In a moment of activation, when your emotional world is on fire, the core beliefs are threatening to take you down, and the way forward is hazy... the invitation is to slow way, way down. Separate a bit from the chaos and step off the battlefield. Stay close to yourself for you need yourself now more than ever. But not so close that you fall in, become flooded, or fused with the visitors. In between repression and urgent acting out is a refuge, the holy middle territory of intimacy without fusion. Go there. Rest there. Open to further vision.
Breathe deeply from your lower belly. Feel your feet on the ground. Surround yourself in warmth and holding. Feel how spacious the emotions truly are. They are made of space. You are made of space. Not a cold, dry, distant space, but one that is overflowing with the qualities of aliveness, connection, luminosity, and kindness. Soothe the shock to your nervous system in whatever way works best for you—take a walk, go out in nature, call a friend, lay your hands on your heart, draw or paint, write in your journal, do some yoga, make yourself a nourishing meal, roll around with your dog. Engage your senses. See. Listen. Touch. Smell. Taste.
Once you have calmed a bit, you can slowly begin to invite the previously abandoned material back into your conscious experience, where you can tend to it at a pace that is right for you, slowly training yourself to tolerate, contain, open into, and metabolize the heated material with the cooling rain of empathy, presence, kindness, and self-compassion.
This is not easy work, it’s not usually going to feel immediately peaceful or blissful, and has a way of initiating all sorts of secondary feelings of unsafety, shame, abandonment, and unworthiness. It is often messy and vulnerable and sticky and hot and claustrophobic. But it is alive. And not always what it appears. It is being illuminated from within. You can do it—one second at a time, two seconds, three seconds, and then rest. You can descend underneath the swirling storyline for just a moment (you can return to it later for reauthoring from a more soothed, grounded place) and tend to the achy, intelligent, creative surges within you.
Over time, as you attend to yourself in a new way, as you renew your vow to no longer abandon yourself, you may come to discover a certain freedom that is always present, even as you push yourself into unknown territory. Like any muscle, the more you practice, the more the pathways of empathic attunement will grow and develop, and over time it will become second nature and not require a lot of effort to engage. I never cease to be astonished at how those I have worked with have evolved this capacity over time—not years, but weeks and months.
Even those with the most profound, deeply embedded trauma and attachment wounding—the plasticity of the human brain and the courage of the human heart to seed new pathways are outrageous and truly awesome. But we must go slow. And honor the reality of what it really means to change, to encode new circuitry, and to allow love to come alive here.