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Brenda has truly opened up a space for introverted types on the ‘net, and her self-revelations are always inspiring. Her voice is one I always look forward to. She is one of the writers that actually played a part in my return to writing.  — S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
and reached out to her. To say the least it has been one of the best
decisions I have made. Being an extrovert I never quite understood
what it meant to romantically involved with an introvert. Brenda does
an incredible job listening, giving in the moment feedback, and helped
me understand the how an introvert functions. She helped explain to me
that I am introspective extrovert, and this gave something to identify
with and allowed me t…
Evan H.
Your words are my lifeline.  I sit down to your posts and as I read I can feel my acceptance of myself and my needs grow.  Your words validate my feelings about my life, motherhood, relationships and it is something I hold onto.  And during the times when I feel like I am not able to be a mother or a wife or a sister or a friend or whatever someone needs me to be, I go back to your words and find some peace…I send your posts to my husband when I need him to understand that I love him but I need …
BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live
Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…
That courage and dedication you so generously share with the world, has inspired me to push myself a little harder, persevere at each task a little longer, dig a little bit deeper to where the answers just “feel” right to both my humanity AND my spirit. Your insights have reinforced my direction and given me additional tools that help me clear my path. I’m wired into my creativity as never before and the new music is pouring out of me faster than I can record and produce it; this is the Un…
For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
This is me. This is me from the day I was born. For so long I felt misunderstood and rejected, even by the people closest to me, because they could never understand my need for solitude, and I had no idea how to explain it to them. Even now that I know more about Introversion and have a more informed understanding of my hard-wired need for solitude, it’s still very difficult sometimes to help my loved ones understand this profound craving for time and space all to myself. This is one of the best…
Because of your blog, I know that it is possible for me to have the love that I want one day and that I don’t have to be alone.  — Indepthwoman  on space2live

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Intimacy Coaching

couple holding hands coffee

When I first considered becoming a personal coach, I met with an experienced men’s coach here in Minneapolis named Craig Bloomstrand, but everyone calls him Snake. Snake told me the men he works with, often CEOs and  military veterans, come to him looking for something they feel they are missing. They have high-powered jobs, financial stability and a history of achieving, but they need something more. Quite often, the open and vulnerable conversations they have with Snake, provide that. Ultimately, Snake said what his clients are looking for is intimacy. He said personal coaches end up being intimacy coaches.

Perhaps there’s a Powerpoint for intimacy? 

I have not forgotten Snake’s words. I believe they ring true. In “New York Times” columnist, David Brooks’ book, The Road to Character, he talks about how we have lived in a meritocracy for the last several decades. The meritocracy focuses on achievement and outer success. We learn skills and a vocabulary to advance our career and intelligence. We are inarticulate when it comes to cultivating the inner-life and intimacy. Brooks says, “The noise of fast and shallow communications makes it harder to hear the quieter sounds that emanate from the depths.” At one point, Brooks also says we attack life and spirituality like we attack a homework assignment or a school project; we read self-improvement books (guilty, so guilty) and break it down into strategic progress markers (admittedly, this works for me).

I believe we have focused so hard on advancing and strengthening ourselves, we have forgotten how to tune into the soft warmth and humility that truly feeds us. We struggle to create a loving connection with ourselves and with others. Because we primarily strive to improve our status, we don’t hone the moral integrity and deep intimacy that allow us to make unshakable commitments. Surface goals are moving targets. We chase the carrot, neglecting potentially rich relationships along the way.

And if we are not chasing a more marketable self, it is possible we are doing what we can to avoid facing difficult topics like our imperfections, failures and bad relationships. Technology, books, television, booze, shopping, fitness, shallow friendships — all serve as distractions from humbling truths.

Shameless crying

The other night my boyfriend and I sat closely on the couch watching an episode of the Showtime series, Shameless (starring William H. Macy). It happened to be a very sad and emotional episode. Spoiler alert: there was a suicide attempt witnessed by the whole family (children too) on Thanksgiving. Watching the family react with tears and sadness, just wrecked me. I could not stop my own tears from flowing. My guy just pulled me closer, kissed the top of my head and asked what part was making me so sad. He was the perfect comfort. I felt so OK about crying in front of him. The only way I can describe it is it felt intimate and safe. I had only really felt that with my parents and my closest friends. Many times I worried my emotions would be used against me, silenced, seen as a nuisance or would make someone else uncomfortable. This couch crying incident seemed to bring us closer — like a wall lowered and our hearts were able to communicate a bit more directly. There was a warmth and sense of ease that spread throughout my body. I am holding that feeling within me.

Armor is cold

The catalyst for the intimacy was a willingness to be vulnerable. The sealing of the intimacy deal was the acceptance  of the vulnerability. The meritocracy frowns upon vulnerability. It gives the competitors an edge. They can step on you where you’re weak and gain ground ahead of you.

When I attended Michigan State University (50,000 students) and when I lived in Chicago, I learned to fight for whatever ground (campus jobs, financial aid, parking spots, machines at the gym) I could claim. I thought it was great I learned how to be tough and independent. I developed a nice protective, assertive armor. I was proud of my accomplishments in the big aggressive world. I did not realize how heavy that armor I wore was, until years later. That toughness was an intimacy killer. Later, my husband wore a similar armor. We had a hard time shedding the armor and getting to vulnerability with each other. We thought we needed to be strong to be loved. A little weakness or a chink in the armor might have sparked intimacy.

The lack of comfort in my marriage, drove me to find it elsewhere. Starting within myself. Comforting myself was my go-to response. I found a lot of depth and reassurance within books (#1 “If You Want to Write” by Brenda Ueland). Meditation also gave me a sense of calm. Later new friends and writing connected me to the peace of creativity. 

Eventually, through years of dating post-divorce, I learned comfort can come from others. It was OK to count on someone else. This led to true intimacy.

Comforting reassurance

It is really possible for partners to soothe each other’s nervous systems. Touch, affirming words, reliability and presence — all of these offer a form of reassurance. They all soothe. I grew up thinking financial stability and your own hard work and achievements were your safety net and security blanket. My parents were wonderful parents. I knew I was loved. I always had everything I needed financially, but there was not a lot of hand-holding. We were raised to be fairly independent. There are benefits to that, for sure. I just learned how to soothe myself, instead of learning others could give that comfort.

I was praised for doing well in school, so I did that. I was praised for being easy to raise. So I made sure I didn’t burden anyone unnecessarily. That praise fed me, for a long time.

Intimacy builders

I remember my dad generously hugging me and my grandpa massaging my shoulders with his strong hands. My mom was not a hugger until later in life. Those moments of touch took the knots out of a somewhat tense young girl’s muscles.

I never knew how much I craved that loving and reassuring touch, until I found it. I’d had plenty of touch from loves, but not the soul soothing, sweet kind. Hint: It’s more like stroking a cat or a bunny versus petting a dog or brushing off lint.

I never knew how comforting optimism was. It’s a ray of lovely nourishing hope. Makes me feel open and willing to share my optimism.

I never knew how wonderful it was to know someone loves you for you, until I let myself be real within a relationship and did not get judged for it.

I never knew how important it was to give comforting reassurance to others until I read a bunch of self-improvement books that told me so. 😉 But the real proof was in the loving intimate reactions I received in return for my responsiveness.

My point is, notice what comforts you and how you comfort others. What message is conveyed? Is it stoking intimacy or repelling it?

I’m so fortunate because advancing my career means learning ways to increase intimacy.

What or who comforts you? Can you reciprocate the reassurance? If so, how do you do it? How much intimacy do you feel? 








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  1. JJPK January 24, 2018 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    Beautiful article. I’m struggling a lot with “meritocracy vs. vulnerability” as two sides I seem to be dividing into at once. I wonder: Can I be true to my sensitivity and my kindness towards self and others and still “get ahead” in the big, competitive city I work in? I can’t really “drop out” of the performance-driven high-speed world we all live in, but something in me resists totally buying into its values too.

  2. Sandra GW March 18, 2017 at 6:58 am - Reply

    What a heartfelt and true article, Brenda. I appreciate your insight and ability to put your finger on things. Sounds like you have a new person in your life – I am thrilled for you! Let’s get together soon, coach!

    • Brenda Knowles March 19, 2017 at 4:32 pm - Reply

      Hi Sandra! Experience is the best teacher and I keep subjecting myself to lots of relationship experience.;) Feels especially wonderful this time. I would love to meet up dear lady. Contact me when you’re free.:)

  3. David Brys March 18, 2017 at 5:52 am - Reply

    This article touched my heart… Thank you Brenda!

    • Brenda Knowles March 19, 2017 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome David. Glad it resonated.

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