Knowing Your SELF

by Annie Higgins, MA, LPC

In all of my experience as a psychotherapist, I can honestly say that I have never encountered a client who was not wrestling with some aspect of intimacy. Intimacy means a deep knowledge, which facilitates understanding and connectedness. Whether the client’s presenting problem was focused on decision making regarding career development or coping with extreme trauma, each person I have worked with has had to explore their knowledge of and connection to self and others. In order to establish healthy intimacy with another person (interpersonal intimacy), it is absolutely vital to have a healthy level of self-knowledge (intrapersonal intimacy).

Dr. Daniel Glaser, Program Director at the New Orleans Institute, developed a model for understanding the levels of intimacy, which is called the PRAISES model. Please note that each of the levels applies to both intrapersonal and interpersonal intimacy. However, for the purpose of overview, this article will focus on intrapersonal intimacy.

Physical: The ability to be alone without feeling lonely. This involves the ability to self-soothe when dealing with discomfort, to practice appropriate self-care, and to enjoy simply “being” rather than distracting from “being alone.”

Recreational: Balanced living. This involves, composing a “pleasure inventory” of activities you can enjoy doing solo. It is helpful to include some activities that do not require spending money and some “stretch” activities that require you to step out of your comfort zone a bit (between 5-7 on the anxiety scale).

Aesthetic: Create and environment around you (at home and work if possible) that stimulates positive sensory experiences. Decorate your living space in a way that is a positive representation of you. Let your home be your sanctuary. Aesthetic intimacy also includes an ongoing willingness to identify physical and personality traits of yourself that you can appreciate.

Intellectual: Assess self-talk. What messages are prominent in your mind? Practice identifying self-defeating messages and ending internal dialogue from a wise mind. Critically examine external messages before accepting them. Also assess and develop your problem solving skills. Define problems behaviorally and analyze what would lead to a workable resolution.

Spiritual: Evaluate whether your lifestyle is congruent with your core values. Determine your top 5 priorities in life and develop goals that are aligned with those priorities. This involves working toward owning your story and eliminating self-shaming messages.

Emotional: The ability to recognize and tolerate the full range of emotions. Understand and identify what triggers the emotions and develop a repertoire of options for healthy expression of the full range of emotions.

Sexual: When you have established healthy PRAISE (the first 6 levels), then you are ready for healthy sexual intimacy. You must be able to say “no” in order to say “yes,” or it is addictive and compulsive behavior. This should be self-honoring and self-respecting. The goal is connection, not just sexual gratification, and it should contribute to a sense of wholeness and self-awareness.

It is vitally important to develop healthy intimacy with self before you can really endeavor to develop intimacy with others. For, if you do not know yourself, how can you share that self with someone else?

If you would like to explore this concept further in terms of understanding yourself or in applying it to relationships with others, please do not hesitate to contact one of the counselors at Anthology Counseling & Wellness.

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