WHAT IT IS LIKE TO OPEN UP
When you were small and having a good time playing with a favourite toy and then all of a sudden you felt tired and your face crumpled... What happened in that moment when you were seen by the person watching over you?
Did they rush to meet your need? Anxious to be a good parent?
Was their holding and stroking too much for you? More than you wanted?
Did they shush you? Tell you there is nothing wrong?
Did they chastise you - don’t cry!
Or throw guilt - don’t make me come over there! Don’t upset me!
Did they have to stop your feeling because watching you cry was too painful for them?
Or did someone come over, ask what was wrong, respond to your need and honour it?
And so today when you have a feeling - something on your heart - do you share it?
Whether you do or don’t has everything to do with how your early expressions were held.
For most of us sharing our experience feels difficult. Often impossible. The demands of others loom large. They outweigh us.
To speak our experience feels selfish, rude, uncaring, or inappropriate.
Notice how quickly we apply these labels to ourselves.
The mind always has a reason why we shouldn’t bring ourselves to the table.
The mind always has a reason why we are wrong.
Our minds can convince us of anything in service of keeping our bodies feeling safe. I.e. in service of keeping us as we have always been. As we have been brought up to be.
Having a developmental perspective - by that I mean understanding that how we are in relationship today has everything to do with how we were met when we were young - can help us to make a new choice in the present.
We can say “I understand I am reluctant to share this thing with people and I understand that this is something that I learned early on and is not necessarily true in the moment.”
Sharing the thing never feels good right away. In fact it feels absolutely wrong.
I’m not suggesting we contradict what our gut says.
I’m suggesting that making a new choice in relationship rarely feels easy.
It’s important to know that. To know that we live in bodies conditioned by years of largely mis-understood interactions as our brains formed. This misunderstanding is inevitable as we develop in the sense we make of the world.
And that despite what our minds tell us our patterns are still based on these early experiences.
And this is why growing in relationship hurts. Relationships hurt. And growing in them hurts too.
Because to grow we have to make different choices. We have to consider the possibility that there is something different available to us.
That even though we feel like what we have to say is unacceptable - this was learned when our parents didn’t know what to do with us and didn’t understand the impact they were having.
In fact being able to say what we have to say as adults is crucial. It’s life giving. It’s everything.
So much of our suffering is not being able to speak what is true for us.
This I am discovering. There is more listening available than I thought. More curiosity. More care. More space. More room.
More than I imagined.
And I can see that I learned things that were not true about what was possible in connection with other people.
It’s not easy to take up the space or hope for the caring response of another but I’ll never find out if it’s there if I don’t try something new and open up a bit.
And I suspect this is true for you too.