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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Becoming Open

  Have you ever thought of how common it is for us to feel the need to keep others at an arm's length? It seems to be a human problem. We get protective about our emotional space. For hurting individuals, it is a very sensitive issue. Defensiveness often results when we feel like our emotional privacy has been invaded. Those who become emotionally protective, who tend to keep most of their problems to themselves, will largely distance themselves from having close relationships with others. They are afraid to let others get in too close because they fear that others will be turned off by what is being hidden. To them, their emotions are so personal, sacred almost, that they trust no one else with their feelings, only themselves. 
 The soul was created to function in relationship. No person was ever intended to walk alone in life. While we acknowledge this fact, more often than not, we live exactly the opposite principle. It's an inner paradox really: knowing that we thrive on the friendship of others, we are still afraid to risk whatever it takes to receive it. 
 Emotionally unhealthy people lack an understanding that enables them to view emotions as a natural part of being human - the ability to love, to cry, to laugh, to hurt are all born into each of us for a reason. We were meant to be touched, to be deeply affected, for the good or the bad, by what happens to us. The fact that we can respond to life's situations this way proves that we are created human beings possessing a conscience and a soul. It is not a bad thing for us to give ourselves permission to feel these things. There is no shame or weakness in such a response. It is part of who we are.
 Emotionally healthy people are not afraid to welcome the risks of relationships. They do not feel the need to hide anything. If we are to embrace the relationships in our lives, we must get beyond this notion that being vulnerable is a bad thing. People respect and are deeply moved by the expression of feelings. Whether it be someone sharing their personal story with a tear in their eye, or another weeping over the grave of a loved one; perhaps it is the smile and awe of new parents as they gaze at their newborn baby, or the twinkle in the eyes of a guy about to propose to the girl of his dreams. Maybe it is even in the passionate hug of a once-estranged child and parent as they come back together. These emotions belong to all of us. We were meant to demonstrate them to each other, both in good times and bad. It is really too bad that we have such a hard time letting the walls come down.
 If we are to take an honest look at ourselves, we need to ask what it is that we are so afraid of. Is it the fear of being judged? Is it the fear of being rejected? Of being mis-understood? Identifying the response we imagine we will get if we let others in will give us a real insight into why we are holding them at arm's length. Once that has been determined, we must decide: are we willing to risk and give of ourselves to others, inviting them to see us for the way we really are? Opening our lives up to those around us gives us permission to be human - to love, to laugh, to grieve, to cry, to share...to live. That's what relationships are all about. That's what life is all about.