The world seems somewhat strange now. My delightful, in-person teaching experience for psychiatric residents, at Perelman School of Medicine, at the University of Pennsylvania, is going online, leaving me to figure out how to run a movie while I teach on a website I have been using for telehealth appointments for clients.
I find myself running to keep up with this change and other plans that did not quite work out, and when I check with friends, colleagues and clients, I find learn I am not alone.
Many of us feel slightly out of sorts from the masking, hand sanitizing, and the inability to sit cozily inside a restaurant with friends and family, but life and my profession, as a clinical psychologist, have taught me to step into self-reflection in a crazy situation that feels somewhat out of control. I'm sharing them in case they help others as much as they have helped me and my clients, but, as a word to the wise, these steps only seem easy to do. They require self-reflection or a way of being intimate with the self. It takes an effort to keep one’s balance.
What is intimacy with the self? It is about being aware of your feelings, caring about those feelings, and sharing them with a trusted friend or family member. If you are not in touch with your feelings and can't share them, you will have trouble addressing those feelings for yourself and have trouble sharing your feelings with those you love. Those who love you will have difficulty responding to you in the appropriate, loving ways you seek.
Whether you are a verbal or non-verbal communicator, being in touch with your feelings regularly can help you thrive with your partner long term.
When we think about intimate relationships, most of us think of intimacy between partners or friends first. 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 the bits and pieces of ourselves and our history that we would rather others not realize we carry.
Self-esteem develops from how we observe others perceiving us. Self-intimacy requires 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.
Each of us must find time to sit and be in our skin. Maybe you find a connection to yourself through meditation, quiet reflection, or intentional self-exploration. The point of healthy inner solitude is to provide a space to explore the pieces of yourself that you treasure or wish you could change.
Healthy solitude is not about beating yourself up 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.
To Consider: Scheduling daily reflective walks allow you space to quietly review an aspect of your life or self that needs attention. These walks can be built into your daily routine—walking to your office from the parking lot is one way to make space for personal intimacy. 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 is hidden or building within you.
To Read: Psychology Today has guides for meditation and self-reflection. Find them at, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/meditation.
ED. NOTE: Dr. Coche practices clinical psychology in Stone Harbor and Philadelphia. She invites responses through her website, www.cochecenter.com.