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  • Writer's pictureAnnelisa MacBean

Your Loving Presence

Trauma can sometimes be thought of as a state of unbearable psychic pressure or disorganization. Your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and images begin to loop, the nervous system floods, and a torrent of emotions cascade through and around your body. It's like standing in a waterfall you can't get out from under. The torrent or pressure cannot be contained, tolerated, or held. You're on the edge of utter fragmentation; there can be a sense of claustrophobia, drowning, an inability to catch your breath or find a sense of calm; you're slipping underneath quicksand with no awareness of a life line. To have another person, with a soothed empathic nervous system, near you, resonating right-brain to right-brain, helping you to collect the pieces and reorganize can appear as a momentary miracle. Even if the intensity does not lessen, somehow you sense at a very primal level that you will not go down. You will make it. There is a sliver of hope. To support another in this way - to provide a stable and open presence for that level of overwhelm, terror, and dysregulation - to digest it together and offer it back to them in more manageable bits, is an act of love. Like a mother bird who eats and partially digests a worm for her sweet little babies before spitting it back into their mouths. No, we cannot always provide this function for each other, and we must be honest with ourselves about our real-time capacities and our agreements with others, at times helping in other ways, including establishing clear boundaries in order to protect our own integrity. To not shame ourselves for what we are able, or not able to provide in a given moment. Offering listening presence, a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on; to pray silently that this distressed one be guided, held, and not forsaken. To set aside our need for them to heal, shift, or transform, “get over” what they are experiencing, or go through it in a way that prevents confrontation with our own unfelt emotional world . . . To breathe with them, listen carefully, say even a few simple words, anything so that they feel felt in that moment. They can experience that they are not alone. These are all generous acts that don't fix or change the other person, but validate their precious existence. Never underestimate the power of your particular, unique capacity for love, in just the way you are able to radiate. Realize, as you read this, the devastating truth that so many of our dear fellow travelers in this world have never really been received in a safe container which can hold and tend to their overwhelming thoughts, feelings, and memories. May we all do whatever we can to help this world, to bear witness to the tenderness of the human heart, to the complex delicacy of a reorganizing nervous system, and to the soul shining through all sentient life.


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