Happy Spring, again!
The dogwood in our front yard has started to bloom.
And happy Covid spring, or at least we can see that spring is going to come. My beloved and I will get our second vaccinations in less than two weeks.
I am always trying to draw maps of the healing journey. I feel more secure if I have some way to assess where I am, where I’ve been and where I am trying to get to.
So last week I drew a map, or map-ish. You can access the entire PDF by entering your email at the top of the page and adding yourself to my mailing list.
I was thinking about all the protocols and processes and interpersonal technologies that support the healing of developmental trauma, and about what it is like walking that healing path. And these three things seemed like the most basic building blocks, the foundational slab on which all of the growth work is built:
Inner Witness, Safety and Support, and Relationship
To be clear, relationship could be said to be the start, end, and middle of developmental trauma healing. It is where the ultimate wounds are and where the ultimate healing eventually takes place.
But in terms of getting started with healing my developmental trauma, I need to at least be able to manage the basics of connection with a healing provider, and/or with other supportive humans, and in that connection have some minimum level of communication and trust.
And I need to be able to at least feel a little bit supported, to feel some nuggets of safety here or there. Safety and Support.
And I need to be able to see myself as an observer might, I need to not be completely identified with every feeling and experience that I have from moment to moment. Inner Witness.
With those three foundational elements in place, we have the possibility to work on various other elements of healing, like the ones in this slide.
Different healing modalities focus on different elements, and potentially they can all work. “Just” playing and feeling joy can open up profound avenues of healing for those of us who could not previously find joy or play.
Many kinds of activities support healing, growth, and ease, none are wrong as long as they work for you and don’t cause harm.
So, interestingly, after working on this presentation (it’s 9 slides total) I have been doing a practice sometimes of just focusing on the three foundational elements of inner witness, safety and support, and relationship, and I have found that practice quite helpful, both expansive and solidifying, for me.
My inner process has gone something like this:
“I have a witness, I can see myself. (I can even see myself seeing myself.)
In observing myself with a bit of distance, I can feel how my emotions and crises are just weather, they are not as big as they feel in the moment.
I am safe, secure and supported.
I can’t feel that totally, but I know it’s true. I can look around in my mind and see the people and communities who care about me. I let myself feel as much support as my system will allow. I relax, knowing that day by day and month by month I am learning how to feel safe and supported. And I know it’s ok that it is taking me time to feel safe.
I can relate to people.
I can see humanity in people.
I can be curious about people.
My old habit of deep fear is still there, but even with the fear, I can still be kind and curious.
And like with safety, my capacity for connecting more deeply with people is increasing slowly. And it is ok that it takes time.”
Speaking of grafting, Jesus’ disciples talked about people being wild branches grafted into a cultivated tree, that through faith and spiritual practice, they could become part of something deeply rooted and sacred. (Do other spiritual traditions talk about grafting?) In any case, the metaphor provides a slightly clumsy segue into the third level of developmental trauma healing resources, connecting to our feelings and connecting to the “All-One”
The segue is clumsy because in reality I believe we are each already connected to whatever great spiritual presence exists. We don’t need to be sort of glued on, we “just” need to learn to remember that great oneness, wisdom, resource, and deep peace that we are already a part of in some deep place within our selves.
But if I feel like I am not part of the great tree of universal love, and then I imagine myself as a torn branch, being lovingly attached to that tree, I think the metaphor might be helpful even though I don’t think it’s exactly accurate.
I will share one more slide from the presentation.
I invite you to download the PDF, print this page, and fill it in, and then repeat that activity in 6 months or so.
This page is an assessment of the healing elements from all three levels, where you can see where you are compared to where you would like to be with respect to each of these qualities of experience. Recognizing where your superpowers are and where you struggle most might be helpful in finding and following your next steps on your individual path.
I have added the link to the “Developmental Trauma Healing Elements” PDF to my email template (one of the rainbow of colorful buttons below), so if you join my list, you can download this PDF from any email that I will send out in the coming months.
Have a healthy and fruitful spring!