To develop emotional intimacy, you just need to melt the barriers to being seen for who you truly are. So many of us have such a complex and busy façade, that it is hard for anyone but the bravest warrior to penetrate our defenses. We have parts of ourselves that we believe are so unlovable, that we turn them into metaphorical frogs and do everything to hide these flaws from the world. The problem is that this keeps anyone from getting close.
To develop emotional intimacy we have to remember to kiss the frog within. By “frog” I mean those parts of ourselves that we have disowned. The ugly, slimy, small, croaky, warty, thorny, horny, lonely and shadowy sides of ourselves that we would rather hide.
We all have these places inside ourselves that we are not proud of, maybe even ashamed of. These are the aspects of ourselves that we take great pains to disguise, our shadow sides. But who are we kidding? All that energy expended denying what you have decided is unlovable about yourself is wasted, because you haven’t really fooled yourself. The shadow side looms larger with every act of denial. All the effort to hide your shadow just proves that it is really there.
You have probably heard the statement: “What you resist, persists.” Which means that the more you fight against something, the stronger a force it becomes in your awareness. It takes energy to fight. And fighting means that your focus is on that which you don’t like. This makes the opposition stronger in your consciousness. Fighting keeps you, and whatever you are fighting with, enmeshed in your mind. This fight is what makes it harder to develop emotional intimacy. Fortunately there is a better way.
Forget about it.
When we tell our clients they should forget about what they don’t like in themselves, they look at us as if we just sprouted a third eye. Marisa looked like she was going to blow a fuse when she yelled: “How am I going to improve this if I don’t stay vigilant and determined to stomp it out?!”
Whereupon we asked her: “How long have you been focused on (this part of yourself that you detest)? She responded: “Ever since I was thirteen.” We gently suggested that twenty years of focusing on it had not only done nothing to make it go away, but had made it nearly an obsession. And a cornerstone in her systematic self-loathing.
Her issue was that she wanted to develop emotional intimacy, and now she was learning it wasn’t the absence of a partner that was keeping it away, it was her own inner self-critic. She had a closet full of hidden frogs.
We have a Valentine’s Day. Now what we need is a national holiday called: “Frog Kissing Day!” One day where it is as if everyone had mistletoe over their head, especially those people who don’t usually get kisses. And if you really can’t bear the thought of kissing half the population, you could hand out chocolate kisses.
But the most significant part of our proposed holiday is that it is one day where we forgive ourselves for our self-judgments, and for any self-imposed negativity we have been carrying around. We let it go and give ourselves a chance to start with a clean slate of self-perception. We are the frog we most need to kiss! Letting go of your negative self-judgments is the first step to developing emotional intimacy with your partner.
So let’s not wait for a hypothetical holiday. Any occasion is the perfect time to recover your frogs and give them some love. If love is too tall an order for the Evil Stepsister/Brother within, then try a baby step, (by “Evil Stepsister,” I mean your harsh, self-critical, know-it-all, yackety-yak, endless self-talk, inner judge and jury!)
As you begin the journey of healing your imagined horrible frogs, you are paving the way to allow yourself to be truly seen by another. You are opening the door to develop emotional intimacy. Begin by just accepting that you have these parts of yourself that you don’t like. Acceptance is the first step to forgiveness. Forgiveness is a step along the way to love. The miracle of love is that when you really accept an immature part of yourself, it begins to grow up and mature. I don’t know any other way to change these parts of ourselves we find “unacceptable.”
Acceptance is an essential ingredient, because we are powerless to change that which we haven’t “owned.” If we don’t begin by accepting it as a very real part of ourselves, we never get around to cleaning it up. You may “know better” that this part is not “good,” but in my experience, “knowing better” is usually a condemning self-judgment and doesn’t help us change. The formula to develop emotional intimacy with a partner begins with accepting the parts of yourselves you thought were unacceptable.
If you are looking on the outside for someone to come sweeping in on a white horse and kiss your frogs away, you are looking in the wrong direction. The one who can save you is the part of you that can forgive yourself. It is the innocent, trusting, loving, playful prince/ princess within. The part of yourself who is willing to kiss the rejected frog-self. The one who is willing to believe that there is really a prince/princess inside the nastiest little frog or bad habit. A little compassion goes such a long way towards healing all kinds of crazy “frog” stuff. By not hiding or rejecting “froggy” sides of your self, you are creating intimacy and connection from within. That leads you to be able to create and develop emotional intimacy with your loved one.
Could it be that all we have to do is love, and the magical healing power of love can transform everything?
Would you be willing to have life be that simple? Could that be the only thing standing between you and the ability to develop emotional intimacy?
To find out for yourself if it is true, embrace that which you find un-embraceable, and see what it becomes. If it has been there a long time, it may take a lot of kissing! But you really have all the time you need, because what could be more important than saving your soul and turning frogs into princes/princesses? It really is the secret to anyone who wants to develop emotional intimacy.
In a paper entitled “Known,” published in the Duke Divinity School Review in 1979, the Reverend Dr. Charles K. Robinson expressed it beautifully. He put the following words in God’s mouth:
“I know you. I created you. I have loved you from your mother’s womb. You have fled -- as you now know -- from my love, but I love you nevertheless and not-the-less however far you flee. It is I who sustains your very power of fleeing, and I will never finally let you go. I accept you as you are. You are forgiven. I know all your sufferings. I have always known them. Far beyond your understanding, when you suffer, I suffer. I also know all the little tricks by which you try to hide the ugliness you have made of your life, from yourself and others. But you are beautiful. You are beautiful more deeply within than you can see. You are beautiful because you yourself, in the unique person that you are, reflect already something of the beauty of my holiness in a way which shall never end. You are beautiful also because I, and I alone, see the beauty you shall become. Through the transforming power of my love, which is made perfect in weakness, you shall become perfectly beautiful. You shall become perfectly beautiful in a uniquely irreplaceable way, which neither you nor I will work out alone, for we shall work it out together.”
Once you commit to doing this, you’ll be amazed at how powerful it is. You can kiss all the frogs within. Because, as Dr. Robinson reminds you, you are not doing the kissing alone. When you have accepted yourself, it is easy to be accepted by another, and to accept the frogs within them! This is our secret tool to develop emotional intimacy! Start kissing your frogs!
Dogs too can help us learn about intimacy and love. Read this fascinating article by Genie Joseph, and watch the video about the Human-Animal Bond program at Tripler Army Medical Center: Loving Dogs
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