Even before COVID, one of the most common experiences I would hear from clients was one of wanting, craving connection. Sometimes the context was romantic partnership, but just as often it was about cultivating more meaningful friendships or intentional community as an adult woman. This sentiment was and is typically followed with how challenging the process can be with full schedules, physical distance and now social distancing.
I hear it. As we change and grow over time, it makes sense that there may be shifting in our social landscapes, and things can often feel sparse before they blossom again. But I’ll offer that the logistical challenges that come with developing new relationships in adulthood may also be a gift or an invitation to take pause and get clear on what types of relationships we actually want in our lives. It’s then that we can move forward intentionally, mindfully.
Interestingly, when I ask folks to envision who they would want to share their time with they often name character traits of others they view as compatible, sometimes even careers those people may have. This isn't a "bad" strategy per se, but it may be limiting. If ever there was a time to rely on intuition and emotional intelligence, this would be it … when we’re seeking our people, yes?
So what if instead of making lists of character traits, we took the time to consider how we’d like to feel in our relationships?
Examples: I want to feel heard, I want to feel received, I want to feel joyful and at ease, I want to feel accepted as my full self.
And what if instead of seeking folks with similar career paths, we again pause to take inventory of our values and seek out others who might share them. Examples: I value self-inquiry, I value humor and goofiness, I value social equity. I value creativity.
It's a different approach than many of us are used to, I know. But by tapping into our emotional needs this way, we are more able to bypass preconceived ideas of who might actually add to our lives and vice versa. We're able to feel our way in to relationships and be curious. Do I feel expansive and giving when I'm spending time with someone? Or do I feel guarded and shutdown? Do I feel energized and resourced? Or do I feel drained from giving with little reciprocity?
There's a lot of information to be had by paying attention in this way. And from a more informed place, we're able to ask important questions of ourselves and make healthier decisions. Is this a relationship I want to pursue? Is there a disconnect and is it something I want to address and work on? Or is this a deal breaker?
As poet, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, live the questions.
I'll wrap up here by noting that if the concept of 'trusting your gut' feels scary or foreign, you're not alone in that. Reasons ranging from relational trauma to cultural conditioning can attribute to a basic mistrust of our feelings and intuition, especially when it comes to relationships. The result can look like numbing out or even explaining away our feelings.
Seeking out support through psychotherapy, coaching and/or group work may feel nourishing and helpful in the process. If you're interested in learning more about how I work with women and girls around this very topic, please feel free to reach out. I'd love to hear from you.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
I'm entering the new year with relationships on my mind. Not one type in particular, mind you, but all the connections we value in our lives ....
As human beings, we're social animals. Arguably, even the most introverted among us seek connection, communication and intimacy. It's innate. So here we are going in to year two of an unyielding pandemic wherein social distancing and isolation are still the name of the game. Here in the Bay Area, we're navigating our second stay-at-home order in roughly nine months in effort to stay physically safe, but emotionally it's taking a toll.
It's an f'd-up situation; I'm right here with you on this. There's no way around that.
And still for those of us who may feel called or just curious, this time may also be an opportunity to pivot, slow down, and get back to nourishing the connections we hold dear, and perhaps make some new ones ... physically-distanced, of course.
What follows are five practices that come to mind when I think of developing and nourishing connection. I'm sharing them here as a framework, but also want to encourage you to reflect on qualities/behaviors/actions you value in your relationships.
This is helpful to keep in mind when you reflect on how you're showing up in relationships, but also in determining whether relationships are nourishing for you as well. Next week's blog post will be on that very subject!
Meanwhile, I'll invite you to join me in holding the hope that while we have a ways to go, this year has the potential for some long overdue healing and change. And what a powerful way to honor that intention, by tending to our relationships near and far.
Till Next Time, Wishing you Health & Ease,
Five Practices to Nourish & Sustain Relationships
1) Authentic Presence - This means showing up fully as you are and sharing your wholeness with others. This also means noting if you feel safe and comfortable enough to do so.
2) Attentive Listening - The key here is staying quiet long enough to let the other person speak their truth. So many of us are out of practice with this simple act because we are eager to share our own experiences, wisdom or ask questions. There's a time for all of that, but the invitation here is to practice sitting in silence and paying full attention to what the other person is sharing. Letting other people feel heard is a serious gift.
3) Empathy - Ah, the term empathy gets tossed around in pop culture quite a bit. Ultimately, it's the practice of understanding and being with the feelings of another. For some people this comes naturally and for other people, it takes practice. Here's a beautiful short by author and social worker, Brenè Brown about empathy. I'll also add here that empathy is not just for hard times. It's also important in sharing joy, successes and so on with people you care about.
4) Gratitude & Appreciation - This is a simple practice and often overlooked, but sharing how you appreciate someone or are grateful for them helps nurture connection. This is different than thanking someone for running an errand, though also important. The focus here is more on acknowledging strengths or gifts you you see in another person. The practice can be powerful.
5). Action & Service - Number 5 focuses on your action in relationship. Are you consistent? Do you come through when you say you're going to do something? Do you own it when you aren't able to? Do you acknowledge the impact of your own actions, even when you didn't mean to hurt someone? In turn, asking another person who is struggling: What do you need? How can I help? Is a way to demonstrate service in a relationship.