Just let me hold you

October 27, 2016 psychologyWriting  No comments

SPOILER ALERT: from this point on, I will be examining Running to Stand Still in-depth. If you haven’t read it yet, and don’t want it spoiled for you, stop reading now.

Our capacity to destroy one another is matched by our capacity to heal one another…
Language gives us the power to change ourselves and others by communicating our experiences, helping us to define what we know, and finding a common sense of meaning… We have the ability to regulate our own physiology, including some of the so-called involuntary functions of the body and brain, through such basic activities as breathing, moving, and touching… We can change social conditions to create environments in which children and adults can feel safe and where they can thrive.

Holding space is a theme that defines the romances that I write. In many ways, because the ability to be held, to be protected, is a large part of my own experience with love in my own relationship. But also, because I know just how important it really is to overcome the things that happen to us.

Collin, from his inception inside my head, was always this gentle, caring, attentive guy. He needed to be to be a match for Jamie. Dr. van der Kolk’s work helped me to deepen his character, his actions, his motivations.Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.02.13 PM                       

Romance as a genre is so moving and powerful because it draws on our strongest, most intense emotions. And emotions are the heart of life.

Emotions give shape and direction to whatever we do.

  Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.03.24 PM    

Being Held
The most natural way that we humans calm down our distress is by being touched, hugged, or rocked.

    Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.05.47 PM

  Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.05.53 PM

   Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.07.20 PM

  Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.07.25 PM

Safety and Protection
Darwin goes on to observe that the fundamental purpose of emotions is to initiate movement that will restore the organism to safety and physical equilibrium.

Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.

Safety and terror are incompatible. When we are terrified, nothing calms us down like the reassuring voice or the firm embrace of someone we trust.

 Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.10.11 PM
 Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.10.17 PM

Developing Trust
The most common response to distress is to seek out people we like and trust to help us and give us the courage to go on. 

     Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.14.03 PM

Holding Space
When the message we receive from another person is ‘You’re safe with me,’ we relax. If we’re lucky in our relationships, we also feel nourished, supported, and restored as we look into the face and eyes of the other.

     Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.15.37 PM

    Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.16.55 PM

    Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.17.59 PM

Being heard
Tell the truth, even if that truth was brutally painful.

Collin pushes Jamie to confront herself and open up to him again and again. He wants to understand her, but he also wants her to know that she can share her darkest secrets with him. That he is a safe depository for her. And because he honors the sacredness of her being honest with him, she can share things like her past and the reoccurring dream she has with him.

You need a guide who is not afraid of your terror who can contain our darkest rage, someone who can safeguard the wholeness of you while you explore the fragmented experiences that you had to keep secret from yourself for so long.

Feeling listened to and understood changes our physiology; being able to articulate a complex feeling, and having our feelings recognized, lights up our limbic brain and creates an “aha moment.” In contrast, being met by silence and incomprehension kills the spirit. Or, as John Bowlby so memorably put it: “What cannot be spoken to the [m]other cannot be told to the self.”

Finding words where words were absent before and, as a result, being able to share your deepest pain and deepest feelings with another human being. This is one of the most profound experiences we can have, and such resonance, in which hitherto unspoken words can be discovered, uttered, and received, is fundamental to healing the isolation of trauma—especially if other people in our lives have ignored or silenced us. Communicating fully is the opposite of being traumatized.

 Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.19.53 PM

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.

Romance, at its core, is about happiness. That finding happiness is possible. Being whole again is possible.

And I love exploring that healing process in the context of a relationship. Because the love of another person—who is able to hold space for us—is the most powerful source we can access to unlearn the things we need to unlearn, face the demons we need to face, overcome the mountains we need to overcome.

For every act of cruelty in this world there are hundreds of small acts of kindness and connection.


All italicized quotes are direct from The Body Keeps the Score.
pgs. 39, 75, 215, 75, 79, 210, 88, 78, 233, 211, 232, 235, 79, 79


Until next time, farewell & may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity. 

Share Button

Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>