The inability to establish real intimacy is the root of all relationship issues today. Including the relationship you have with yourself. Intimacy is knowing and being known for who we really are in every aspect of our lives. You can think of intimacy as me being able to bring the truth of who I am to the center of our relationship and you being able to bring the truth of who you are to the center of the relationship and both of us being received, acknowledged, accepted and loved for who we are without needing to fix each other. There’s one major problem though. I have to know who I am before I am able to share all of myself with you and you have to know who you are before you are able to share all of yourself with me. Most of us have no idea who we really are because we are shamed out of our true selves as children growing up in dysfunctional families in this dysfunctional human society. In order to adapt to our families and to society, we have created false selves. We have created false selves that are so good at what they do; even we have mistaken them for ourselves. We have a major problem differentiating between our false self and our real self. We know something feels “off” about our life, but we don’t know what because we have forgotten who we really are.
Because we have forgotten who we are, we have built our relationships upon everything except intimacy. We have built our relationships based on the fact that we find each other sexy. We have built our relationships based on the fact that we both like football. We have built our relationships based on the fact that he or she would make a good husband or wife. We have built our relationships based on what we do for each other. And so, something is missing from our relationships. They feel empty after the initial excitement has worn off. We want someone who will understand how we feel, but we do not understand how we feel. We want trust, but we don’t trust ourselves. We want honesty, but we can’t be honest with ourselves when we don’t even realize that we are being dishonest with ourselves in the first place.
Society has many mantras. Mantras such as, family is everything, nothing that’s worth having is easy, pink is for girls, money is the root of evil etc. These mantras are part of society’s programming. They are designed to control our actions. They are designed to override the emotional guidance system because we are convinced that ‘everyone following their own emotional guidance system = social chaos’. This programming works in a very straightforward way, it tells us from a very young age that what we saw was not what we saw, what we heard was not what we heard, and most of all, what we felt was not how we felt. Before you get defensive about your own upbringing, look at this very seemingly innocuous, commonplace example: The toddler falls and bumps their head. They are crying and everything in them is saying, “I’m not ok” but the parent says, “you’re fine, it’s only a little bump”. At that moment, the child’s feelings are invalidated and the child learns that they cannot trust their emotional guidance system to relay accurate information; after all, their body and emotions are saying one thing, “I’m not ok”, and their parent (who is the god of their world at this age) is saying another, “I’m fine and shouldn’t be feeling this way.”
In order to fit into our families and society, we have to adapt. We have to become a certain way. For example, a naturally free spirited and tomboyish girl is born into a prestigious southern family. If she were to adhere to her own emotional guidance system and stay true to who she is, life would get very hard for her. She would be the disgrace of the family and her parent’s disapproval of her would mean that from her perspective, she would lose their love. So, she begins to create a false self. She creates a false self that likes pink, and loves Jesus and collects dolls and has perfect social manners. She structures her life choices around the values of the family. She structures her relationship choices around the approval of the family. Now, as an adult, she is dying inside. But no one would ever know it. When you ask her who she is, she will tell you that she is a person with southern values and good manners, who owns a doll collection and likes pink but loves Jesus. Her life has turned into the very picture of success that her parents and that her society had in mind when she was born. She does not know that who she really is, is not who she is. She does not recognize that her personality is nothing more than an adaptation. If we do not know how we feel, what we like and don’t like and what we want and don’t want; we cannot be in a relationship. We cannot be in a relationship (romantic or friendship etc.) because we are not actually present for the relationship. Instead, our false self is present. Our only hope of finding intimacy, having good relationships, living a life that we enjoy, feeling free and not dying inside every day, is to let our false selves go. Our only hope is to find out who we really are. Most of us have been too afraid in the past to question everything we think we know about the world and most importantly about ourselves. We have been so convinced that there will be an unbearable consequence for being our true selves, that we have not taken the risk to be ourselves. We have not yet seen that being ourselves completely is worth any consequence, even losing our families and friends.
This is a crossroads for many of us. It is a crossroads we must come to when we have committed to spiritual practice, or even just to improving our lives. Do we keep up the façade, or do we find out who we really are and admit to it? For the sake of self-discovery, we need to pretend that we have just come out of a coma and that now we know nothing about ourselves. Act as if it is the first day of your life in this body. You do not know what you like and don’t like. You do not know what you believe and don’t believe. You do not know how you feel. Now, reassess your life. When you take a bite of that food, do you like that food? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? When you pick out your clothes, how do they make you feel? If this was your first day on earth and you had no pre-conceived notion about other people’s perspective about those clothes, what would you think of those clothes? Do they reflect who you really are? When you spend time with that person, do you like them? It doesn’t matter if they are family and you have always thought that ‘family is forever’. Why do you like them? Why don’t you like them? When you look at yourself in the mirror, who are you really? Are you an artist? It doesn’t matter if you’ve never painted a picture or danced a dance in your life. Are you an artist? Are you a mother? Doesn’t matter if you are actually a mother or if you have no children at all, are you a mother? What do you believe about this universe or God? Throw away your religion and your beliefs for a minute. It doesn’t matter if you have said “I’m a Christian, or “I’m Islamic” all your life, what do you believe about this universe or God? It is ok if the answers to these questions are “I don’t know”. Because at least “I don’t know”, is better than pretending that you do know. It means you have a kind of openness to know the truth about yourself.
As of today, your job is to explore. Your job is to re assess the old things and most especially, to try new things. Cut other people out of the equation. Listen to the way you feel when you think things and say things and do things. You may think you have liked something all your life, only to discover that you don’t really like that thing at all. You may have thought that you believed something all your life, only to discover that you don’t really believe that thing at all. You may have thought you hated something all your life, only to discover that you actually love it. You were just so afraid of the consequence of admitting to how you felt and what you liked and what you believed and who you were, that you have misled yourself. You have built a false self and most likely, you maintained that false self with extreme conviction. You tried to convince yourself and other people around you that you were one way, when you were another. We need to be willing to question absolutely everything we think we know about ourselves in order to really know ourselves. And it will feel groundless and anchor-less in the beginning. It will feel like you are losing your life vest. But this time spent in the unsteady, unknown of the ocean of our lives is worth the experience of landing squarely in and of our true selves. No more torture of pretending. No more trying to be perfect. No more being loved for someone that we aren’t. No more emptiness, no more meaninglessness. It doesn’t mater whether you are 10 years old or 20 years old or 40 years old or 80 years old. Now is the time to be brave. Now is the time to be brave enough to admit to the possibility that you have no idea who you really are. Now is the time to question everything you think you are. Now is the time to let the person you think you are, go. Now is the time to reveal to yourself and to the world, who you really are.