these defense mechanisms only serve to put up walls thereby effectively preventing the opportunity for intimate relating. In essence, it requires all individuals involved to choose to be vulnerable and reveal the truth of their experience without fear of reprisal or punishment. The moment one person breaks that sacred trust, the potential for intimacy is nipped in the bud.
Punishment in the context of relating to another is usually not a well-thought out decision but instead a habitual one. Human beings learn at a young age ‘what works’ in our family of origin and we repeat that till death do us part, because that’s all we know how to do, even when it is detrimental to the life we want to create or the relationships we want to sustain. Without an ability (or willingness) to connect to the core of our being and notice “where am I responding from?”, it is impossible to create anything other that what we’ve got. When a person would rather hang on to their version of the story no matter what, they will twist themselves in just about every direction to justify to themselves how ‘right’ they are. The needs of the other become secondary to the need to feel in control of the internal chaos presented by the situation. And so punishing the other for the internal felt state is a natural consequence of a habituated attempt at controlling the chaos in the body. I’ve written about the strategy of locking it down here.
Some common examples of punishing another include shunning, excluding, blaming, threatening (all expressions of shaming), gaslighting, shutting down, ignoring, dismissing, diminishing, denying, withdrawing, withholding, scolding, demanding, yelling, controlling. To be crystal clear — these are all forms of abuse and they necessarily impact the quality of the relating to another.
The desire to control the internal chaos by controlling the external outcome presents in different forms, and it is THE strategy most people are taught to employ. Whether it is by becoming the most aggressive so the other cannot speak, or by shutting down and pretending the conflict has gone away, or by lashing out and then pretending the conflict is over because you say so. Truth of it is, none of these strategies create the safe space for exploration of intimacy. None of these allow for the expression of vulnerability.
The hyperfocus on control isn’t new. Our whole society values managing, strategizing, controlling; coming up with the perfect plan that predetermines a certain predictable outcome. I’ve recently discovered over and over that this is total bulshit. It doesn’t matter how well I plan and how vulnerable I’m willing to be or how much I’m willing to own up to my part of a conflict, if the other person persists on pretending. And there’s intelligence in the denial or scapegoating response; it is a way to never have to reveal or face an uncomfortable truth to our own Selves (the paradox is our internal truths never disappear because we pretend they’re not there; instead, the nagging truth makes itself known in other ways such as disease in the body).
I get it; it’s really hard to work to dare to face our selves, our truth, our habits. Very few people are willing. There are far too many layers of conditioning that teach us to never go there, because vulnerability is weakness and control is strength. I have come to discover that the people who have continuously felt they lacked a sense of control growing up end up adopting this strategy as adults in an effort to create internal safety. I would know. I spend most of my life seriously colour coding everything. I called it being “well organized” but now I know it was was an attempt to control some area of my life when all the others felt like they were completely falling apart. I was so fucking tightly wound up!
Today, I notice it all with compassion and I giggle because I am unwilling to live that way. I have given up illusions of control of the other long ago, and I continue to do so every day of my life. Instead, I choose to trust the perpetual unfolding of life exactly as it should. I choose to trust the higher intelligence operating without the desire to intellectualize and understand or justify away (I simply love this post my friend Mellissa wrote on the case against thinking). Life is, by it’s very nature, uncertain, unpredictable, unknowable. That’s it’s sheer beauty! Possibility and potential live in the fecund space of the unknown, in the unfolding of each moment, in the choices made in each breath. In that, I consciously choose to live my life from a place of deep curiosity about my own internal landscape so that I may discover more of mySelf in the process of living. I choose to let go and integrate rather than control and compartmentalize. I choose to discover rather than plan. I choose to live rather than manage.
Despite my long history of literally running away from political and state persecution, I feel safe enough within myself to vulnerably reveal the truth of my experience, no matter what. In that, I am only interested in creating and sustaining intimate relations that are meaningful, expansive, and life-affirming. Truly, I am uninterested in participating in meaningless relations because I should/it’s family/it’s important to another/whatever. I am unwilling to participate in abusive relations. I am unwilling to be the scapegoat of another’s problems. I am unwilling to participate in pretending the giant pink elephant is not in the room. This shit takes way too much energy, and I’d rather focus on what fills me up with vibrancy, joy, life! I am here to live a conscious, magnificent life surrounded by those who choose the same for themselves.
Living in a world devoid of self-intimacy has historically meant I complied out of fear of reprisal or punishment. It has meant subjugating myself to the opinions, judgments, and approval of others and giving my personal power away by making myself small so that others felt comfortable to be around me. In other words, I moved away from fear of reprisal or punishment through shame for simply being my Self! Today, I consciously choose to own the majesty of who and what I AM. I choose life-affirming choices that move me in the direction I want, instead of moving away from that which I don’t want.
As I have processed much ado with this situation, I sense a space opening up within me where I am more willing and able to give myself permission to no longer subjugate myself to the perceived authority of another. I sense a space opening up where I choose to trust more deeply and more intimately the impulses of my body, in the moment they present. I choose to listen to the brilliance of what I instinctually know, without need for external validation or sticking to a story about shoulds. In this moment, I am grateful for the perceived chaos I’ve created in my life just so that I learn to become more unapologetically ‘me’. With a deep, grateful sigh, I release the story and reclaim more of my authentic truth. The rest unfolds exactly as it should…