Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Emotional Authenticity and Softening Into Connection

Softening into honest and open vulnerability without losing yourself is the final frontier in sex and relationship.  Doing so makes you vulnerable to the power of life coursing through you and to the power of life that is the other, creating a life-connecting-to-life complexity that opens creativity, integrates, satisfies.

When I go to a wedding where the hearts of the couple open to each other in a way that even crotchety old uncle Bob can’t help but cry and even the over-excited children stop their fidgeting to look on wide-eyed, I come away happy.  Not because I then anticipate that this couple will live happily ever after (I am a couples therapist after all), but because the experience of open-hearted connection is enlivening no matter what happens afterwards.

Truth be told, I have come to believe that specific kinds of open hearted, connected experience are the keys to unlocking what we need personally, relationally and for our struggling world.

Of course, when we make ourselves vulnerable emotionally, we take a risk.  We can be hurt by abandonment, betrayal, criticism, disgust, accusation, etc.

Once we wake up to a relatively objective and integrated vision of ourselves, we can safely risk emotional vulnerability because we know that if an emotional injury should happen, we will be able to right ourselves.  We come to rely on the safety of having faced the truth of who we are, based in a vision of  how we have been sculpted by the evolutionary, physical and cultural forces that we were born into.  And have come to conceptualize ourselves in a meaningful way that we can be relatively comfortable with.  We have an identity that is organized, congruent, based in truth.

Before we come to terms with the truth of ourselves, we can be easily triggered into defensive strategies such as blaming, criticizing, denying, and being cold or dismissive.  Developed to protect ourselves when we were children and employed effortlessly, these defensive strategies protect us from emotional pain, but also prevent us from integrating others’ reflections and thus facing the truth of who we are.  We cling to our defended identities and do not develop the resilience necessary for emotional openness.  The more defensive we are, the more we need to be defensive.

Even if at times we operate in a relatively well-adapted persona designed to get along along and to get things done, we may be closed to the kind of emotional openness that facilitates depth change.

When we soften into a state of emotional openness that allows us to connect to others, it is powerfully satisfying.  We feel securely rooted in truth and it feels interesting and enlivened.  This state may be called “open hearted,” “core state,” “authentic self,” “Buddha Mind, or many other things.

In “Core State,” defenses are dropped, there is a sense of being connected to self, others, nature and life, as well as a kind of safety.  Here are the qualities that Diana Fosha, the originator of AEDP, a newer psychotherapy style, identifies with core state: “a state of calm, flow, ease, clarity, confidence, generosity, and true self being.”

Most people have entered into this kind of state at some time or other.  Sometimes at a wedding, sometimes in a situation involving birth or death, sometimes when falling in love, sometimes while making love, sometimes through meditation or ritual, sometimes in a psychotherapy relationship.

By practicing this core state with our significant other we generate a felt sense of emotional satisfaction and aliveness at the same time — a perfect state for creating and playing.  If we then turn toward sex — Wow!


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