One way to speak about trauma is a state of psychic unbearability. Where thoughts, feelings, sensations, and images begin to loop, cascade, and waterfall upon us.
We cannot contain, tolerate, or hold it. We’re on the edge of utter fragmentation, drowning in a black pool, slipping underneath the quicksand.
To have another person, with a soothed empathic nervous system, near us, resonating right-brain to right-brain, to help us to collect the pieces into a sealed container, can appear as a momentary miracle.
Even if the intensity does not lessen, somehow we sense at a very primordial level that we will not go down. We will make it. There is a sliver of hope. A small piece of light.
To help another in this process of metabolization - to provide a home for that level of overwhelm, terror, and dysregulation - to digest it together and offer it back to them in more manageable bits, is an act of love.
Like a mother bird who eats and partially digests a worm for her sweet little babies before spitting it back into their mouths.
No, we cannot always provide this function and we must be honest with ourselves about our real-time capacities and our agreements with others, at times helping in other ways, including establishing clear boundaries in order to protect our own integrity. To not shame ourselves for what we are able to provide in a given moment.
To offer our listening presence, a blessing, some warmth, a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on; to pray that this one be guided, held, and not forsaken. To set aside our need for them to heal, shift, or transform, “get over” what they are experiencing, or go through it in a way that prevents confrontation with our own unfelt emotional world.
To seed the interactional field with hope, mercy, and kindness... the activity of intergenerational reorganization.
To breathe with them, listen carefully, say even a few simple words, anything so that they feel felt in that moment, that they are not alone.
Never underestimate the power of love and the devastating truth that so many of our dear fellow travelers have never really received this, a safe container in which to tend to overwhelming thoughts, feelings, and memories.
May we do whatever we can to help this world, to bear witness to the wildness of the human heart and nervous system to reorganize, and to the soul shining out of all sentient life.
My new book - A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times - is now available for pre-order at Amazon and will be published by Sounds True in November. Learn more about the book (including a full list of online retailers) and early editorial reviews and endorsements here.
My previous book - The Path is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You - is available at Amazon.