Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The achy path of close personal relationships


In any close relationship (where we take the risk of allowing another to matter) we open ourselves to the two primordial archetypal energies of abandonment and fusion. Sensing the potential for shattering reorganization, it makes sense that there is some hesitancy in stepping all the way in.

We come into relationship with a living template of past relational experiences: will I be safe? Can I be fully as I am? What about all of my eccentricities, sensitivities, vulnerabilities, and weeping wounds? Will I need to be someone different in order to be seen and held? Will I lose myself? Is this all going to be worth it?

Inevitably, ruptures will occur within the relational field, in that tender intersection between ourselves and another. But these ruptures are natural, organic, and quantum, and reveal themselves to be secret portals to wholeness.

A healthy relationship is not one where there is never any conflict, but where rupture is repaired, where repair is path, and where we honor our connectedness as well as our autonomy. The invitation is into the unresolvable mystery waters of separation and union, not unconscious merging into some homogenized leaky middle.

Each of us arrives into the emerging we-space with biographical, cultural, and archetypal patterning, schemas, and implicit worlds of meaning. These intertwine to weave the interactional field, along with the companionship, play, and shepherding of the mysterious Other, the third who also appears.

Through co-regulation, co-articulation, and making sense of our experience together, the templates reveal their transparency and become ripe for revisioning, open to be re-seeded with empathic circuits of resonance. But in the core of that ripening it is tender and sensitive, and will ask everything of us, dissolving the dream of the way we thought it was all going to turn out. That dissolution is neither error or mistake, but is of the holy.

This is why close personal relationships can be so achingly painful, on the one hand, while simultaneously being the most majestic and transmutative temple on the other.


Art credit: Owl, as sol and luna, clay sculpture by Krista Marleena

Monday, May 3, 2021

Trauma, safety, and companionship


Trauma occurs when our capacity to process emotional and somatic experience is overwhelmed.

One of the things we’ve learned about trauma is that it’s not so much what happens that causes an experience to be embodied as trauma, but how it comes to be organized in the nervous system.

What is most impactful is whether there is an empathic other who can help us to hold and metabolize what would otherwise be fragmenting. The nature of this “other” is of the mystery and can take inner and outer forms.

The journey is inside the neural network which is holding the unprocessed soul-material, and to infuse it with qualities and experiences not previously available: trust, courage, companionship, validation, love.

But more than anything, the network is updated by way of an embodied, felt sense of safety.

We might see trauma as involving two core components: overwhelming experience, on the one hand, and the felt experience of aloneness on the other. Not only do we have these very unworkable, terrifying flooding images, feelings, and sensations, but at some very basic level we’re alone with all that.

Perhaps it is the aloneness, in the end, that is so devastating to us as sensitive, relational human beings.

As an act of mercy and compassion, we are asked to take care of that frozen, confused one who has become stuck in the time machine of trauma and implicit memory, to ensure that he or she is not alone.

That we’ll listen to them, be there for them, and hold them so they’re able to feel felt and understood, and more than anything to know that they are safe now, perhaps for the first time ever. To invite the shattered one into a safe field where he or she can be seen and known.

To bear witness to their untold story as it unfolds across verbal, somatic, and autonomic narratives:

“Yes, I hear you, I see you, I want to know you, hold you, care for you, listen to you. I will not forget you. I will not forsake you. You are no longer alone. You are safe now.”


Photo by serenestarts

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Holding the orphans of psyche and soma


You don't have to fix anyone's problems. You don’t have to save them, heal them, or urgently get them to take on your favorite beliefs, theories, and techniques.

Just be there with them so that they feel felt and understood. When they look up at you, you are really there.

Listen, to the story they are telling you, of how they are making sense of their experience. Listen also to the somatic story, to the secret, sensitive language emerging from their body and their heart.

And also listen carefully to their story of safety and what makes them feel safe. This story is told in the language of the nervous system and will speak to you if you attune to it.

Momentarily bracket your beliefs, ideas, and systems of change. With the poetic beauty and power of your mirror neuron system, enter into the miracle we-space with them, where they can know for just one moment that they are not alone.

I'm with you. I'm here. I feel you. I understand you.

Extend to them a soothed nervous system, a sanctuary of holding, a field of permission where their experience can unfold without any pressure for it to shift, change, or heal. Remove the burden that they become someone or something else in order for you to stay close.

For just a few moments, resist the temptation to “teach” them, but instead “reach” them.

The mind will doubt if this is enough… but the body knows. The heart knows.

We are able to do this to the degree with are in touch with the orphans of soma and psyche that dance out our own unlived life – the unmet grief, the untouched sadness, the unmetabolized rage.

If we are not in conscious, embodied, and compassionate contact with these ones, we will not be able to recognize and hold them as they surge in the interactional field, and our friend will not feel safe to access, articulate, and integrate what is alive within them.

The Other – whether manifesting outside us or taking internal form – is not in need of new information, strategies, techniques, or beliefs, but longs and burns for you… your presence, your tenderness, your raw unfiltered being, your love.