Entering the Space of Cocreation
Let’s start with back-to-basics training in the arts of relationship and of relating, connecting, intimacy and conversation, so that you gain an understanding of the co-creative process and the essential skills and abilities to practice and hone.
1. A relationship is a joint-effort creation. Relationship and connection are one of a kind, special and unique co-creations, born from two unique beings at a particular point in time, just like a child is born, instead it’s a connection or a relationship born. Something magical and mystical happens in the sacred space of cocreation that is both physical and spiritual in nature. Relationships don’t just happen. Connection. Intimacy. They are not random. They don’t occur in a vacuum. They are art forms. Like acting or painting, it takes years of honing your craft before you can become proficient at making connections and creating nourishing, intimate relationships. It requires self-awareness, trust and full engagement in the process, strong motivation, and practice. 2. A connection occurs when two separate autonomous Selves, ‘me’ and ‘you,’ build a bridge of understanding that connects them, makes them an ‘us.’ “me’ and ‘you’ make ‘us.’ On the bridge there is a steady stream of energy flowing back and forth, an exchange of each other’s essences, understanding is achieved. It’s a conscious, heartfelt connection.
What does connection, intimacy, understanding and love feel like? We know that we go through a biochemical change in which oxytocin gets created, and that oxytocin is nourishing and sustaining, and is the opposite of when cortisol created when we’re under duress and in pain from unmet emotional needs. 3. Intimacy begins with rapport. What is rapport? Rapport occurs when two people are entranced in conversation. They are listening and responding to each other spontaneously, without self-monitoring or anticipating what is going to happen next or at all concerned about making a good impression. They are in a zone, immersed in a naturally unfolding process, untainted by the wish for a desired outcome. When there is rapport, both people are working really well together co-creatively.
There are three main components that characterize rapport: interest, honesty and understanding. Usually, when there is rapport, there is a higher level of mutual interest, you’re being honest and real with each other and understanding. Usually when there is interest, honesty and understanding, there is rapport. The quality of rapport may be the most reliable indicator of relationship and intimacy potential. Usually, where there is rapport, you’re on the cusp of intimacy. Rapport is a precursor to intimacy. Intimacy is the outgrowth of rapport.
Interest There are two types of interest: unconditional and conditional. Unconditional interest is being in it for the adventure, untainted by any personal agenda or wish for a desired outcome. You are internally motivated. You are a creator who comes alive in the space of co-creation. One research study showed that unconditional interest was one of three key factors determining how healthy, nourishing, or intimate a relationship turns out to be. “When there is unconditional interest, “there is an openness to learning about one’s partner’s process without interrupting or personalizing it, even if it sounded distressing.” (Legg) Conditional interest, on the other hand, is personal. You’re (personally) interested in getting to know each other, closer and more connected emotionally and want to spend more time being together. When both people are unconditionally interested in the process, it’s more likely they will become personally interested in each other. When unconditionally interested, you’d naturally be taking an inside – outside approach to getting to know each other. When it’s lacking, it’s more likely that you’d be taking an outside- inside approach to getting to know each other, and that your interest would be appearance-based or skewed perception. Honesty Honesty is sharing your experience, being willing to speak your truth, whatever you’re thinking, feeling, needing, wanting or matters to you at any given moment. Honesty is being congruent - saying what you are feeling and feeling the words that come out of your mouth. When two people are being honest and real with each other, when their outward behavior or communication matches their inner experience, they are building trust and credibility in the process. They’re demonstrating reliability, dependability and integrity. When honesty is not built into the foundation of the relationship, the cornerstone of trust will never get built into the relationship, which could render the relationship a house of cards. Lack of honesty also translates to lack of substance and depth. Your essence remains shrouded. Being honest and real is also an invitation for the other person to be honest with you. Honesty and realness breed themselves while creating a safe atmosphere.
Understanding The third element of rapport is understanding. Understanding is what connects us. It is the bridge between disconnection and connection. Along with our basic human need for love and relationship is a need for understanding. When our need for understanding gets met, we feel closer, more connected and alive. Understanding requires an ability to respond to another person’s experience. It is the ability to empathize, to convey resonance, to relate to or identify with the other’s shared experience. It sees “more than meets the eye.”
Our ability to understanding and be understood depends on how conscious and connected you are, as well as, our existential condition - that we are all separate and uniquely different people and every one experiences the same events differently. Before intimacy there is rapport. Where there is rapport, there is a connection. It’s the same as chemistry. There is an attunement on both, verbal and non-verbal levels. When asked whether there was a rapport, Joe said, “Yes. Something was going on. Can't quite put my finger on it. It was effortless. We just flowed. We were interested, honest and real with each other the whole time.” After Judy had expressed a desire for more intimacy, more fluid and less pressure, I had asked her what (intimacy) meant to her. I thought she captured the essence. “Intimacy is a carve out, a space for us to be together, focusing totally on each other in a relaxed way, being open and vulnerable with each other. And certainly that can be a turn on and lead to sex, but as an outgrowth of intimacy, not a replacement for intimacy.”
4. How to Assess your Experience Assessing your experience is the mindful tracking of your experience, noticing your thoughts and feelings for the purposes of determining the quality and depth of the connection and for deciding on the direction you want the relationship to go. If you’re dating, you’d be deciding whether how you felt and how connected you were warrants getting together again.
How did you feel being together? How connected did you feel? Were you “feeling it" or “not feeling it?”
Assessing your experience is about what specifically you are getting a read on. I’m suggesting a checklist of what I consider to be the most reliable criteria, Interest,
Honesty and Understanding.
Interest: Unconditional and Personal
How open were you with each other? It’s difficult to generate rapport with someone who isn’t revealing or is depending on you to talk about yourself, first.
How “clean” were your respective “slates?” How unconditionally interested were you and the other, engage in the process with zero attachment to the outcome?
Were you depressed, tired or preoccupied, unable to fully engage in the process? Did they appear depressed, tired, or preoccupied?
Were you (personally) interested? If so, how were you interested? What (specifically) interested you? Were you (sexually) attracted?
How interested was the Other in you? What specifically did the Other say or do to give you that impression? Was your attraction, or lack thereof, mutual?
You absolutely need to know whether you were attracted. Generally speaking, when you’re attracted your interest might have more to do with your attraction usually has more to do with excitement than anything about the other person or quality of connection, or lack thereof, independent of the attraction.
How honest and real were you with each other? If you are not comfortable being open, honest and real, chances are, you won’t be able to assess your experience very accurately, not when there is no reliable information to assess. If you were guarded, defended, shut down, not open, how are you going to be able to assess how you felt? You know the saying, “Garbage in. Garbage out.” Did you feel understood? If so, when, what, and in what way? How did that feel? Did I understand the Other? If so, when, what, and in what way? How did that feel? Understanding is the heart of the matter, but it has to consciously register, otherwise your exchange will turn out to be uneventful, unemotional and not nourishing. Feeling understand and when you understand, everything is okay. You’re alive and connected in deep personal, and spiritual ways.
Were there any disconnects or misunderstandings? (specify when, what, how, etc.).” How did you feel being together? How connected did you feel? Were you “feeling it" or “not feeling it?”
5. Enter the sacred space in a ‘clean slate' state of mind.
Cultivate the proper state of mind, of "unconditional interest" and a “clean slate” state of mind, characterized by openness and presence and engagement in the moment. An important aspect of the ideal state of mind is the ability to take attention off yourself and put it on the other person.
Both people are highly interested in the process -- "unconditionally interested" in the process -- eager to engage, get to know each other and discover what they can create together. They are more into the process than the outcome, that is, whether they connect or not. Whenever two people are relating, a whole new play is about to unfold. Whenever entering the sacred space of co-creation, it's incumbent upon you to be able to put whatever is going on in your life aside. If you are distracted, running on empty, overly stressed, in a bad mood, the other person's experience may not register, and you may be running the risk of your mood tainting your perceptions. Chances are you'll be in a reaction mode that takes you out of the moment and distances you from the person you're with.
A ‘clean slate' will dramatically reduce the extent to which preconceived notions, inaccurate interpretations, and emotional baggage from previous and/or current relationships taint what would otherwise be pure and organic creation.
6. The most important relationship is with yourself.
Being conscious and connected is what makes rapport building, "unconditional interest," "clean slate" state of mind, share your experience, your essence, the gift of your Self possible. When you have a relationship with your Self, your wellbeing and sense of self-worth are internally based and not be riding on someone or something external, outside of your Self to validate your existence or worth. You won’t measure yourself according to how the other person responds to you.
If you are out of touch with what you're thinking and feeling, you will not be able to bridge understanding or be heard, known, understood or felt. Self-awareness extends to intuitive alertness, I often refer to as, discernment – the ability to pick up on subtleties and nuances and on non-verbal communication (attitude, tone of voice, body language, eye contact, demeanor or warning signals of unsafety.
When you have a relationship with your Self, you have an internal guidance system that is up and running, that alerts you when in any kind of danger for you to heed with action.
How can you get to know me if I can't accurately represent myself? How can I get to know you if you can't accurately represent yourself? How can I be intimate with you when I’m not with myself? How could you be intimate with me when you’re not intimate with yourself? 7. The Four Basic Dating Scenarios and the Challenges They Pose
There are only four basic scenarios that can happen the first time you meet someone or, for that matter, any other relating encounter. I want of objectify and simply the process so that you’ll be more prepared for any of them and the challenges they pose and so you don’t get personally attached and your wellbeing and self-worth are not riding on any one outcome more than another.
There is no doubt that you will find yourself in all four situations at some point during the course of your lifetime relating experience, which is what makes dating an ideal training ground for the rigors of an intimate relationship. The challenges the basic dating scenarios pose are virtually the same challenges you’ll face down the road, during the course of any intimate relationship. 1 Mutual attraction/interest 2 You’re attracted/interested, but the other person is not. 3 The other person is attracted/interested, but you are not. 4 Neither of you are attracted/interested.
1. Mutual attraction/interest Isn’t this what we all want? when both people are attracted and interested in each other. Mutual attraction and interest feels so good and exciting. But hold on. The feeling does not last forever and does not sustain itself.
Whenever you feel an attraction, a rush of excitement runs through your body, altering your mind and mood. It distorts perception and spurs your imagination to run wild. Idealization occurs. It’s so easy to get disconnected, lose objectivity and unable to effectively assess your experience and make healthy decisions. You become more prone to act impulsively.
The challenges mutual attraction/interest pose are: - Having to juggle your excitement and imagination while staying present and connected (in the moment), engaged in the process, while assessing how you feel. - Trusting the co-creative process enough to allow it to unfold naturally and organically; refraining from getting ahead of yourself, lost in imagination and not be checked out of the moment as a potential opportunity passes you by. -Staying fully engaged the whole time you are together in the sacred space of co-creation to ensure a natural outcome, so there’s a natural unfolding that occurs one encounter at a time but can build on themselves over time.
2. You are attracted/ interested, but the other person is not. Fear of rejection is what keeps most of us from going after what we want. Fear makes us defend or protect ourselves, distort our perception, lose objectivity, and personalise outcomes. All of these fear reactions make it impossible to fully engage in the process, allow the process to unfold naturally and organically and be able to respond freely and spontaneously, that is, be yourself.
You will not be able to adequately prepare yourself for the challenges in this situation if your well-being and sense of self-worth or positive self-feelings are in any way tied up with any one particular outcome.
The clean-slate state of mind applies here – being open and operating in the spirit of discovery, neutrality, and objectively. Whatever happens, it’s just part of the game and has nothing to do with you. When it’s over, clean your slate and get ready for another whole new encounter.
The main challenges this scenario poses are:
Being mindful so you don’t let your fear of rejection impede your ability to share the gift of your experience freely as it is in the moment, and presumably, your partner is doing the same.
Rather that attributing the outcome, desirable or otherwise, to yourself to the other one, you reframe from, “It was due either to me or you” to, what the two of you created together. Also, every encounter is a stand-alone co-creation at that particular time, with a beginning and end, and doesn’t bear on happened beforehand, nor what happens subsequently.
3. The other person is attracted/interested, but you are not.
When the other person is attracted/interested and you are not, the challenge is, again, to be mindful not to personalise the outcome. Your experience, your truth, is what it is; it is nothing personal about the other person (as much as what you created together). It does not reflect on you, nor should it affect you one way or another.
4. Neither of you are attracted or interested. When there is mutual disinterest, and neither person wants to be around each other anymore, the challenge is to avoid personalizing the experience or coming away demoralized, disillusioned or deflated by rather get yourself ready to enter into your next encounter in a clean slate state of mind.
8. The Four Essential Skills: 1 Self-awareness 2 Self-disclosure 3 Asking Questions 4 Listening Relating, connecting, intimacy and conversation are art forms. Dating is an art form. What to do the first time you meet someone is an art form. As is the case with any art form or creative process, basic principles apply and essential skills must be practiced and honed. Knowhow and proficiency are required, if not, tremendously helpful in your pursuit of deep connections and intimate relationships. Regardless of whether you are looking to meet new people to connect or you’re in a later stage of an ever deepening and growing intimate relationship, the same four essential skills are involved: Self-awareness, Self-disclosure, Asking Questions, Listening. Self-Awareness Self-awareness, consciousness, conscious and connected, mindful practice, all go together, and add up to unbridled power, unleashed creativity, your home, your center-point, your observation tower from where you can view the totality of your experience.
Self-awareness is what you need to assess your experience and how you decide on your next course of action, how to respond, what you do or say.
Self-awareness makes it possible for you to represent yourself congruently, authentically; become known, understood, seen, heard, loved, close and connected; gives you direct access to your experience, that is, what you’re thinking, feeling, or wanting. When your self-awareness is heightened, you’re more fertile, juicier, more attractive and magnetic, easier to connect with.
When your self-awareness is limited or you are more unconscious than conscious, disconnected than connected, chances are you won’t learn, grow or enjoy the process. You won’t be able to accurately represent yourself, get your need to connect met, or carry on a conversation of any depth. Self-disclosure When you are self-aware, you can determine what and how much you want to share or disclose. Depending on how self-aware you are and how safe and comfortable you feel, you may want to speak freely, uncensored or choose your words carefully or not want to share at all.
Self-disclosure is how you get to know each other more deeply and intimately. Sometimes it may appear or sound like the Other is self-disclosing when they are actually more defensive than open. Usually, the more comfortable and willing you are to self-disclose, the more engaged in the process and likely to connect they will be. If you don’t feel safe enough within yourself to take emotional risks, i.e. of rejection or not being understood, step out of your comfort zone and get below the surface, ain’t shit’s going to happen. When you choose agreeability over truth and authenticity, you and the Other are not likely to get much of a flow going. Connectivity (fertility levels) will be down. Listening “Listen with the same passion with which you want to be heard.” (Harriet Learner) The more self-aware you are, the better you will listen and the more the person you are listening to will feel seen, heard, understood, safe, accepted, and respected. Listening is paying attention to what the person is saying when they are sharing with you. You are not responding, dialoguing, or having to say anything; you are only listening.
Self-awareness allows you to assess your visceral response not only to what is said (explicit, verbal communication), but also to what is unsaid (implicit, nonverbal communication).
When you are truly listening, a nonverbal groundswell of felt energy and connection builds. Listening is active engagement in the process and connecting on a deep, personal level. Listening is loving. Listening is understanding. Effective listening requires intuitive alertness, intention, focus, and discipline. Generally speaking, the cleaner your “slate” is, the better you will listen. Unconscious defensiveness clutters the clean slate, which hamper your ability to listen, empathize, understand and intuitive alertness. Asking Questions Asking questions is too, an art in itself. Asking questions has become the lost child of the four essential skills that need to be practiced, so you get better at asking questions. Don’t ever underestimate or overlook the potential game-changing power of (good) questions.
Good, thought-provoking questions move the needle toward deeper self-reflection, connection, and intimacy. You could ask questions that ignite a deep, personal conversation that enters uncharted territory, where surprising and profound discoveries are made and lead to greater connection and intimacy.
Asking questions can elicit spontaneity--a true, honest response. Spontaneity makes a conversation unique and special, impossible to repeat.
I’m enthralled when I come up with good questions to ask, as well as when another asks me deep, thought-provoking questions. I often come away feeling grateful, inspired, clearer, and more connected within myself. It feels like pulling the covers off a blind spot or and shining a light where there was age-old darkness.
Asking questions is also a way to show genuine interest and caring. It tells the Other that you really want to know them more personally and connect on a deeper level. Usually, a great question warrants a great answer. The better question-asker you are, the better generator of rapport you’ll become.
It doesn't matter what you’ve been through in your life, whatever your experience in relationships was or role models or you’re struggling with addiction, depression or trauma, you can always still learn and change and grow in the process of relating. Hope lies in the fact that self-work combined with knowhow and a level of proficiency ignites creativity and empowers the transformation of your relationships. You can do this, as long as you’re so motivated. Ongoing Relationship Training Groups Relationship and Communication Skills Building For those eager to learn how to make deeper connections and create intimate relationship and become better communicators. Relating, connecting, intimacy and conversation are co-creative processes. As is the case with any art, basic principles apply and essential skills must be practiced and honed. Gain the knowhow and proficiency that makes you more conscious, connectable and creative; and more confident – when you know where you're going and how to get there. Open your eyes to the mystery and magic of connection.
Email Daniel A. Linder, MFT for a Complimentary Introductory Session of the upcoming ongoing relationship training group: Relationship and Communication Skills Building.
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