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December 01, 2017

Intimacy: Bridges Not Walls

Tags: Compassion, empathy, pity, judgement

It is often said that what we do on a personal level defines how our lives play out as a culture as well. After all, every culture is a reflection of the individuals within it. If we look at our communities right now, we see many people grappling with hate and fear. Divisiveness and anger are erupting within them, lines are being drawn, walls erected. Even weapons are being drawn. At the root of all this divisiveness is fear.

Fear permeates our personal lives as well. It can cripple emotional intimacy if we let it, much like it is undermining our country’s ability to unite. In our personal lives we usually seek out relationships that we can be “ourselves” in. We begin this process from behind a friendly facade we have constructed. It is an amalgam of the parts of ourselves we think are socially acceptable, and the fear based coping mechanisms we have developed to ensure we will not be hurt again. While this persona is safe, it is also lonely, as it negates our vulnerabilities. 

True connection happens when we can let someone see who we really are. Most of us, however, are a little messy inside. We’d rather show off our greatest hits, and play it safe. “If they knew who I really was, they wouldn’t like me,” we think. The problem is, when we can’t share our true selves, we can’t have real closeness. It is this very fear of rejection that keeps us in isolation. When someone does like our persona, we doubt their love is real, because we know they aren’t seeing the whole package. In the end, playing it safe leads to settling for unfulfilling, utilitarian relationships, rather than the emotional intimacy we so long for.

To complicate things more, we live in a culture that values the warrior.  Warriors learn that to win they must stifle their emotions. You cannot cry when someone dies beside you on the battle field, you must press on. Many have learned that to feel anything but anger shows weakness. Anger, however, is a secondary emotion fueled by fear, or hurt, or both. While it does feel powerful to be angry, it destroys connections. We polarize in anger. We cannot have authentic exchanges, and learn from each other when we are denying the deeper feelings behind our anger, and reacting.  

To have intimacy, then, we must feel safe expressing who we are, on all levels, without fear of repercussions. Who wants to share their inner most self, when another is going to judge, or fix, them? Everyone has weakness and vulnerabilities. To show them takes courage, however. When someone does shares them, it should be treated as a sacred honor. This means listening without taking action. Many of us are uncomfortable with other people’s emotions, and fear feeling helpless when they are expressed. We will revert to the safety of our intellects and judge them, or try to shut them down, instead of listening. This is not serving them, however, it is serving us. Alternatively, by stepping into the safety of the “fixer” role, we assume an upper-hand. Offering unsolicited advice, we create a power differential rather than a bond. 

Compassion is the key to listening, and meeting someone where they are. While pity comes comes from judging the other, and feeling sorry for them from a distance, compassion puts us directly in their shoes, where we can feel their struggle as our own. Try it! Put yourself in someone else’s situation. Feel their fears, feel their pain. If we can approach differences between individuals by feeling their pain first hand, we shift from fear, to knowing. We shift from anger, and intellectual distance, to the warmth of heart. Extend this to our communities, and instead of walls, we build bridges! 


Christina Allen, an Intuitive, Healer, Teacher and Founder and Director of the Austin Shamanic Center, combines strong science (BA Physics, MS Neuroscience) with decades of applied ancient spiritual wisdom (Master Yogi, Reiki Master, Shamanic Healer, based, in part, on Q’ero Indian traditions of Peru). Offering profound Shamanic Self Development Workshops and personal healings. Learn more at or (512) 391-9829.

© Austin All Natural, December 2017.

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