Tonight I am feeling sad and tired. I don't want to write and writing is always so healing for me. I went to a workshop today by Peter Levine called An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. Peter's new book shares the same title. Peter Levine is an icon in the field of psychotherapy. He is a pioneer in the field and is best known for his work in helping people release trauma from the body. In fact forty years ago when he started his work the idea that the mind and body were connected was quite new. He brought somatic psychology to mainstream psychology with his first book Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma.
He started the workshop by reading the introduction to his book in which he shares about being hit by a car as a pedestrian in 2005. He was visibly moved by reading his account of the horrific accident and said it was the first time he had read the story in public. Seeing him stand on the podium shaken and witnessing him ask for a minute to center himself was quite inspiring. I was awed by his courage and his willingness to be vulnerable. What a role model for expressing emotions. That story and his telling of it made me realize once again that real strength isn't about being stoic and not showing feelings, it is the willingness to be vulnerable. Peter's accident gave him the opportunity to experience the unlocking of trauma from his body first hand. He shared that a woman pediatrician came upon the scene and asked if she could help. He asked her to hold his hand so he could shake and cry and begin to release the trauma from his body. He said he could never have done it alone. Our connection with others helps us to have the strength to be vulnerable. It seems so important to me to get that the people who love me don't only love me when I am joyous and perky. Being emotionally real and asking for help shows great strength and courage. The people I feel closest to are the people who are willing to be themselves with me warts and all. It is sharing those warts, and being accepted for the things we find unacceptable, that creates safety and intimacy in relationships. When I am most in need of support is when I waqnt to reach out the least. I have been working with my long term pattern of isolating myself from my friends when I need help. It is OK to share resolved trauma but ongoing trauma has often felt way too vulnerable. This year I have pushed myself to share my childhood sexual abuse in this blog and with friends and family. Being in a group has really helped too.
Sharing about Gary's house burning down and asking for help has been a real stretch for me and further helped me to grow beyond my pattern. Gary has also allowed himself to receive physical and emotional support. He has always been a rugged individualist," I can do it myself" guy. This reaching out and being vulnerable has made him a stronger person.
This week we were gifted with a couple's therapy session. In the therapist's skillful hands we were able to be more openhearted with each other. I realized I needed to ask for reassurance from Gary that even in the midst of all of this he still loves me. I was thinking that because I wasn't the one who lost my house, it wasn't OK for me to have needs. I was trying to show up for him and set aside my insecurity. When I am not being direct about what I want or need I can get critical and judgemental. That was not at all helpful. When I was able to ask for what I wanted and get reassurance from him I experienced compassion for him flowing over me like warm water. I no longer felt excluded from all of the strong connections he is having with others who lost their homes. Gary realied that even though I can't really understand what he is going through because it didn't happen to me, I want to understand and support him the best I can. We walked out of the session feeling a deeper connection with each other and with more appreciation for our different gifts. I admire Gary's resilency in dealing with his loss and also that he is allowing himself to grieve. His willingness to let himself experience his grieving process seems very strong to me.
Peter Levine talked about learning to hold our own feelings and soothe ourselves with love. This allows trauma to release from our bodies and to experience greater aliveness.
His vision is that if children are held in love for all of what they are feeling and given clear limits, they will grow into adults who are better able to prosper and grow in the midst of whatever comes their way.
I am feeling sad tonight and I am going to go hold myself in my sadness. Is there something you are feeling that you'd like to offer to hold yourself in? Go ahead, it's a strong thing be emotionally vulnerable and to show up for yourself.