We are all born with an inbuilt need to connect with other humans.
Unlike many of our animal kingdom cousins, humans are born – and remain for a very long time – intensely dependent on the adults in their world to care for them and look after them.
Because of this, we crave the continuous knowledge that we are safe.
The baby who cries when you put him or her down does so because to be put down means you might get left behind when the hunter-gatherer tribe moves on to the next set of fruit trees.
The baby who only sleeps when it’s close enough to it’s mother’s breast that it can smell the milk does so because to be separated from it’s food supply means certain death.
And the baby who kicks and flails whenever it’s having its diaper changed does so because the nervous system is so underdeveloped that it becomes completely overwhelmed by the enormous amount of sensory stimuli assaulting it’s brain all at once.
Before we can learn anything else, we have to guarantee that we will survive – that we will be safe.
Because of the role that worthlessness and disconnection play in self-harm and suicidality, if someone is courageous enough to tell me about what’s going on, I do my best to respond immediately with deeper connection.
I might take them out for coffee, for a walk in the woods or by the water; I might invite them back to my place for dinner and some chill hang out time, or even invite them to spend a night or two with us.
I know that this response is not going to fix all of the underlying reasons for where this person is where they are. That’s not my goal.
My goal is to create an immediate, felt sensation of increased connection for the person – like first-aid for the soul.
The other day, my partner and I were talking about when our (now 17-year-old) child was a baby.
We were talking about how scared we both were.
How completely out of our depth we felt.
And it was the first time either one of us had heard that from the other.
You see, we were young, and scared, and both of us were valiantly trying to hold it together for the other.
But that only got us so far.
We both ended up feeling awfully alone. horribly unsupported, and very isolated that first year. And although part of that was because of a lack of a good support system, part of that was because we were scared to lean in.
Last week’s post ended with this question – ‘What would love do?’ So today I want to explore that a little bit more. And to do that, I need to take you back a few years in my life to winter of 2015, when I decided to try giving up fear for lent. It might seem anContinue reading “‘What Would Love Do?’”