Hot and Cold

Ghosting? I didn’t know what this meant but I was guilty of it and it being done to me.

What does ghosting someone mean? When someone stops being in contact with you, that’s ghosting. It happens all of a sudden, he/she is gone without warning and sometimes you’re left wondering what went wrong?

Recently, I had a ghosting experience and more accurately, a re-ghosting experience (a hot and cold pattern) with an acquaintance/friend. And with hindsight, I was able to take away some insight with regard to intimacy.

Ghosting will usually follow when there is a common pattern in intimacy. Often, the silent treatment to no contact ends a relationship because no emotional intimacy was established in the first place. There can be physical intimacy but when there’s a lack of true intimacy, often the ending is abrupt.

In my recent experience, I started interacting with a long-time acquaintance a lot more. We started having more chats about a subject we were both interested in and then it seemed we were moving from acquaintanceship to friendship.

We were making up for lost time, we started to have more meet ups, text conversations, etc. And it was intense compared to the sporadic acquaintanceship from before.

And then, it stopped, there was no contact. I reached out to her a few times but there was silence. And I thought, no problem, life happens.

But then, she took up contact with me again and we had a few more intense interactions (a lot of sharing) and then again, ghosted.

Looking back on my own ghosting behaviours and my history with intimacy, I could see that there was no emotional intimacy established not only in the relationship but also within myself.

And what I came to realise about ghosting (the cold pattern) is that it’s similar to intense interactions in a relationship (the hot pattern). And sometimes the intensity in a relationship can look and feel like vulnerability and intimacy.

But often, the extreme side of sharing and being vulnerable is masking an inability to establish emotional intimacy with another.

Ask yourself: if you really knew someone who ghosted you? Did you learn about their true desires, fears, etc. Did you really know him/her?

What I saw in my patterns was I never really knew the person. I knew a lot of things about them, their daily lives, opinions but never the really scary stuff. The stuff where you got a glimpse into what kind of suffering they’ve experienced in their life.

Ghosting and intensity are often a double edged sword. Both sides sting because the intensity can get “hot” where you get burned and then the no contact leaves you “cold” where you get frostbite. And well, both don’t feel good.

I discuss more about the incident and what I decide to do in episode 14: Hot & Cold.

Comments about your body

I want to tell you that everything you have heard about comments about your body or ethnicity are probably false. And I’m going to share with you a boundary I’ve established with regards to comments about my body and it may in fact guide you in your decision on what to do when someone makes a comment about your body.

When a person makes a comment to you about your body it most likely has something to do with your ethnicity. The two are linked because one of the building blocks of ethnicity is bloodline which then makes up your body substance (physical features)1.

Comments about your body – excluding verbal violence (i.e. threats, bullying) – are usually subtle and disguised as being conversational. Whether that’s the intention or not, often comments like these don’t feel good to us.

“I don’t get as dark as you in the sun.”

“You’d be prettier if you had a different nose.”

“I thought you were vegetarian.”

Comments about food are about the body and in turn, are also about your ethnicity as one of the building blocks of ethnicity has to do with who we eat with1. Regardless, food is essentially is about the body because it goes into the body. Comments about what you eat are the same as comments about your physical features.

Let’s check your current boundary around comments about your body:

  • Is it okay for some people to make a comment about your body (i.e. family members) and not okay for others (i.e. acquaintances) to make a comment?
  • Do you make comments about other people’s body?
  • Do you only make comments if the other person comments about their own body first? (then giving you permission to make a comment)
  • Do you think it’s okay to make positive comments (how you perceive them as positive) and not ok to make negative comments about their body?
  • Is it okay to make comments about celebrities? about their hair? If they’ve gotten Botox, the diet that they’re currently on?

I used to make comments about celebrities, thinking it’s okay because they won’t hear them. I had a lot rules like these and what’s interesting in setting up a boundary like this is that is actually doesn’t help you feel better or even better about your body.

It seems the biggest falsehood was that having rules like the ones mentioned above were the biggest source of my misery. I decided I needed to have only one boundary – I don’t make comments on other people’s physical features. Period. No celebrities, not my best friend.

Now, it doesn’t mean I don’t tell someone they look fabulous or amazing. I do. But I don’t make a comment about their body or a physical feature like:

“You look fantastic, that dress suits your skin tone.”

It clears up my head. Knowing that there is no need to focus on anyone’s physical feature to complement them will free up a lot of the mind drama in your head.

So what does that mean when someone makes a comment about one of my physical features, like the three real life comments from above?

What does it mean to you is the exact question you need to ask yourself. What does a comment about your body mean to you? When these comments were said to me I made it mean a lot of things in my head. My mind would circle and circle with negativity chipping at my self-worth. How?

Well, someone saying that my skin is dark is only a negative thing until I decide it is. Which I had done so. I interpreted my physical features due to my ethnicity as negative – my dark skin, nose and the fact that I ate meat.

And then I needed to have a boundary around what I said to myself about my physical features regardless of what others said. I refused to think and believe that my physical features meant something negative. No matter what someone’s intention was I stopped attaching meaning to their words.

I took their words at face value, as they said them. So indeed my friend thought I was vegetarian. And it stops there. And indeed, my family member thought I would be prettier with a different nose. It stops there. I wasn’t going to add that that meant I was ugly. Because it didn’t.

And by allowing other’s to have their comments I could then see how I had my own negative comments about my physical features running inside my head. And that was where the real boundary needed to be. Not with what others said.

Today, can you make a comment about the food I’m eating. Absolutely. Can you make a comment about my thick, wavy hair? Absolutely. Can you make a comment about my skin tone? Absolutely.

There are now only two boundaries about comments: what I say to people (or rather what I don’t say) and how I interpret those comments to mean something about me.

I speak more about this in the podcast episode 13 Boundary: Ethnicity.

1Nash, Manning. The Cauldron of Ethnicity in the Modern World. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Intimacy for beginners

Understanding emotional intimacy is hard and worse, having it in relationships is harder. I’ve struggled with knowing what it meant and practicing it in my friendships and relationships. When I realised I had intimacy issues, I began a journey to get there.

First, what is intimacy? I define it as it’s the exposure of your true self or the familiarity you have with your true self (self-intimacy) and then intimacy with another is that both of you are familiar with each other’s true self.

We’re essentially not wearing a mask covering up who we really are (what we think and feel).

Next, how do you know if you have intimacy issues? I list out 4 signs I saw in myself and I’ll warn you, they hurt (initially).

  1. You’re told often that you’re a sensitive person or that you’re easily offended. This was with regard to what people said to me or about me.
  2. You have a lot of boundaries. Because I was sensitive to what people said to me, I often found myself having to uphold a lot of boundaries, not accepting of how people viewed me. This was exhausting to manage all of them.
  3. Your vulnerability lies on the two polar sides of the spectrum. The extremes of vulnerability involve sharing too much all at once or being quite reserved. You can be a private person but still share your opinion. Often, I toggled back and forth between the two extremes.
  4. You berate yourself whenever you receive feedback or criticism. You take the criticism to close to heart and it spirals in your head to the point you can’t separate out the fact that that’s only someone’s opinion and not necessarily the truth.

Looking in hindsight, it was easier to see how theses signs showed how I didn’t have the best intimacy with myself. Why? Because I wasn’t comfortable with who I was.

Being comfortable with yourself means you are ok with whatever stage in life you’re at. You’re lost in your career, you’re single, etc. You’re comfortable with all of it, the messy stuff and the great stuff.

That’s not an easy place to come from – enjoyment with who we are. When we can come from this place, people’s opinions of us become just that, an opinion. Your opinion of yourself doesn’t waver with each person’s statement about you.

You can accept what other people say without agreeing with them. That’s true intimacy with yourself.

And when a friend or a loved does say something about you that you don’t agree with you can see it as an opportunity to develop intimacy with them. You can inquire about why they have an opinion without needing it to justify who you are and your worth. You can come from a place of curiosity about the other person and develop a deeper understanding about each other.

Being comfortable with someone else’s true self can truly happen when we’re comfortable with our true self. That’s the kind of intimacy we all want in our relationships – the ability to be comfortable with each other.

I discuss a personal journey with a friend at the beginning stages of developing intimacy with myself. Listen to podcast episode 11: Intimacy for beginners.