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Intimacy Begins Within

By: Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.

When we think about intimate relationships, most of us think first of intimacy between partners or friends. Personal intimacy is a state in which two individuals are truly able to let down their outer layers of defense and protection and allow themselves to let the other see him or her as she truly is while being able to create the space in which her partner feels safe enough to do the same.

Personal intimacy is about being willing to let someone see you as you truly are while being willing to let yourself see that person as he or she truly is. It is about lack of artifice or protection and requires great courage for most people as it lays raw the bits and pieces of ourselves and our history that we would rather others not realize we carry with us.

Self-Intimacy: Not as Simple as it Sounds

Although establishing intimacy with another person can take significant courage, being open to self-intimacy can be a surprisingly challenging task. It seems that there are two extremes when it comes to self-examination—whether it’s literal mirror-gazing or inner reflecting. On one extreme are those of us who look into a mirror and notice every flaw—whether it’s laughlines, blemishes, asymmetrical features, whatever. Then there are others of us who just steal a quick glance to make sure there’s nothing too horrifying or embarrassing about our appearance and dash out the door.

Being somewhere in between these two extremes is the most effective standpoint for building an intimate connection with your inner self. You have to be able to see yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you for who you are and who knows what you are worth. Self-esteem develops based on how we perceive that others perceive us. Self-intimacy requires that we see ourselves as we truly know ourselves to be.

Taking Time to Establish Self-Intimacy is Important

When we do not give ourselves time alone for reflection and self-intimacy, we are letting ourselves off too easy in life and not holding ourselves up to the inner scrutiny that allows us the space to acknowledge and address the areas in which we may need to grow. We also need time alone with ourselves to reconnect with who we are when we “show up” in relationships with others.

By intentionally choosing to spend time alone, you are also acknowledging the worth of your personhood—and the value inherent in being who you are. The need to surround yourself with the company of others often reflects needs to measure self-worth by popularity or to provide “evidence” of your social desirability.

It’s okay to enjoy spending time with those who care about you, this also should include enjoying spending time alone with yourself.

Suggestions for Making Space for Healthy Solitude and Self-Intimacy

It’s important that each of us finds time to sit and to simply “be” in our own skin. Maybe you find a connection to yourself through meditation, through quiet reflection, or through intentional self-exploration. The point of healthy inner solitude is to provide a space to explore the pieces of yourself that you treasure or that you wish you could change.

Healthy solitude is not about beating up on yourself for past mistakes or behaviors, dragging yourself down as you review your perceived missteps or failings, or ruminating on interactions that have not gone as you would have liked. It is meant to be a space of acceptance of self where plans for life changes are also developed.

  1. A good habit to encourage healthy solitude is scheduling daily reflective walks that allow you space to quietly review a particular aspect of your life or self that needs attention. These walks can be built into your regular routine—walking to your office from the parking lot (just pay attention to the traffic and do be careful) is one way to make space for personal intimacy.
  2. Taking five minutes at the start or end of your lunch break can also be a space in which you can “turn over the rocks and stones” and see what’s hidden or building up within you.
  3. Creating a journaling space in your life – at night before you go to bed or on your tablet, smartphone, or laptop, right after you clock out at work or in the morning ten minutes before you begin your workday are three different options for building in the personal solitude that grows increasingly necessary as our lives and technology grow increasingly intertwined.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lifetime-connections/201801/intimacy-begins-within

The Power To Create Change Comes From Within

By Katherine Ponte, BA, JD, MBA, NYCPS-P, CPRP | Oct. 24, 2018

 

Stigma is a shield created by society, made up of misunderstanding and fear of mental illness. When we look away from someone behaving erratically or “strangely” on the street, that’s the fear society ingrains in us. Perhaps we’re scared to consider the possibility that the same could happen to us; that we might be shunned by society, too.

The shield of stigma also stops us from seeking help for our own mental health. When faced with a stressful life event or emotional challenges, we might carry the hurt or confusion inside. Perhaps we avoid facing a potential diagnosis, so our illness only grows worse. Stigma facilitates mental illness turning into the “monster” it doesn’t have to be.

Social perceptions need to change. However, stigma is so deeply rooted in societal norms that it can take a long time to eradicate. And people like me, people living with mental illness, can’t wait on society to change. We need to live now. In fact, we need to be pioneers.

Our Experience Combats Stigma

First, we need to overcome our own belief in society’s fears. This requires finding hope, and specifically recognizing the possibility of recovery. Recovery from mental illness is living a full and productive life with mental illness. With this mindset, we can take ownership of our condition and live a fulfilling life. This can be one of the most powerful forces for change.

Stories of living fully with mental illness can help reshape society’s bias. They also provide inspiration and guidance for other people living with mental illness. This is the power of peer support and sharing lived experience. It creates a cycle of more people finding recovery, and then in turn, society seeing more positive examples of people living well with mental illness. Society needs to see what life with mental illness can and should be—a life of possibility, not a life sentence.

Our Experience Inspires Others

When people share their mental health journeys, it also helps set our own expectations. Recovery is hard and there is no smooth path to get there. It’s also not a cure, it requires continuous patience, discipline and determination. There will be stumbles and uncertainties along the way. This is the reality of mental illness. That’s why relatable, real-life examples are so valuable.

Knowing that others are going through similar challenges can help us build resilience. The result is self-empowerment by the example of others. We, the mental health community, rely less on the image society projects upon us, and instead focus on the image reflected to us by our peers. This is the power from within ourselves and our community.

I believe that this type of person-driven recovery has been overlooked as a way to combat social stigma. It’s become so ingrained that not even people with mental illness think recovery is possible. Too many of us allow society’s fears to become our own. Together, we can reverse the vicious cycle of stigma and instead, power the virtuous cycle of hope and recovery.

 

Katherine Ponte is a Mental Health Advocate and Entrepreneur. She is the founder of ForLikeMinds, the first online peer-based support community dedicated to people living with or supporting someone with mental illness and is in recovery from Bipolar I Disorder. She is on the NAMI New York City Board of Directors.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/October-2018/The-Power-to-Create-Change-Comes-from-Within