Relationships and the Body, Part One
Is alexithymia wreaking havoc in your close relationships?
Most of us struggle at one time or another with an inability to feel what's going on inside us at the level of emotion and energy flow. The technical term for this problem is "alexithymia." If you look it up in a medical dictionary, you'll find some very interesting clues to why relationship conflicts recycle without resolution. The word alexithymia comes from the ancient Greek language and literally means "without words for feelings."
If you're alexithymic, you suffer from three main traits:
- You have difficulty identifying your own feelings, emotions and body sensations.
- You have difficulty describing your feelings to other people.
- You have difficulty hearing or understanding the feelings of others.
We've learned a lot about alexithymia over the past several decades, first in the laboratory of our own relationship and later in working with others. We entered our own relationship 30 years ago with full-blown symptoms of alexithymia. Slowly, and with a lot of careful attention, we gradually became skilled at identifying our feelings, expressing them clearly to each other and listening to each other on the emotional level. As we gained those skills, we began teaching them to others. Now, based on sessions with more than 4,000 couples, as well as a million-and-a-half frequent flyer miles teaching seminars around the world, we can tell you that alexithymia is not only a hindrance to relationship intimacy, but a rampant, out-of-control epidemic.
The epidemic of alexithymia has spread because of two factors:
- Almost none of us get any useful instructions in how to be aware of our feelings and what to do to express those feelings effectively. Few of us ever learn how to recognize the signs of feelings in others and how to respond to those feelings effectively. In other words, most of us are desperately ill-trained for one of the most important aspects of life.
- Almost all of us have been in situations in which the emotions we felt were so strong and unpleasant that we invented some way to tune them out. We gritted our teeth and squeezed them out of our awareness. Then we ate or smoked or drank or shopped until we distracted ourselves from the painful, overwhelming sensation. Whatever the mechanism of distraction, it can easily become locked in as a habit and eventually even a lifestyle. In other words, if you eat to distract yourself from anger, loneliness or any other feeling that you don't know how to feel, you can quickly become mired in a lifestyle based on handling your obesity.
Alexithymia is a very costly epidemic, but its true cost cannot be tallied because of its pervasiveness. In close relationships, alexithymia keeps you from knowing who you really are, and it keeps you from really knowing your partner. That's only one of the costs, though. It's the underlying issue in many problem areas, including those in politics and business. Multiply the problem times the six billion of us who live here, and you have a planet full of people who are not allowing themselves to resonate in harmony with each other -- purely because they've forgotten how to resonate with themselves.
Curing alexithymia begins with how we relate to the energy centers of our bodies. Specifically, it relates to the flow of awareness you feel in your own energy centers and the flow of energy between you and your partner. Alexithymia keeps you from being sensitively aware of breaks in the flow of energy. If you can't feel disturbances in the flow, you can't do anything to restore the easeful feeling of flow.
The energy centers are designed to resonate in tune with your own emotional vibrations and the vibrations of people you're in relationship with. In other words, if you stand next to your partner, the energy centers of both you and your partner are designed to resonate with each other as well as within yourselves as individuals. For this reason, relationship problems cannot be solved purely on the mental or even emotional levels. A new awareness is required, one that can take you first into a new dimension of energy flow, then beyond energy to a direct experience of the spacious matrix that holds mind, body and emotion.
The cure for alexithymia is body wisdom, the art of tuning in to your authentic feelings and the flow of energy within you.
We will share more on this subject in part two.
Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks are the authors of "Conscious Loving" and the developers of a new post-Einsteinian approach to relationship enhancement, "The Relationship Catalyst." Learn more at www.relationshipcatalyst.tv.