Think of a time you felt connected to someone, you had that “they totally get me” moment…even just remembering that is often enough to trigger the relaxation response again.
Now think of a time you were around someone you didn’t trust, someone who was unpredictable or who has been dismissive or disrespectful in the past. If you are like most people, your body tenses up and you get a bit agitated just at the thought of them.
If even just the memory of being around certain people can make our bodies tense up or relax, you can imagine how much more intense it all gets when we are actually around them.
The problem is that if we have been burned in the past, we often choose to isolate, to not be around people, and to keep things superficial when we do. Neither of those give us much opportunity for that relaxation response. So here is a road map of how to build on your relationships…
1. Closeness starts with SHARED EXPERIENCES, whether it is going for coffee, a movie, a walk or an art gallery.
This allows us to have built in common ground of something neutral to talk about.
2. As we feel safer, we will attempt some SHARED EMOTIONS.
We usually start with sharing how we feel about someone else the other person doesn’t actually know (ie. I will tell my friend about the fact that I was frustrated or excited by something another friend who they don’t know did)
If we feel validated or accepted we tend to move it someone we both know next (ie. I will say something about our common friend Mary that made me happy).
Eventually we tell them about how something they did impacts us (ie. I was disappointed when you didn’t pick me up in time, or it really meant a lot to me when you called to check in).
3. As the relationship continues to deepen, next comes SHARED VALUES, we start to talk about our hopes, dreams, and core beliefs. Sometimes this one comes before or with the shared emotions. This could be me sharing deeply held religious beliefs, or my stand in politics or the beliefs guiding my lifestyle choices and how I hope to contribute to the world.
The more of these elements we have, the closer we feel to the other person. We don’t go through these steps when we don’t feel safe in the relationship. This lack of safety can come from us not being willing to put ourselves out there because we are assuming rejection (usually because that was part of our template of how relationships go) or it can come from the other person being rejecting, dismissive, mocking or inconsistent with us.
Consider the relationships in your life right now and reflect on how many of these elements you have right now, and if you want to have more of them.
Remember that if you don’t have a lot of intimacy or closeness in your life, the distress this causes is just feedback from your strong and healthy self giving you the energy to take action to do something about it and create a better life for yourself.
Are you ready to take action? Even if it is difficult, if it will be in the service of creating a life you are excited to live?