At times, you may be asked to sit with another who has been touched by the darkness. To allow them to fall apart in your arms, unravel, be without hope, and feel lost. You may sense there is some sort of wisdom unfolding, but it is chaotic, uncertain, and not easy to stay with.
While it is natural to want to do whatever you can to help them feel better, listen carefully to what it is they are truly asking for. Extend to them a calm, regulated nervous system where their experience can be validated and held, exactly as it is. Ensure them – with words and with your presence – that they need not ‘get over it,’ ‘accept everything as it is,’ shift into a ‘higher vibration,’ ‘stay in the present,’ be cured, transformed, or ‘healed’ in order for you to stay close.
To provide such an environment for another, you must first offer safe passage for the unmetabolized in yourself: the unmet sadness, abandoned shame, discarded grief, disavowed hopelessness, and deserted aloneness. If not, you may find yourself rushing to talk the other out of their experience, urgently spinning to relieve them of their feelings as a way to cut into your own anxiety and discomfort. All the while subtly and unconsciously disavowing the raging intelligence buried within the dark.
Together with them, make the commitment to not pathologize their experience. Pain is not pathology. Hopelessness is not pathology. Grief is not pathology. Shame and rage are not pathology. They are path. Seed this wisdom into the relational field and watch in awe as a new world unfolds.
As you attune to the ‘other’ in front of you – as well as to the alchemical ‘other’ within – feel the creative flow of love as it fills the space between, crafting you both as vessels of sanctuary for the pieces of the broken world, for the shards of confusion, and for the crumbled hopes and dreams that have dissolved in front of your eyes. Honor the holy truth that the forms that love take will always fall apart – for this is their nature – in order that they may come back together in more integrated and cohesive ways.
Within the aliveness of the relational field – despite the pain of the present, the traumas of the past, and the broken dreams of the future – you may see that it was only love after all, taking whatever form it must so that it may unfold itself into this world, in ways the mind may never understand.
Please do whatever you can to help others in whatever way you are able: attune to their emotional experience such that they feel felt, listen carefully to what they are saying, and how they are making meaning of their lives.
Slow way down, bracket your favorite psychological and spiritual jargon and theories, and allow yourself to be curious about how they are making sense of their experience. Feed them, hold them, speak kindly to them, provide sanctuary and safe passage for soul to disclose its mysteries. And remind them that love is here and is alive.
My next book, A Healing Space: Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times, will be published by Sounds True in 2020.