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  • Annelisa MacBean

Helping Others

So many of us feel shame about our trauma and wounding, as if it is evidence that we’ve failed, it’s our fault, and that we should be able to “get over it” and heal on our own.

Even if we “know” that these conclusions are not accurate, these relational wounds and resulting beliefs live intrinsically and subliminally in our sensitive bodies and nervous systems, where they remain open for neural revisioning when relational conditions ripen and can accommodate the transformation. Our increasingly disembodied and left-brain dominant culture isn’t helping! We live in a social soup that is giving rise to the contemporary fantasy that we “should” all be able to do everything, all the time, on our own. This includes resolving our wounds and healing our psyches and hearts. The containment and holding humans (and all mammals require,) which used to be provided by family, tribe and community, has broken down. It has been replaced by our devices and the constant cortisol drip of a sympathetically agitated collective.


Our individual and shared emotional pain is tragic in and of itself, but underneath it is the underlying shame and deep sense of being alone, which is at the root of trauma. It’s no wonder that trauma, anxiety and PTSD are becoming the common place descriptors of human experience now. When we are young it is overwhelming to hold and metabolize fear and anxiety on our own. But as we grow, we find friends, partners, therapists and other helpers who can support us to stay connected to our bodies. We discover that with access to the stable nervous systems of others, our windows of tolerance can expand. This alchemical blending allows us to integrate experience that outside the relational field would otherwise send us into unworkable states of fight, flight, or fawn. As relational mammals, we are wired to co-regulate. We are not meant to “do it all on our own” and it is not an indication that something is “wrong” with us if we cannot always contain our own wounding. Rather, it is evidence we are alive, with an open, sensitive, majestic, and sometimes achy human nervous system. We can do so much for one another, to help hold and transmute both transgenerational, biographical, and collective trauma. Slowing down, attending with presence and with our incredible mirror neurons, listening deeply, and simply BEING with another in a way that communicates that we are feeling and understanding them. Our world so desperately this needs this nourishing generosity right now. If you want to help someone in your life, help them to feel safe. Instead of “I am alone” with this fear, pain, and grief, “We are here together, and healing is happening now.” And when you are done, when this moment with your friend or spouse or loved one has passed . . . take a deep breath, notice that your nervous system is saturated with love and peace and is complete for now . . . and then transmit this embodied realization into the neural circuitry of the world.



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