Holding Tender Hearts

It has been a really full week for me, yet at the same time, the week has just begun. So, I took some time to reflect on what is it that is causing me to have the experience that it’s so full? 

Well, what I’ve com to decide, is it’s because there have been so many moments of holding that sacred space for tender hearts. When that is the kind of space that I’m holding, it’s important for me to be able to call a pause and take time to be with what is. I do this in order to process all of the transformational changes that happen for many others, and for myself. 

A couple of the experiences that have really touched me this week is working with others who their whole life experience has felt like a big struggle to ever feel like they belong or that they fit in. In fact, they are pretty convinced that they don’t. That’s their life experience. This is compounded by an incomprehension or inability to know how to actually engage with other people. It feels really awkward because they were never supported to develop those skill sets when they were little. 

This can be caused by neglect, and neglect can show up in many, many different ways. Emotional neglect can be very debilitating, and so painful. It’s like it is almost invisible in our society, for there to even be acknowledgment that there is such neglect exists. Unfortunately, it does. 

And, I’m here to hold that space that says no one needs to stay stuck there. I know it’s super painful, or at the time it can feel like you are numb or just invisible and that nobody can see you. When you begin to heal it can be shocking to find out, “You mean people can see me? I thought I was invisible.” 

These are really young parts, and they need to be held with exquisite gentleness precise empathy guesses, for their whole sense of self to begin to form. It’s like that got passed over and now there is a new opportunity that resonant warmth provides in relationship with a trusted other. 

Sometimes when this comes up, the body of the person that’s experienced the trauma, it impulsively reacts the way it always has. So, I have a prop here to show you a little bit of what that might look like. Someone might crumple down so they can hide. Or they cover up their face with a pillow. Or, they smoosh their face into the pillow because anytime somebody puts something right up to their face, especially here (to the forehead) this is the body letting you know that they are needing to get the blood to come back up to the prefrontal cortex. So they can calm. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the brain in the palm of your hand, it’s fairly accurate in size. The wrist is the spinal column, the palm is the brain stem, the thumb folding over is the limbic system and we’d have two of them because we have right and left hemispheres. The fingers coming down over the top represents the prefrontal cortex. The middle two fingers, the tips of them, touch all these parts. We want to build a superhighway between the middle prefrontal cortex and the alarm system, the amygdala. 

Because the amygdala is reading your environment all the time, “Am I safe? Do I matter?” When our body recognizes something in our environment from our past when we didn’t matter and we weren’t safe, we flip our lid. So, all of the 25 watts of electricity that we have in our system, it all is then gone to the amygdala. 

We lose our ability to stay present. So, when somebody comes in a smooshes their face into a pillow when I’m working with them, I am not going to make them wrong, or shame them. I want to join them and model back to them that I understand with compassion. “Oh, that’s really soft! Hmm, I like that, what’s it feel like to you?” I want to meet them right there, right where they are because I’m imagining that it’s a really young part that never was met that way. And that is so important. 

So, I was inspired, because that’s important information that many people don’t have access to. How important it is to stay relational. When something surprises you, take a breath and come into your body. Have a practice, have a little pillow, or something that helps to bring soothing in. 

One of the things that I invite my clients to consider is to create a safe space, a special space that is just for them. It could be a comfy chair, it could be a lounge, it could be a swing, and to put things in this space that they enjoy that brings beauty and joy and soothing to them. Then, to take time to go and be in this place every day, to nurture themselves. Because they really matter and their experience matters. 

If you have any kind of resonance with this experience or know someone who has, I encourage you to make a safe haven. Take time to notice, what does your body like? Maybe you want to have a little cup of tea there, read some poetry, listen to some gentle music, or meditate, or pray. To take time to be with what is, and be kind and gentle with yourself.


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