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  • Writer's pictureAnnelisa MacBean


During times of uncertainty and transition, I will inevitably be asked to be present for a companion, friend, family member, or client who is in the process of falling apart, unraveling, hopeless, and scared.

I find it quite natural to want to do whatever I can to help them feel better. One of my practices is to listen carefully to what it is they are truly asking for. I want to offer to them a calm, soothed nervous system where their experience can be validated and held, exactly as it is. I would like to ensure them that they need not "get over it," "accept everything as it is," "stay in the present," shift, transform, or heal in order for me to stay close.

But to provide such an environment, I must first offer safe passage for the unconscious and unmetabolized in myself: the unmet sadness, unacknowledged fear, discarded grief, disavowed hopelessness, and disembodied aloneness. Otherwise, I invariably rush to analyze, educate, or talk them out of their experience prematurely. Those parts of me that I can't meet are urgently spinning to relieve my friend or client of their feelings as a way to cut into my own anxiety and discomfort. Sadly, subtly and unconsciously I am turning away from the brilliance and intelligence attempting to emerge from the darkness and pain.

A personal practice that I find helpful is to observe the ways I judge and pathologize my own experiences. I am growing in awareness of the way my body and consciousness contract. It is physically noticeable, which leads me to an opportunity to choose . . . to choose to relax, expand and accept. Fear is not pathology. Hopelessness is not pathology. Grief is not pathology. They are path.

Being present to the pieces of my own broken world helps me to create a container of empathy and love for the crumbled hopes and dreams of others. Together we can hold and tend to the pieces with the light of our shared perception.The various shapes and forms that love takes in our lives will always fall apart – for this is the fundamental nature of movement, life, evolution – things fall apart in order to come back together in more integrated and cohesive ways.

Do whatever you can to help others in whatever way you are able: attune to their emotional experience such that they feel felt, listen carefully to what they are saying, and how they are attempting to make sense of this emerging experience.

Slow way down, contain your favorite psychological and spiritual theories, and sink into the space you are sharing together. Know your heart, speak kind words, and be the vessel for safe passage as soul reveals its mysteries. Love is here and is alive.

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