People are all we've got
How our relationships can heal us
Good morning. How are we?
Our most basic sense of wellbeing comes from the feeling that we belong. When we feel connected to our bodies, and safely held in the hearts & mind of other people - anything seems possible. Recovery from trauma, loss and heartache comes from developing a sense of safety in ourselves and nurturing our relationships. Although therapy can help us get there, the good news is that we can work on these things ourselves and for free!
In Bessel van Der Kolk’s book “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” he describes how traumatic experiences literally reshape the brain and body. Life events can cause us to mistrust other people or lose faith in a sense of fairness in the world and we feel the physical effects of these experiences through symptoms such as depression, dissociation or panic attacks.
Van der Kolk’s research into the neuroscience of healing teaches us that being able to feel safe with other people is the “single most important aspect of mental health”. Recovery from difficult life experiences is possible if we can connect with others and allow ourselves to understand what is going on within us, whilst processing the memories.
“Social support is not the same as merely being in the presence of others. The critical issue is reciprocity: being truly heard and seen by the people around us, feeling that we are held in someone else's mind and heart. For our physiology to calm down, heal, and grow we need a visceral feeling of safety. No doctor can write a prescription for friendship and love”
Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
You may not realise it, but you are probably already doing many things that help achieve this sense of safety with others. If you volunteer at a food bank, play in a sports team or if you have a colleague at work who asks about your weekend and actually cares what you respond, that is the foundation block of helping our brain process difficult experiences.
When I think about this concept, I’m reminded of my friend Sam who has called me most days since we started secondary school, although our conversations are never longer than 5 minutes and he rarely asks how I am, just knowing that I am a person who is active in his brain makes me feel humanised.
Some questions for you to consider -
Who do you feel most safe around?
Who makes you feel loved?
When is your body most relaxed?
In which environment do you like yourself the most?
Which group of people make you feel good in yourself?
What’s nice is that we have control over where we invest our energy into. In this stressful world that’s full of obligation and duty, I hope you are able to pour energy and time into the people/animals/things that make you feel good.