Just because we “have” an experience does not mean it is “integrated” and metabolized. Just as the belly can experience leaky gut, undigested emotional and somatic experience can leak from embodied awareness making it difficult to assimilate its essential nutrients.
At times, we will have the internal resources (enzymes of spaciousness and safety) to digest intense experience, while at other times we need the presence of another. This presence does not involve more insight or advice, but right-brain immersion in embodied we-space where we feel felt and understood.
When an experience is “integrated,” it becomes part of a cohesive, retrievable narrative and memory – a whole neural net of bodily sensations and impulses, smells, sounds, thoughts, emotions, and images, all wired up together in a coherent way. We are then able to make use of the experience to support resilience, aliveness, creativity, intimacy, and play, with others and with the phenomenal world.
If the enzymes are not present, the experience is stored outside awareness, limbically and in the body, where it remains available for re-presentation, re-imagination, and re-organization.
Colloquially we refer to this re-presentation as a “trigger,” which is a bit aggressive, however that is often the way it feels. Jung speaks of a complex being “constellated,” which evokes imagery of space and the stars.
In these moments, the little one appears, peeking their head around the corner, longing, “How about now?” “Am I safe to come yet?” “I’m not here to harm you, I just want to return home. I’m tired, scared, and so alone.”
It can be so difficult in the moment to hold that little one that is enraged, anxious, or frightened, to provide just a moment of that true nourishment they have been aching for, for so long. The enzyme of holding, of love, in which they can rest in safety from an exhausting journey.
The shakiness in the belly, constriction in the throat, that deep sense of annihilatory panic... yet somehow the resources, the help, the ally, the friend appears. It may seem that we are alone, but things are not always as they appear.