Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 Being and Being Seen
Life will vary from infant to infant, child to child,, adult to adult. What makes the difference in outcomes? It is the coherence of a sense of self at our most basic level, the body. When a friend or acquaintance has a coherent sense of self, we call him or her a grounded person. Being is not about what I do. Being is about how I am in relationship to what others do. How do I respond when someone snubs me, criticizes me, gets angry or compliments me? Do I lose my ground, my sense of self, get reactive, feel uncomfortable, withdraw? Can I hold my ground, my biological connection to the earth even when the intensity of an interaction flares up? The more grounded in the body I am the more intense input I can process; the less grounded and the more spacey, dissociated or frozen the less input I can take without exploding in anger or, escaping the experience emotionally by spacing out or physically by running away. Sometimes when an onslaught of criticism, anger or even sadness overwhelms, it is wise to take a break from intensity, a "time out" to reground and take in the intensity of the interaction with loved one, friend, foe or colleague.
The holding environment in which a child is born is crucial for a sense of bodily awareness and coherence. That holding environment is protection for an infant and young child. It protects against impingement , from anything that takes the wee one away from just Being. That includes loud sounds, frantic activities, jarring movements, rough handling. Even as adults we yearn for and deepen holding environments where our nervous system feels calm and soothed, we feel welcome and loved, recognized and acknowledged, seen and accepted. From Grandma's hug with the rich cinnamon smell of baking apple pie in the background to the welcoming eyes of a lover or the calm and flickering candles of a church or other sacred space to the sounds, smells and waves of the surf. It is a need experienced by all mammals. Our bodies feel safe when held by a loving person or nurturing environment. Even the reptile has his safe rock.
I remember walking into psychoanalyst Abe Simon's office in 1970. As he smiled and asked me what I wanted from therapy, I looked this warm, tan-skinned man a few years older than me straight into his brown eyes and from the core of my being cried, "I am so tired of Doing, I just want to Be." At the time I had four lively children, a husband and a large home that required care. I was teaching at NYU and completing a doctoral degree. It was the early seventies. The womens movement was in its infancy and I was doing it all. Being seemed like a faraway dream that day.
Perhaps it was in some way related to the day of my birth when I arrived at home, unexpectedly with only a neighbor to support my mother through the birth. Doctor Kubrick, Stanley's father, did not arrive in time to guide this baby girl rushing in on the fast track. Dad was at work unaware that his beloved daughter was in a hurry. So I arrived early with a fractured left clavicle or collar bone and breathing difficulties. This was not one of the the romanticized home births. It must have been frightening for my young mother and Mrs.Keoh, the neighbor who came to help. Were they too scared and overwelmed to pause, look at the new arrival and say:"Welcome to the world, we see you?" They were busy doing survival things like getting me to breathe, unaware of the broken clavicle until years later when an orthopedist diagnosed it from Xrays following an auto accident.
Things like that happen. Life can be challenging and many years later, I sat in Abe Simon's office hoping to fill in the empty places, those little missing, "I see you's" so I could stop Doing and learn to experience what it is like to just Be. The Beatles were on to something important when they sang, "Let it Be!"
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