In October of last year I was at a retreat about heart connection. There I discovered I deny myself a whole lot of connection, because I once pasted intimacy and sexuality together. Out of fear that intimacy will send the signal that I am open to sexuality, I reserved the whole thing for my partner and stayed away from intimacy with anyone else (both women and men). And without intimacy there's hardly any connection possible.
Intimacy for me is as simple as making 'real' eye contact or giving a 'real' hug. You probably know the difference between a 'I am quickly wrapping my arms around you and then letting go again as soon as possible' hug and a hug with real connection (both physically and emotionally).
My exploration: tantra & zouk
From the desire to have more connection, I set the intention to open myself up for intimacy. And therefore I started dancing Zouk in January of 2020. An originally Brazilian partner dance, in which conscious touch and intimacy without sexuality play an important part. I love to dance, so that seemed to me like the perfect (somewhat safe) way to explore this exiting topic.
Within the Zouk world I found a sub movement, where the dance is approached as a mirror for personal and spiritual development. Exactly what I was looking for... And that's how I ended up at a so called Tantra into Zouk weekend. With Tantra you might think of sexuality right away, which is often part of it, but tantra is much more. And in this weekend it was specifically not about sex.
Connecting from needs, desires and boundaries
The focus of the weekend was connecting from your whole being, with everything that you are, including being super clear about your needs, desires and boundaries (what happens to be very important in sex as well, but that's another story).
This weekend unleashed a whole range of discoveries for me:
To open myself up for intimacy, it is crucial that I can set my boundaries very clearly.
To set my boundaries clearly, it is super important that I am clear about my needs and desires (setting boundaries is not just about what you DON'T want, it is just as much about what you DO want).
I discovered I find it very hard to state my needs and desires in a moment of connection with someone else.
Because I find this difficult and therefore don't do so often, I don't trust my own boundaries. How do I know that I will be able to voice what is ok and not ok when it comes down to it?
So in the core I don't entirely trust myself. And I keep intimacy at a distance, not out of fear of what the other person might think or do, but out of fear of what I would allow to happen.
Ding ding ding ding…
The insights kept hitting me one after the other… Though I had realised each and every one of them before, it was the first time they strung together to a complete picture like this.
And to be honest it threw me off balance for a bit. Because what does it mean if I don't trust myself?
Trust and safety
One consequence of not trusting myself is that I need other people to feel safe. I can completely open up when I am (1) in a context where the boundaries are super clear (like a programme for personal development) and/or (2) with someone who is very predictably and readable to me (usually that is someone who is very clear about their needs, desires and boundaries...).
So I put my feeling of safety in other people's hands and how I feel is depending on who I'm with and where I am. My workaround has been to choose situations and people where I feel safe (not a coincidence that I did so many programmes for personal development I think). Though that works quite well, it is not ok for me now that I am aware of it. I want to feel safe in any situation, regardless of who I am with. So there is something valuable to discover and develop here!
The key to trust
An important key to trusting myself is speaking up for my needs and desires. So the first question that arises is: what makes it so hard for me to speak up?
I discovered two things:
Firstly I highly value harmony. And somewhere I developed the conviction that speaking up for my needs and desires might lead to conflict. What if the other person has different needs and desires? And then, when we both speak up, it's out there and we can't pretend anymore to align. We differ...ahhhh....conflict! Or even worse: the other person doesn't speak up and does what I want against their will. Nope! Not gonna let that happen, then it's better that I adapt.
Secondly I do anything not to be an attention seeker. That is one of the worst things someone could say about me. My worst nightmare is that I become someone who uses a lot of drama to get attention. Now I realise rationally that there is a whole range between where I am now and being an attention seeker, but out of fear to be perceived as "needy" I'd rather keep my mouth shut.
My approach and 3 tips
As you probably understand, these are quite fundamental and impactful insights for me. So why do I choose to share them here?
Well to grab some attention of course;-) Nah, I prefer to share because you possibly recognise yourself in my story (or part of it). In that case: you're not alone, you're not crazy and there's a beautiful and valuable development process ahead of you if you choose so!
And therefore I also like to share how I deal with it and what works for me:
The first step for me is always to ACKNOWLEDGE the situation as it is. I start by getting clarity for myself and looking at what actually happens. And a second important aspect for me is to share with others (I find saying things out loud the most powerful way to acknowledge something for myself). Of course writing and sharing this blog with you is also contributing.
The second step is FEELING what it does with me. Not feeling safe and keeping my needs and desires in triggers all sorts of emotions and feelings. What is completely natural, but when needs and desires are now allowed to be expressed, then mostly emotions are not either (at least this is the case for me). Emotions that are not allowed to be expressed tend to lock themselves somewhere in our body. And it is important to let them flow again to make space (emotion = energy in motion, they need to be able to move through you to leave you again). I see it as a cleaning process. Usually emotions come up during sharing already. To go even deeper I prefer to get some support. This time I did a session in which I was supported to take a situation in which I didn't feel safe and from there feel through all the emotions that were triggered here one by one. Feeling through them means letting them come up and letting them be, until they automatically flow away again. Not a comfortable process, but a very valuable one. In this process fear, sadness and loneliness were amongst the emotions that came by. To (learn to) feel completely comfortable with all these emotions will highly contribute to feeling safer, because then no matter what a situation will trigger in me I can handle it.
The third step is to ACT on my discoveries. Like I shared before expressing my needs and desires is an important key. So my first action is to practice and play with expressing them more. A tip I received during the weekend is to play the 3-minute game in the version of Betty Martin. There's a very powerful model behind it, that requires more explanation, but in short the game is like this: you play with a partner and in turns you ask each other (1) what can I do for you during the next 3 minutes and (2) what would you like to do to me in the next 3 minutes? When you answer the questions you practice expressing your needs and desires. When you ask the questions you practice setting your boundaries, because you only oblige to your partner's needs and desires when what they ask is ok for you. For more information check: https://bettymartin.org/videos/.
My tips to you:
Acknowledge for yourself: to what extend are you honest and open about your needs, desires and boundaries? Assuming you are human and your answer is not 100% honest and open;
Go back to a recent situation in which you did NOT speak up for your needs, desires and/or boundaries. What do you experience physically and emotionally when you think back of this situation? What emotions are triggered? See if you can let them be and feel through them.
Think of actions you could take to increase your ability to express your needs, desires and boundaries. Is your challenge more to actually feel what your needs and desires are? Or is your challenge more to express them with someone else present? The 3-minute game can be a safe and lowkey way to practice.
If you have read up to here, chances are you recognise something of what I share. If you choose to further explore what there is to discover and develop for yourself like I did, I wish you all the courage, clarity and selfcare to do so. And if I can support you in this process in any way, it would be my honor!