5 elements of emotional intelligence

The duality of emotions and intellect is already has accepted as a fact nowadays and have got across on every area of our life. We understand more those emotional factors which come from our feelings and also we understand to listen to our intuitions is not a weakness but means having opened mindset and positive attitude. It seems like emotional intelligence is the same important factor as genetic characteristics and cognitive knowledge and experiences. If we were able to balance both we could have a great chance to have successful social relationships, successful carrier and deliberate completed life. Often we can see that somebody has great successes in business but the private or social life is weak and poor or the opposite. This can show the missing balance between intellect and emotional intelligence (like Steve Jobs). If the balance is missing we try to compensate but mainly on the wrong side, like working harder and pushing to have more and more success in business and this is exactly what most of the people do who are out of the balance between heart and mind. We should be aware of how our emotions are so important. Not so sure if we are always aware of what we feel and how our actual emotional condition influences our “working mode”, our mindset and our health and happiness.

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I’m sure we all have experienced that there are days when we feel today everything is going to be fine, there are no problems and everybody is nice at our working place. Maybe a small experience or feeling (which didn’t seem recognizable in that moment) triggered the process to feel this “easy going mode” (feeling satisfied, happy, believing in good, kindness etc.) This mode has given us a positive feeling and we are beaming. With this mode we influence others around and that’s why they are acting positively with us but also in this mode we don’t detect significantly negative signs. We have infected our environment with a positive “virus”. If we want to find out how somebody is good or bad or what this person is thinking in that moment, we can try to adjust our facial expression to that person’s and then wait for what kind of thoughts or feelings are coming up in our mind or in our heart. This exercise comes from Edgar Allan Poe writer from the XIX. century and it’s brilliant.

Why do we need to look into someone? Why do we need to understand and care about others? Why can’t we just live as we feel like it, alone and don’t carry about others?

Actually we can but we must consider its consequences which are we are alone, we are not going to be accepted by any community and become lonely and burned out. We are social animals! We can go on with a behaviour like not considering other’s feelings and thoughts and having friends but those people around will act on the same way as we do and the outcome is the same, being lonely but surrounded by people. This is a big epidemic phenomena nowadays. Surrounded by people but being lonely.

How do we know if somebody’s emotional intelligence (EQ) is high?

It has several component and including several outward forms. If we want to know how our EQ is or just want to know how its outward forms are I suggest you to map 5 areas which are;

– Relationships, communication: How are your relationships with other people? Do you communicate easily with them, honestly without playing? Do others usually understand you easily or you need to use long time explanations?

– Empathy – NOT SYMPATHY: Can you be empathic with others? Are you able to feel what they do like putting yourself into their shoes? Are you able to attune to others even when it’s not important to you?

– Self-identity, authenticity:  How is your self-confidence? Low or too high? Are you authentic? Showing and acting like the way you are and the way you think or/and feel? Does your self work according to your scale of values consequently?

– Adaptability: How can you adopt changes? How do you handle stress? Are you able to learn from your own mistakes?

– Creativity, positive attitude, openness: How creative are you? How positive your attitude is to take challenges? How is your problem solving management?

If we need to highlight one from these 5 areas, I would choose empathy. On the one side these knowledges, sensitivities and competencies are not able to be separated from each other strictly and on the other hand empathy is the base of the others.

Researches proved that just from body posture, body language and from mimicry we are able to sense each other’s mental condition. So if we want to attune to somebody, try to take over the other’s body expression, after the feeling is coming by itself.

Interesting thing is supposedly this kind of technique works immediately with negative feelings especially with anger. If it’s true we must consider that how our negative feelings and messages are harmful. Would be very good to see ourselves from outside and being able to perceive if another person is just attaching own negative mental condition to us. Just think how is your day when your boss is coming to work in a bad mood or your partner is angry? I’m not even talking about all of those negative news from the media. We must consider those attached negative feelings can have serious consequences.

The emotional intelligence is improvable, hundreds of books have been written about it, what it is, its necessity and how to improve it.

Try to pay attention to others emotional condition, what kind of feelings do you get from them? What do you radiate from yourself? Are you understanding other people and their emotions?

Do you believe in that if everybody improved on the area of empathy our world would be a better place?

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Words can hurt – Emotional-verbal abuse

Not just physical abuse can hurt in a relationship. Words and emotional manipulation can cause similar sufferings like physical abuse. Words have their own power, they can heal but also can hurt and destroy as well. What kind of signs does emotional abuse have? How can we protect ourselves from it?

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Verbal/emotional abuse is the most difficultly recognizable abusive form because it can be used indirectly by wrapped into a paper of trifling or by exaggerated manipulative behaviour. The outcome of being emotionally abused is the same, damaged self-esteem and questioning the sense of reality. A lot of people stuck in emotionally abusive relationship because they don’t want to believe it’s really happening with them. Easier to quiet ourselves with thinking that “I’m sure she/he didn’t mean it!” or “Actually he/she means it for my good!”. Abuse can appear not just in relationships, also in friendships, family or working place. Through segregation and suppressing the abuser gets the control and even if the victim feels that the relationship is becoming damaged, often feels scared to break up the poisoning relation.

Invisible wounds

Researches have proved that both physical and emotional pain activate the very same parts of the brain. Doesn’t matter if there are no visible bruises on our body, emotional abuse doesn’t disappear without damage. If the verbal/emotional abuse is serious and continuous the victim’s self-esteem and self-evaluation can get degraded without physical bruises. The suffering person believes she/he is less valued, his/her self-confidence decreasing and in the meantime starting to doubt own capacities and capabilities. After a while critics and negative remarks become part of the victim’s self-esteem and not able to see herself/himself real. Become part of the self-image and the victim become one with the point of view of the abuser. Verbal and emotional abuse ensnare the victim whom can feel that she/he wouldn’t be possibly enough good for anyone else as well and stays in the relationship. The abuse influences negatively the whole social network of the victim because she/he is starting to question everything, like if the others really like him/her or not. This doubting easily segregate the victim from other people. Long-term abuse can cause depression and anxiety, eating disorders and sleeping problems. Often victims don’t talk about their situation because they feel shame and also they still doubt their own situation….what if the other is right?

The most important condition of treating abusive relationship is REALIZATION. Admission is essential after experiencing any aspect of abuse to move on. The victim must honestly have to face with facts and happenings to get back the lead of own life. There are few strategies which can help to move on or at least minimize the damage of an abusive relationship.

  1. Have our mental and physical health the first priority and stop blaming ourselves!

In an abusive relationship we must make ourselves aware of our own needs and their priorities. We must let the compliance go towards the abuser which had been developing in the past. We can look for activities which support the positive mindset and strengthen who we are. It can be a self-knowledge course or hobby which is all about just us. Step by step we can experience that we are able to take care of ourselves and strengthen our self-esteem. In an emotionally abusive relationship we susceptible to believe that the problem is us, we are the bad ones. Why? Because we think there must be a provided reason (our behaviour or simply just the way we are) for our partner who is acting with us on the way he/she does – we give the reason to him/her. (Why would he/she act like this but loves me?) We must stop blaming ourselves because we don’t have control on that part of the relationship. Abusers are masters of making us believe that we provided or provoked their abusive reactions or behaviour. This is not truth! We must be aware of it.

  1. Set up borders and don’t afraid of give abuser the cold shoulder!

Probably the most difficult step to make clear to the abusive partner what she/he can do or what can’t. We must undertake that he/she is not allowed to shout or call us names, not allowed to use insulting labels about us. Can help to ask his/her attention to the possible consequences. We must set up those borders what we can maintain. So if the abuser’s communication doesn’t change, well we must stand up and interrupt the communication. We must acknowledge that not everybody or everything can be “rescued”. In a long-term abusive relationship most probably the attitude of the abuser is not going to change just because we try to fill up his/her expectations, pleasing him/her or bagging or crying. We must remember that we are responsible just for our own actions and not for the abuser’s.

  1. Build safety net and always have escaping route!

After we have recognized the problem, we must start to talk about it with someone even if it hurts. We can feel shame and humiliation but if we don’t speak about it our situation is going to be just worse. Very important to find somebody who we can share our situation with. It can be a friend, a family member or an expert. We should spend as much time as possible with those people who love and support us. Our social network can reduce our isolated and lonely feeling. Really very hard to leave someone who we love even if that relationship is poisonous. We must see that clearly most of the times abusive people don’t look for help or clearly see that what they do is destructive, so they don’t ask help to change. Face the facts that if she/he is not able or willing to change we must break up and leave. Emotional abuse can cause the same damage as physical ones. Every situations are different but there are cases where the only solution is to leave.

Very important to know one thing, there is always a solution to get out from a destructive relationship, always even if we haven’t found it yet!

 

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7 principals to have a stable and well-balanced relationship

John M. Gottman American clinical psychologist and relationship researcher has been studying this area since decades. He defined 7 principles to build up and maintain stable and well-balanced relationship. His main focus is to study dynamics of marriages and the transformation of them. According to his research results he is able to predict if the relationship is going to be stable or the partners are going to be separated. His principles also can help to prevent our relationship from breaking up.

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  1. Deep friendship

The ideal relationship is based on a deep, accepting and loving friendship. This feeling can be a kind of a stable base for the future development. If the attraction, sexuality and intimacy were based on this friendship the relationship would face and deal with difficult times easier. There are also critical communication characteristics and if they are used in conflicts, they can be a bad sign for the future development of the relationship. These communication characteristics are, critic, contempt, defense and building up walls. If we can see these communication characteristics are appearing, becoming used, that can show the frailness of the relationship, which also can show that the mutual strong respect – the friendship might have suffered a damage. The problem with using critics is it doesn’t tend towards the conflict, it’s aimed at our partner. Contempt is very destructive because its aim is to humiliate the partner, its message is that we don’t consider our husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend as our partner and equal anymore. With using defense the problem is that it’s a kind of covert counter-attack and usually just rouses the conflict. When we build up walls around us, when we don’t even consider to react on to our partner’s arguments that can make him/her to feel or think like we don’t have more energy or motivation to care of the relationship. According to experts these four communication elements are able to shake the relationship and worth to keep eye on it and to avoid or resolve them.

  1. Love map

Love map means a deep and detailed knowledge of our partner. The secret of the good relationship is to be able to “read” our partner’s small fleeting emotions. We must be curious without judgement to know our partner, discovering his/her vulnerabilities, negative and positive characteristics, desires and fears and goals. Very useful often just staying in silence and listen to our partner, just observing.

  1. Not just observing, also listening!

We must give time to attune to each other, like sharing our day with each other after a difficult day, being an active listener. When we listen and react curiously it has a kind of a reward emotional effect in our partner. Common experiences and rituals are able to strengthen our connection and deepen our relationship.

  1. Let it go!

Before we get into an argument, consider that is it really worth to get into a conflict or argument about it? Often we slip into disproportionate fights because of small things and also into those where there is no objective truth. For instance, our partner forgot to replace the empty toilet paper roll. Is it really the end of the world? To let things go is not a sign of being weak, it’s respecting the other’s rights and accepting the other on the way she/he is.

  1. Do if you can!

   Professor Gottman divided upcoming problems in the relationship for two groups. The first group includes all of the resolvable problems and conflicts. If we worked on those together that would strengthen the relation and increasing the satisfaction of a stable relationship. For instance if a conflict is becoming too harsh they are able to break off the argument when they are feeling that they are losing their temper. In this case can help if they share their feelings with each other, if they are able to apologize and showing their love. Here I must mention that, very important also to keep in mind that “we actually love each other” in difficult times or during an argument.

  1. Don’t want to change the partner!

There can be factors in a relationship which on there is no control of the other. This is the second group which includes the unsolvable problems. If a fundamental difference appears between a couple, where is impossible to find the common consensus, to maintain the relationship they must accept this difference and being able to see it from the partner’s point of view. Happy couples are able to build in each other’s goals into their common plans and supporting each other to reach them even if it requires sacrifices.

  1. Find common goals!

In a balanced stable relationship there is always a common principal, a central conception or value which connects the couple even deeper. To establish it, we can create own habits or traditions. If there is something which is important for two people in the relationship that has an incredible cementing force. Shared experiences and traditions can remind us of this force even if we are going through a difficult time period.

According to Professor Gottman a couple’s happiness mainly depends on if they are matched well or not. Not enough to learn and use effective communication or conflict management techniques. The essence of a long-lasting and satisfied relationship is based on if those two people are match well and depends on if they are able to care of their relationship well and accepting each other’s unsolvable differences.

 

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Grow up! – Being emotionally adult

Being emotionally adult doesn’t depend on the age, we can see people with the age of 35 or 50 acting like a small child or a child with the age of 11 acting like a responsible adult. What are exactly the key capacities of an adult behaviour and mature relationships?

When we are talking about being an adult the first thing which pops up in people’s mind is responsibility.

Responsibility for actions: often we can’t control our thoughts and emotions in a certain moment but when we act deliberately we control that, indeed.

Responsibility for fate: an adult is an active participant of what is happening with or around him/her. His/her own belief is being the one who is able to shape own life. If something is going wrong, knowing that he/she has part in it and not looking herself/himself as a victim who is submitted to life or others. So, if she/he doesn’t like something willing to change.

Responsibility for own words: doesn’t feed anyone with promises or make them rashly.

Responsibility for making decisions: deliberately setting up goals and go for them. An emotionally adult person can decide what is important in her/his life and makes a sacrifices for it.

 

Exist independently – independency

Independency is connected to reach the responsibility level. An adult is able to make decisions without waiting for others’ guiding. Able to create security and asks help just if she/he is stuck or doesn’t know something. Establishing financial independency is important for creating security.

Own reality – stable identity

Finding own personality is one of the objective of adolescence, so having a fully developed and mature identity is one of the most important part of being an adult. Knowing that who I’m and what I’m capable of. Emotionally mature people are able to see themselves from outside and make efforts to create own image by everyday experiences. They have a clear view about their negative and positive characteristics and able to see their relationships real. They make efforts to know their driving forces which are under the surface and difficult to detect them. Emotionally mature people let themselves to feel own emotions but when it’s time to act they make rational decisions. They are able to handle separately the emotional and intellectual-conceptual processes and choose by which they are going to decide. They live by their own values and guiding principles, in unity with themselves. Part of being emotionally mature also is not reacting defensively for feedbacks. They don’t deny negative critics obviously, they are happy when they get constructive critics and opened to explore new things for expanding their knowledge.

The presence of us – mature relationships

Emotionally mature people strive for equality in their relationships not like emotionally immatures. Emotionally childish people react for old, often unsolved conflicts and easily assume a character a parent or a child. Who is emotionally mature doesn’t want to see just the security provider parent in her/his partner since she/he is able to provide that without others. Wants a person who is equal and learns to give and get love.

Sometimes we don’t work in “adult mode” and completely normal to feel hurt when we get a negative critic. However we can have a fruitful and happy life if we have established the “adult mode” as a basic condition.

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How can we become emotionally mature?

According to Eric Berne (transaction analyses) we work in different modes in social interactions. He separated three modes, like child mode, adult and parent mode. The child mode is the source of emotions, intuitions, needs, creativity and life energy and works mainly based on personal experiences. In adult mode a person works like a computer, based on facts and information instead of intuitions.

In adult mode a person solves problems logically and doesn’t let taking possession of the child or the parent mode. The adult mode calls out equality in relationships.

What kind of skills we need to learn to become emotionally mature if it hasn’t happened yet?

  1. Be present!

Emotionally mature people’s relationships are built on presence needs instead of the past. Here and now philosophy is very important because that’s how we learn to decide responsively. When we are present we become more aware of happenings and our own reactions and helps to avoid acting on a usual, negative old way. Being present gives us the awareness and the control. Think of an important happening! What did cause your reaction? What did you think when you experienced it? What kind of feeling did you feel? What was the outcome of the situation? If we asked this questions from ourselves we would be able to find the answer in which situations we feel good or bad. We are able to see patterns and figure out when we actually have a choice. With this kind of “outside” view we are able to get know ourselves which is the basic stone of a stable identity.

  1. Accept the reality!

A lot of people think that reality is actually subjective. However there are parts which exist independently from an opinion. Some real elements are chosen by us, like who with we get married for instance, other elements we owes or can’t be influenced, like our figure. Often is difficult to see what we can change and what we can’t. In the development of emotional maturity we are able to explore what we are able to change. If we accepted and respected our reality we would have a better chance for having happiness and effectiveness than to fight against. With denial, complaining or the refusal of thinking about uncomfortable reality elements we just run away from the reality what actually we live in. For instance if you worry about your relationship, sit down and think what is exactly bothering you. How did it become a love-less relationship? When did it start? What is your part in this change? Nobody said that these things are good to think of, but the opposite because this way of thinking is a kind of stepping out from the comfort zone. But if we became aware of this part that would give us back the control and after the supporting to find the solution how to change it.

  1. Take responsibility!

Responsibility is one of the key element of adulthood. The quality of our life depends mainly on what kind of decisions we have made or if we have set up the right goals. We believe some situations didn’t depend on us, we didn’t have a choice or it was not our fault. Are you sure? We all know things don’t happen just like that, we have influence on them. Try to break your negative patterns, see and understand them before react, we always have a choice how we act. Keep in mind your long-term goals and try to eliminate those behaviours which can hinder your achievements. We always have a choice how we act in a situation!

  1. Make our perceptions clear!

We become happier when we are able to set up a satisfying and mature goal and when we have the internal motivation to reach it. We must know what we would like/want to reach. If we knew what the most important or significant thing in our life it would be easier to think and act in important situations. With keeping in mind our goal we are able to see the optimal outcome. Without clear goals we might get easily disturbed by circumstances and impulses. Define what your desires are! Often our desires are out of our comfort zone but that doesn’t mean they are bad.

  1. Do for your goals and be authentic!

Being responsible for our own words is also an important part of being an adult, what we want is in tune with what we say. Our precepts and actions are correlated. Choosing commitment and discipline instead of easy solutions and comfort. For instance our business partner (who with we have a great relationship) is setting up a database but we don’t like its structure and we know using it is going to bring some annoyance to us. When it’s coming to talk about it we can decide not mentioning our problem with it. We are able to maintain our relationship with him/her but we become annoyed every time when we use it. Or we can decide that standing up for our opinion, even if it brings some arguments. At the first choice we don’t even give a chance to change. (Typical in very conformist or co-dependent people) but at the second after few uncomfortable minutes we may be able to set up a database system for our future success. In this example you can see that we must pay prices to reach long-term goals. We might get into an uncomfortable situation or we might don’t feel secured for a while. This is the price of our precepts and desires become real.

Becoming emotionally mature is a long term process and it doesn’t work by itself. What we can do is awaking, paying attention and taking responsibility. Paying attention to ourselves is the first step because without it all the others are impossible to be done.

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Innocent chit-chat or poisoning psychological terror?

Backbiting, intriguing, gossips. Whom already has started to work can remember one of these situations. In a working environment but also in family gossiping or even backbiting is almost inevitable. Often just a remark seems innocent but without proper tools, strategies or awareness the ambiance can become a stress source which is able to embitter our daily life.

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Organizational gossip

Gossip is able to shape the hierarchy inside a group. Often is observable that workers trust more in those information which come through informal channels than coming through a formal one. Those people who have extensive networks have more information. The greatest value of gossip is it reaches faster people than a formal information. Sometimes its aim is releasing tension and this is when we talk about curative gossiping.

Mobbing

Gossiping can have useful role in an organization however very important to make a difference and setting up a border between informal information exchange and mobbing. Mobbing is an often repeated (few times or more per week), permanent psychological terror. Mobbing has several forms, can appear in lack of communication opportunities, in making social relations impossible, in hindering professional work but also in undermining reputation and/or respect. The continuous tension causes anxiety, the worker’s psychological capacity worsen which produces more stress situations. Long-lasting stress has several negative outcome, like worsen physical well-being, can cause depression and worsen capacity. It’s able to make even deep changes in behaviour.

How can we cope with stress?

We have several options to cope with stress caused by organizational gossiping. We can use problem centered coping style when we focus onto the situation, trying to change it. In this case we also can work on our personality, important not to blame ourselves and develop a proper self-esteem. Improving our communication technique is always essential, we might need a confident and determined manner and effective assertive tool for self-assurance. We might need to learn and practice efficient conflict management techniques. We also can involve the higher level of leadership into the solution. If more people turn against us, we can try to talk with every each of them, we can look for alliances or a support group.

We also can choose the emotional centered coping strategy as well. If the situation seems like unchangeable we can change its understanding and decreasing our emotional reactions. In these cases often help using humour.  The most important is to intend time for us, for recreation, like dong sport, listening music or reading.

“Pay attention to who talks badly about you behind your back and not what he or she is saying”

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Do you want to change?

Sometimes we want to change and sometimes we must because of others. However we are not so successful all the time. In the beginning we are motivated and persistent but around at half of the way suddenly we break down and withdraw. Why do we often fail when we want to change even if we really want it?

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In the beginning we see all of the challenges are easy, we feel if we finally were able to persuade to start our development sweep would rise. There will be unexpected surprises but we are able to solve them with some extra effort. However we forgot one thing, change has its own course. We can easily fail if we are not prepared for it.

The process of changing has five phases: the “old order”, “resistance”, “chaos”, “integration” and finally the “new order”. These phases are observable in families, couples, teams and in the society as well. The Satir model calls our attention to understand that the process of changing unfortunately is not a flight of stairs and we should just walk up on it straightly. It’s more like a ledge where we must descend to be able to climb up to higher peaks. Who wants to change must be prepared for significant bad patch or patches.

The reality of changing

At first everything is fine, we are okay and this is the “old order” phase. All of a sudden a strange element appears which turns everything on end in our life. Step by step we adopt it but we resist mostly – we defy it. This is the “resistance” phase. Soon this new element triumphs over us and we fall apart. This is the “chaos” phase. This uncomfortable irregularity remains until the “transformative idea” arises. As an effect of this “transformative idea” slowly we start to pull ourselves together. This phase is the “integration”.  The change itself becoming ripe just if those early foreign attitudes become firmer known habits. This is when we start live the “new order” phase.

The best example for instance is training. If we are satisfied with our physique, we don’t want to change – “old order”. Suddenly because of something or someone puts a suspicion in our mind that we are out of shape we should train a bit. We go to run or go to the gym – “foreign element”. We like this change, we enjoy it and we try to exclude it into our daily life – “resistance”. However few problems appear after a while, like the training is very tiring than we believed before, we can spend less and less time with working out because being busy and we already feel very tired after work even before going to the gym. The weather is bad, we have an injury or just another program occurred – “chaos”. Because all this after a while often we give up and return to the “old order”.

Everything could have been different if we had known that this just a phase of chaos. If we can overcome our frustration and confusion, in a short term we can redeem ourselves. We just need a bit of flexibility and creativity – “transformative idea”. For instance, changing the branch of sport, we go to gym before going to work or insert few days of rest without giving up. The phase of integration will be easier after those difficulties. Day by day/week by week we get use to work out and deal with all of its uncomfortable concomitants. If we became prepared to the coming ledge, we would have a better chance to develop and reach the desired peak.

This is it?

The first and might be the best step is to think if we need an outside help to reach our goal. There are a lot of personal and social myths and negative (automatic) thoughts which try to dissuade us immediately from changing. We also experience intense emotional reaction as well defending us from difficulties or challenges which are coming from out of our comfort zone. To change with help is easier especially with a professional one.

We must understand that feel uncomfortable or tense feelings are normal in the process of change, we just have to accept them. If you don’t feel like to go to the gym all the time it’s okay but that doesn’t mean you are not going. You can go there like doesn’t feel like to do it. To try something new, leaving the comfort zone most of the times is not a good feeling but that shouldn’t prevent us doing it anyway. We must learn to deal with negative emotions as well because first they are part of our daily life and second if we don’t have the capacity to deal with them they can prevent us experiencing new and joyful things.

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The Five Levels of Intimacy

In my previous post you could read about intimacy and today I’m sharing more about it with you. Psychologists have identified 5 levels of emotional intimacy we all move through as we get to know someone. It shows how intimacy develops over time.

Level One: Safe Communication – Cliché-Conversation

Level one is the lowest level of communication. We call it safe because it involves the exchange of facts and information. There are no feelings, opinions or personal vulnerability involved, and therefore no risk of rejection. This is the kind of interaction we have with people we don’t know well. It’s the chitchat we share with the clerk at the market or a stranger at a party. People communicating at this level share minimal intimacy.

When couples remain at this level, it leaves a frustrating, unrewarding, and meaningless marriage.

Level Two: Others’ Opinions and Beliefs – Factual Communication

At level two we start sharing other people’s thoughts, beliefs and opinions. We are beginning to reveal more of ourselves through our associations. We say things like, “My father always says…” or “One of my favourite authors said…” Such statements test the other person’s reaction to what we’re sharing without offering our own opinions. This is slightly more vulnerable than level one, but because we’re not sharing our own opinions we can distance ourselves from the opinion if we feel threatened by criticism or rejection.

Factual communication are necessary to make our relationship and family life run like exchanging information about your family members or planning up on weekend. But when communication get stuck at this level, just like with cliché-conversation, it leaves a marriage unrewarding and meaningless.

Level Three: Personal Opinions and Beliefs

We start taking small risks at this level because we begin to share our own thoughts, opinions and beliefs. But like the previous level, if we begin feeling too vulnerable, we can say we’ve switched our opinions or changed our mind in order to avoid conflict or pain. Here the importance of self-esteem appears.

Level Four: My Feelings and Experiences-Sharing of Emotions and Feelings

At this level, a spouse begins to show not only what’s in his head but also what’s in his heart. Sharing feelings and experiences is the next level of vulnerability and intimacy. Verbalizing feelings of happiness, disappointment, hurts and anger. At this level we talk about our joys, pain, and failures; our mistakes in the past, our dreams, and our goals. What we like or don’t like. What makes us who we are. This level is more vulnerable because we can’t change how we feel about something, the details of our past or current experiences. If we sense we may be rejected or criticized all we can do is try to convince others that we’re no longer impacted by our past. We’re no longer that person. We’re different now but also important highlighting that, this is who we are.

It is when we share our emotions with our spouse that we feel loved, valued, seen, and cared for. Alternating between sharing of opinions and emotions is a good combination in marriage communication. Here we have a deeper understanding of our spouse, how he/she thinks and how he/she feels.

Level Five: My Needs, Emotions and Desires

Level five is the highest level of intimacy. It is the level where we are known at the deepest core of who we are. Because of that, it is the level that requires the greatest amount of trust. If I can’t trust that you won’t reject me, I’ll never be able to share my deepest self with you. Unlike the other levels, there is no escape at this level. Once I let someone see who I really am, I can no longer convince them otherwise. Communicating at this level means we offer someone the most vulnerable part of ourselves. And the greatest fear is that they could use it against us later. When we share things like, “I’m hurt when you don’t call,” I need to feel respected by you,” or “I want to spend my life with you,” we’re sharing not only our hurts but our desires and needs as well. It’s also the level where we let others see our emotional reaction to things, which if you’re like me, isn’t always a pretty sight. Maybe that’s why we save those for the ones closest to us, like our families.

Real Intimacy

It’s important to understand that true intimacy in a relationship happens over time…not in a day, week or even a month. But another important element is needed for true intimacy…both people in the relationship need to move through the levels together. If I’m sharing at level four with someone (feelings and experiences) but my partner is sharing at level three (opinions and beliefs) we’re not experiencing true intimacy. I may feel closer because I’m sharing at a higher level, but in reality what we have is a false sense of intimacy.  Intimacy is measured by the person with the lower level of vulnerability.

What can we do if we realize that, there is no intimacy in our life or having a block at one of the level and we can’t move on?

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First thing what we can do is to identify at which level our relationship is blocked. The second step is to see from whose side this block is made. It’s possible we feel that we are opened but our partner doesn’t. If we can see the block is set up by us without causing by our partner, self-knowledge is our best tool to recognize, understand and change it. However to change it often requires professional help. Also numerous times people don’t have a picture about how an intimate relationship is and how it works because they have never seen or experienced it.

One of the typical intimacy blocks is fear.

Here are some common ways people distance themselves emotionally as a result of a fear of intimacy:

  • Holding back affection
  • Reacting indifferently or adversely to affection or positive acknowledgement
  • Becoming paranoid or suspicious of a partner
  • Losing interest in sexuality
  • Being overly critical of a partner
  • Feeling guarded or resistant to being close

Fear of intimacy begins to develop in our early childhood. As children, when we experience rejection and/or emotional pain, we often shut down or believe in those negative feedbacks/reactions which mean we are not worthy to be loved, we are bad or deffective. We learn not to rely on others as a coping mechanism. After being hurt in our earliest relationships, we fear being hurt again, it’s a circle where we can get trapped. We are reluctant to take another chance on being loved. Intimacy requieres bravery as I wrote in my previous post but we should not minimize the power of fear as well.

If we felt unseen, misunderstood, unloved or deffective as children, we may have difficulties believing that someone could really love and value us. The negative feelings we developed toward ourselves in our early years, became a deeply embedded part of who we think we are, as part of our self. (This embedded part of our self most of the times is deep and difficult to change.) Therefore, when someone is loving and reacts positively toward us, we experience a conflict within ourselves. We don’t know whether to believe this new person’s kind and loving point of view of us or our old, familiar sense of our identity. So, we often react with suspicion and distrust when someone loves us, because our fear of intimacy has been aroused. Also can appear here that we start to set up a mask, acting accordingly to our belief which is how our partner wants to see us. We don’t show our real self, just a development of a created perfect self which is suitable to our partner’s need and image (Co-dependency).

Even though the fear of intimacy is a largely unconscious process, we can still observe how it effects our behavior. Acting on our fears preserves our negative self-image, keeps us in an unhappy circle.

However, we can overcome fear of intimacy. We can develop ourselves to stop being afraid of love and let someone in. We can recognize the behaviors that are driven by our fear of intimacy and challenge these defensive reactions that preclude love. By taking the actions necessary to challenge our fear of intimacy we can expand our capacity for both giving and accepting love.

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