“We work on ourselves in order to help others and also we help others in order to work on ourselves.” — Pema Chodron
I was sharing with a friend recently some of my own challenges with intimacy — situations where I feel uncomfortable and scared. They asked me how I — who at times still struggle with my own intimacy — can help others with theirs.
It was an honest question and I didn’t mind being asked — yet I was surprised to be asked. I forget sometimes that there are people who believe that in order to help others, we need to have it all figured out ourselves. That would mean that a minister should never have moments where they doubt their own faith, a teacher never realize that their students know more about something than they do, or a counsellor never have issues in their own life that they don’t have a solution for.
I was drawn to work around intimacy because intimacy has always been a struggle for me. Because I have, in the past, found it difficult to look my partners in the eye, have hard conversations, allow my naked body to be seen, ask for what I need, acknowledge that I have needs, or be myself in sex. I chose this work because it’s the work I needed to do the most and because of that I’m always aware of and doing my own work in it. And because I’m continually doing my own work, I know that the answers for myself and my clients can be found right in the places we feel most uncomfortable. And because I recognize my own discomforts, I know them as my own and don’t assume my clients areas of discomfort will be the same.
When we look to our coaches, teachers, counsellors, ministers or practitioners as experts and all knowing, we fail to discover the empowering role we can take in our own growth. I think that a role in all of these professions is largely to be curious and provide a mirror — for the person seeking answers, back to the source — which is themselves. Otherwise the journey can become about some one else’s needs instead of our own. And wanting answers to come from someone else, or thinking that we have answers for someone else, are excellent ways to avoid the discomfort we feel in ourselves — which IS the source of all our answers.
I choose and seek out work that accentuates the residual discomforts in me and, through stepping into these discomforts with my clients, I continually support my own growth in intimacy. What is intimacy anyways if not sharing our most naked, most vulnerable selves with another? I do it because I’ve learned that beyond my naked, vulnerable outer layer is ….softness….an open door… light in a room that was dark. Each time I do it with you, I do it carried on my unconditional belief in your ability to go to your own source of intimate discomforts. I do it with you.