What does it mean to have mixed feelings about something? How can I love someone and fear them at the same time? It can sometimes be confusing to have both a negative and positive charge for something at the same time. Often times this occurs when our true self wants something, but our family, spiritual community, or other group to which we belong, says that we shouldn’t want that thing. This dynamic is especially apparent when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity: many people still live in fear of being rejected and persecuted for moving toward their true nature.
This confluence of polarities inside of us is also commonly seen when different parts of the self are in conflict: the head and the heart, the mind and the body, etc. I recently had an experience where my heart and my will were in conflict. My heart wanted to open and move forward to connect, but my will and my body did not feel safe; wanting to retreat out of a perceived danger. From this place of fear, anger or aggression can easily arise as a natural defense mechanism. Our biology as human animals is programmed to respond to fear and danger by fight, flight or freeze; and the fighting brings out anger and aggression to keep us safe. This mixed signal of attraction by the heart and repelling by the will can often be difficult for us and others to comprehend.
Recently someone told me they often have urges to pick fights with their partner–that there was something gratifying about it, but they couldn’t quite put their finger on it. I wondered if they just wanted connection, contact, and engagement with their partner. I remembered back to my childhood when my older brother would pick on me, tackling me to the floor for a quick wrestle. I did not like this at all, but there was something satisfying about it for him. It could have been about power, but I also think there was an aspect of connection and intimacy in the play which my brother enjoyed and wanted to have with me as his sibling. There is a way in which the body speaks that the mind may not understand, and the self tries to get what it wants: connection & intimacy.
Connection and intimacy are necessary for life, but they do not have to be verbal – in fact, they largely are not. I commonly hear one part of a couple say they want more intimacy or emotional connection from the other. This usually comes from the partner who might be more verbal about their feelings, expecting the other to reciprocate in the same way. They might not be “hearing” how their partners body is “speaking” to them – how they are patting them on the back, caressing their cheek, or petting their hair can speak volumes about how they feel about their partner.
What do we do when our body language gives off mixed messages? It’s important to cultivate self awareness of our own. There are a variety of somatic (body oriented) therapies that can promote and build this understanding and self awareness. Hakomi is one modality I use with clients to help them listen to what their body is saying, which their conscious mind may miss. This understanding can help us have more patience with ourselves and our relationships. We can also begin to help our partners understand the mixed messages programmed into our bodies.
The dance of intimacy is a constant unfolding to the self and to the other. It’s important to listen to the rhythms of our body and our heart to keep the dance of life exciting.