Wrestling with Closeness

In our session with Sage and Anthony last Wednesday (10/17) we named our beautiful problem as seeking more intimacy and closeness. It seemed to build off of the Anxiety Attachment Disorder identified in an earlier session as a possible issue both of us face in trying to come closer to each other in our relationship.

Pat and I were using “closeness” instead of “love,” as the latter has too vague an interpretation for us. Closeness is the word that best describes what we are looking for in our relationship. And when earlier on Wednesday we had asked what was most important for closeness to be experienced in us, each of us, independently, named safety. Safety would allow closeness to arise.

We had also explored earlier in the day (Coffee Time) the question, “With whom had we felt closest in our lives?” I had noticed that I could not name people but could say I felt close to nature in my wildflower photography hobby and that I felt close to the Pathwork Lectures, and, before that, the bible. Interesting. I could hang out with a Pathwork Lecture and feel nurtured, understood, safe, and close to the Guide, its author. On the other hand Pat could name four or five people in her life where she had experienced particular closeness. The first of these was her grandpa on her mother’s side. Her relationship with grandpa was a spiritual experience, perhaps an experience of true love, just being held in his arms made her feel appreciated, loved, safe and secure — in her being. It was devastating when he died when she was ten years old.

Dad was another person with whom Pat had experienced closeness, but only after he died in 1982 when she was 36. During her childhood Dad seemed emotionally unavailable and distant, but since his death on a number of occasions she has felt his presence un-mistakingly, guiding her with his love for her and wanting his best for her. I was struck by Pat’s experiences of connection, experiences that, if I had them, I do not remember.

In our session with Sage and Anthony on Wednesday we shared all of this. I also shared my resonance with the “strange shame of nakedness” in being real with people as described in Pathwork Lecture 152 Connection Between the Ego and the Universal Power. As with the symbolism in the story of Adam and Eve and their shame of their nakedness, I needed a cover and created a thin but impervious “wall” around my heart at a very young age to protect me against my feeling the shame of my naked realness. I hid behind this wall. I do not remember having Mom’s arms to jump into when I was full of fear or in pain. Rather, as my memory serves me, I would just stand there in my loneliness or emotional or physical pain and burst out in tears. For reasons that I do not understand, I simply did not feel safe jumping into Mom’s or Dad’s arms. And if I had to choose, it would have most likely have been Dad’s arms – the one who would put my brother and me to bed and who would tell us bedtime stories that he made up for us during our early years.

In sharing this with Sage and Anthony in our session I felt some relief — confessing the truth and having new insights sets us free. So here I had been graced with some understanding of part of why I have been so guarded my entire life against feeling love and support for me when I was experiencing my “strange shame of naked realness.” From here I could feel my longing for emotional closeness on the one hand and fear of emotional closeness on the other.

Pat and I had come up with another insight in our morning coffee times leading up to this session, and we shared this next. Pat and I have always connected intellectually about matters spiritual. Pat would say ours was an intellectual and spiritual bonding. Perhaps, but I am not as familiar with spiritual bonding. Suffice it to say that we seek the truth of our relationship, the truth about our own lives, about God, about Life itself.

We also recognized that we did not seem to have this spiritual/intellectual connection with the other partners with whom we had been in relationship before, and certainly not with Mom and Dad or, for me, the Lutheran Church and its pastors and leaders. Pat and I always could talk on and on with each other about how we were or were not experiencing God and Life. We each have followed spiritual paths (Awakening Into Presence for Pat, Pathwork for me) that help us remove blocks to ourselves, to others, and to our relationship. Our commitment to our relationship is quite high, as evidenced in our signing on with Sage and Anthony. So on this intellectual level we can connect. And from time to time one of us, usually Pat, will break through the intellectual and bring back wisdom from the “Other Side.”

In other primary relationships we experienced some level of “falling in love” on the emotional level or “sexual connection” on the physical level, but each of us wanted more – we wanted a complete relationship, one that would connect us physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. We were not as conscious of this longing for a complete and unified connection, but our souls seemed to keep us moving. Now we are here with each other, and while we have a critical piece of this relationship that has been lacking in other of our relationships, we now want to expand what we have to the emotional and physical facets of our relationship so that our experience of Union will be Whole. So here is where I shall pick up on some of the dialog in our session with Sage and Anthony…

Pat:  There seem to be so many blocks to the emotional and physical facets of our relationship, but you have to understand that the facets we do have I have really wanted and longed for my entire life. Yesterday you seemed distant to me and you admitted feeling lost in some way, but we have no experience in hanging out with the other in these hard feelings of “lostness,” loneliness, depression or other negative emotions. Gary: I get uncomfortable in these places of negative emotions, and I will go to my computer or get involved in some other project, even balancing my checkbook, to get away from these negative feelings in me. I cannot imagine coming to you for support. The thought of coming to you for support would simply add to my fear and anxiety.

Sage: Gary, you name that it is hard to know how to come to Pat for help. Couplehood is such a spiritual practice, and as such, it means you start from where you are – right now. You have this image that “there is no other person here for me.” This is a profound admission: “I don’t know how to come to you, Pat, for support when I have a need.” Gary: I don’t want to be needy, especially when I need a hug… or any physical form of affection or connection. To bring up such a need would be dangerous. Bringing this up brings up even more anxiety and fear, a negative vortex of ever deepening danger and fear. I would rather go read a book or do anything than bring my need for physical connection and affection to you. Sage: (Slowing us down) Gary, are you feeling what you are saying or are you disconnected from your feelings right now?

Gary: (after a pause) No, I am certainly not feeling the feelings I am talking about – the fear and anxiety. This is a familiar problem that counselors bring up to me often: “Gary, your affect does not match your words.” I get the point that in such moments I am disconnected from myself – that the self that is feeling fear and sensing danger in bringing up my needs for physical connection is not the self that is speaking. Yes, I am disconnected from the pain I have around our physical connection. I do not allow myself to feel the depth of this pain. Wow. I am realizing as we talk here that in this arena of our life I feel so vulnerable. The physical and emotional facets of our connection are such sensitive areas for me to bring up. It seems potentially explosive. Right now I feel my heart speeding up. It is hard, right now, for me to stay here with you there. I am feeling naked and in danger, feeling pain, and fear. Very challenging. Pain, worry.

Sage: You say it is hard to stay here… Gary: Yes, as I sit with the fear I notice that sadness comes up. It is hard to be with this sadness. It seems there are layers upon layers of emotions here – all bottled up. I am mostly frightened at this moment. Sage: Gary, look into the eyes of the frightened one… Gary: (I am glad she did ask me to look into Pat’s eyes or her own eyes!) My mind wants to race away. But let me slow down to feel this pain, this deep existential sadness.

Pat: (excitedly) This is a place where we don’t know each other! Gary: Safety! Is it safe enough for me to share, even to myself, how really sad I am about not having a deeper physical and emotional connection, the spontaneous connection of affection I so long for. Pat: (slowly) This is a wordless place. I see you. … Even here I could feel my wanting to get out of here and “size this situation up” from a distance. But if I get there, if I get into your sadness, in here (pointing to her heart)… I noticed you got teary as you spoke of your sadness. Were you there with me in the sadness in your heart? Gary: I am not sure. I am feeling numb in a way. Pat: I’m feeling safe with you right now. There are places where I feel safe with you – these wordless heart places. Gary: As you say this, something in me softens. I am not sure what, but on some level the softening is palpable. I am feeling safe, even in feeling my sadness. Pat: Worry, sadness – you were right there in your worry and sadness – a place beyond words in you. And I could get there with you in this wordless place. Gary: (somewhat disoriented in this all) Is it safe for me to be here, in this wordless space? (I am feeling confused, but this seems the right place to be somehow)

Sage: I hear a voice, “I’d like more” in you, Gary. Are you safe where you are right now – in a place where a few sacred tears are shed, even tiny tears? Honor where you are, in your sadness, in your tears. You are in your heart when you are experiencing your sadness and tears. Anthony: What is it like when Sage says this? Gary: (still somewhat disoriented) Her words slow me down. Can I just feel my sadness, experience my tears, without pushing on to relieve my tears? Can I just be with my sadness and tears, here with Pat, in my heart, if that is where I am? If more tears want to come up I can feel a force that would push them down. More tears would frighten me. Let me honor the few tears that are here, though I wasn’t even aware of them. And I guess it is OK to be too frightened to let more tears out. Anthony: Your body, with its feelings, knows the right pacing. This is the body’s wisdom. It takes time for the physical brain to adjust its wiring. The mind wants to rush ahead. Pat – your sense of this being a “wordless place” was beautiful, profound even, and an expression from the body. Pre-verbal in the body. Insightful – from the body. Sage: Where the body feels safe.

Pat: We’ved not experienced what was just here. This “in the body” body place – when you got to where you really felt the profound sadness and worry – then there was no longer any barrier. I could get that, get YOU, experientially! This was a first for us! We can do this, guys! I’m really excited about this!

Gary: (still disoriented) This is wordless. Pat: We can do this. I didn’t have a feel for it before, but now I do. Gary: To realize it is safe to feel and express my sadness, my worry. Pat: Yes, making room for these feelings.  Sage: I’d like to coin a new phrase for what we’ve just witnessed: Meditational Intercourse. Keep noticing, dropping still further into the Self, experiencing union with Self, with who you really are – fully naked with yourself, and before the other.

Anthony: Pat, you said you were excited about this new wordless space of the heart.  Gary, how are you taking this all in, her excitement in this wordless place? Gary: Thank you, Anthony, for asking. Actually at first I was in a jealous space. Here Pat is in this “wordless place,” while I am still full of words. I assess myself to be a retard of this domain of the heart. This assessment is painful too, and once again part of me just wants to go back to my computer. Pat, I’m frightened of your nakedness, of your raw unleashed excitement. Pat: And as for me, I sense that I have to hold back my excitement. I cannot just be spontaneous and let it out!  Sage: Yet all of these characters need to be here!

And so the Wednesday Skype session with Sage and Anthony ended. It was an amazing exchange all way around!

On Friday evening we listened to our recording of it, and Pat came to an amazing discovery. Pat: When we were in the session I put up a wall. I could not really listen to you, at least not fully. There was a gossamer film, as if my fingers were moving in front of my face blocking out some of your words. I could not just take you in. But now in listening to this recording that barrier is not there. I can take you in fully. I can even hear you and accept your brilliance! Gary: (Of course I like being seen as “brilliant” but in fact I felt anything but brilliant, more the retard of the heart space we were in. But I engage Pat.) Wow – as if during the session your antennae were up and on guard, warning you of any possible danger. Pat: It is so good to listen to these recordings. In listening I can open to my own expression, hear what I am saying. It is so helpful to recognize that when I was sitting there during the session there was a barrier blocking my heart. But when listening to the recording my heart is wide open.  I can hear myself wanting to be open. Why can’t I listen when we are right there in the session?

Gary: Perhaps on some level you are not trusting the other: me. Maybe you are questioning, antennae up, “Does Gary have an ulterior motive here?” Does Gary want something of me and he’s not being direct with me?  Do I trust where he is taking me in this session?” Perhaps this “not trusting in the moment” – the moment before you have had a chance to “figure the situation out,” is in fact your not trusting the benign goodness of Mom, Dad, God… Pat: As a child with Mom and Dad I would often have anxiety. Have I done something wrong here? I’m so frightened. I am trying to understand what they are saying, but can’t. I get more anxious. Eventually I split off. Perhaps this is where a field of hyper-vigilance comes to play, a field of mistrust all around me. Gary: Perhaps not trusting the love or benign nature of God and the Cosmos is creating your fear. Perhaps you are telling yourself, “It is not safe to be open here.” Pat: Yes, not safe to reveal myself. What will be asked of me as this goes forward?

Of course we could have gone on with this dialog, or this “Meditational intercourse” as Sage named it, but we let Friday evening come to a close. Both Pat and I were deeply touched by this session with Sage and Anthony. Onward we go into the Mystery!

Shared in love, Gary