Finding Your Core Gifts in Your Joys
The quickest way to access our Core Gifts is by using the small experiences of joy and meaning in our lives as springboards. We can use these experiences in two important ways to speed and empower our intimacy lives. First, when we open to these positive experiences more fully and stay with them just a bit longer than we might normally do, we actually develop our capacity for love. These moments are more than moments; they are actually portals into the deeper strata of our psyche, and the more we gain access to them, the more our ability to love grows.
Second, when we pay attention to these positive experiences, we discover what types of interactions and experiences inspire us and give us an inner green light to move into deeper intimacy. When we take the time to notice these patterns, it’s like a connect-the-dots game. What emerges is a picture of our Core Gifts.
Each of these moments of inspiration is different and each moment illumines a different facet of our nature. In those moments there is a sense of truth, not necessarily a grand, universal truth but a feeling that says, “This touches me where I live.” Such moments, easily passed over, are portals to our Core Gifts.
In my work as a therapist I watch for these moments in the course of a session and try not to let them pass. I encourage my clients to stay with their inspiring moment just a bit longer. When they do, something surprisingly deep will often emerge. The more we simply savor our small moments of inspiration, the better we will come to know them—and the more we will be changed by them.
Our Core Gifts and our Pain
We experience not only joy around our Core Gifts. We also experience our most intense pain around these parts of ourselves because we feel intuitively that our identity rests there.
The very qualities that we are most ashamed of, the places where we have been most hurt and feel most insecure, all reflect our Core Gifts. For this reason, our past or current relationship pains hold the power to point the way to healthier love. The places where our heart has been broken reflect how deep our bonds can go. We are most tender and vulnerable in the places we care the most, so we have the potential of being most hurt in these places. We are usually more sensitive than most people around our Core Gifts. In fact, one of the ways we know we’re touching a Core Gift is that we’ve repeatedly been told “You’re too sensitive” in relation to it. In all probability, many people may experience us as too sensitive around our Core Gifts, because they don’t have the antennae that we have. We may notice things in our environment and in the interactions around us that other people are completely unaware of. Elaine Aron’s seminal work concerning Highly Sensitive People richly illumines these dynamics.
When we express these parts of ourselves to someone who doesn’t “get it” or who takes advantage of us, it can feel humiliating. Something inside us cringes. We begin to think, “Is there something wrong with me for this quality?” In fact, that’s another way we can recognize our Core Gifts. We’ve been embarrassed by them.
Also, most of us have had minor or major “car crashes” around our gifts, because our deepest immaturities and greatest points of dysfunction usually surround these gifts. Without a good deal of hard work, we will keep making the same two basic mistakes around our Core Gifts: suppressing them or acting out (expressing them in ways that are harmful to ourselves and others) in connection with them. Whenever a gift hasn’t had a chance to mature, there will be a lack of grace in the way we express it, usually shown in behavior that is overly aggressive or unnecessarily timid.
Our tears are a great gift because they reveal what matters most to us. Understanding the pains that were once wordless and knotted within us—and then putting an explanation on them—is life changing.
Our task in the intimacy journey is to ﬁnd relationships that essentially feel right in the ways that matter most. To recognize what feels right, we need to know what feels wrong—and how to say no to it. In the course of our relationships and our day-to-day interactions, we can learn much about our path to intimacy simply by noticing what feels right and what feels wrong.
As we learn to honor our Core Gifts, the defenses that surround them slowly transform into skills and we gain strength and capacity in our ability to be in an intimate relationship.
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