A client of mine recently shared with me a reading from a book that pointed out that the greatest cause of pain in relationship is disconnection. When we open our hearts to intimacy, we seek to stand in a space of connection. What we often don't realize, however, is that in order to stand in a space of connection with another person, we need to first stand in a space of connection with self.
If we look inside and find a disconnect in our relationship with self, we may unearth the root of an experience of disconnection with a loved one. Bridging the gap within through exploring what prevents us from being fully connected to self is the foundation for creating space for sustained connection with another person.
Our culture teaches us to look outward to others to make us happy, to take care of us, and often to define ourselves in relationship to them. There is a place for this in moderation, but if we don't first learn what makes us happy, learn how to take care of ourselves, and define ourselves on our own terms, it is hard to be fully present, happy and grounded in our relationships. When things get messy or go awry, we are quick to blame rather than point the finger internally and ask what we are contributing to the mess.
Relationships are a system. There is my relationship with myself, your relationship with yourself, and the "we" which is a living entity, like an oversoul, that both you and I are responsible for cultivating. If any one of these three parts is not fully attended to, a sense of disconnection, and often pain, can result. If we are not aware of the three players in the system, it is hard to identify where a sense of disconnection originates. If we have an internal gap within ourself, then it is hard to sustain the connection with you or the "we."
How do we learn to bridge the gap within? Here are some important practices:
1. Learn to develop an introspective practice. Meditate. Journal. Draw. A practice that encourages you to dig deeper into your senses, thoughts and feelings, allows you to become more aware of your inner experience and connect more deeply with yourself.
2. Make time for introspective work daily. Introspection is part of self-care. And if you develop a daily introspective practice, you are making space for your deeper self. Just as asking a partner "how was your day?" builds relational connection, asking yourself, "how am I feeling today?" builds connection with self.
3. Slow down and look within as you go through your day. If you find yourself moving through your day with a fast pace, it is valuable to slow down and look within. If we go too fast, we may factor self out of the equation as we do for others and focus on what needs to be done.
4. Become more familiar with your internal landscape and create space to presence and experience whatever you are thinking and feeling. Being able to just "be with" whatever we are sensing, thinking and feeling without judgment, helps us "be" with ourselves. This creates more internal space, which then gives us more space to be present with others.
5. Remove judgment of your internal experience. We may not like feeling scared, sad, vulnerable or angry, but all of these feelings are perfectly human. For us to be whole, it is important to embrace of just "be with" whatever we are sensing, thinking or feeling without judgment. Being able to be scared, sad, vulnerable or angry allows us to embrace more of our full humanness, and have space to embrace these qualities in others. 6. Become more conscious of when you feel connected to yourself and when you feel disconnected. When you feel connected, how does your body feel? What do you feel in your heart? What are your thoughts like? When you feel disconnected what do you notice in your body, thoughts and heart?
7. Learn how it feels when you are spacious and grounded. If you are aware of how you feel when you are spacious and grounded, it is easier to notice when you are not. Learn what helps you stay spacious and grounded, and what distracts you.
As you develop your interior landscape, and experience more spaciousness and grounding, you will feel more connection and wholeness within. And this internal spaciousness and connection will help you experience and sustain connection with others you care about.