By the time we’re four months old, our interactions with our primary caregiver reveal whether or not we’ll have a secure or insecure attachment—our foundation for all our love relationships.
We learn early and unconsciously which emotions our primary caregiver can welcome in themselves and in us. If they get angry or overwhelmed when we’re scared, for instance, we’ll show less fear, to try to keep their nervous systems regulated so they won’t leave us or hurt us. Similarly, if they can’t rejoice in our joy, we’ll minimize our joy.
Our parent’s window of welcome preexists us, largely established by their own parent’s window for them and any traumatic experiences that are still unheld and unaccompanied. This is one manifestation of intergenerational trauma—generation after generation unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) hands down a “no” to the next generation’s emotional experience and expression, and doesn’t catch our earliest cries for secure resonant connection.
This “no” is, at root, a bid for survival—theirs and ours. And yet hemming in our authentic feelings and needs shaves off essential parts of ourselves. We get smaller and smaller, in order to survive, leaving us with whole swaths of our aliveness unavailable to us.
These unconscious nervous system contracts to be smaller—sacred vows, as author Sarah Peyton refers to them—are like fierce invisible bands straining to hold back our powerful life energy. Without understanding the constricting presence of these unconscious vows, we think we’re simply failing to act, rather than being held back from acting.
Of course, sometimes we manage to break our vows—our fear bubbles over and spills out, for instance—but then we generally try to rein ourselves back in with a shame-filled cycle of self-recrimination, self-judgment, and self-blame. Our shame tries to keep us safely within others’ windows of welcome, using our parent’s narrowest window as an outdated template for all other relationships.
When we’re little, we must fit inside our parent’s and our culture’s windows to survive. But when we’re older, we can gather the external support and cultivate the internal resonance we need for self-love and real welcome for all of our life energy.
Some of us are lucky enough to receive a full warm welcome in the first two years of our lives, but thankfully if we don’t our brains are still neuroplastic and it’s never too late to create that necessary foundation of welcome and secure attachment.
To feel and express our empowering anger cleanly and healthily, we need our anger welcomed and resonated with by a loving figure. Same with our precious fear, our life-serving grief, our life-fueling hope. We can only feel as much joy as we can be met in and still be loved.
Through my deep spiritual counseling, you are fully loved, fully welcomed, fully resonated with, especially in your prickly places. We support you in healing to live—noticing together each place you get held back from moving toward your dreams and gently exploring and releasing related vows, rescuing past selves frozen in painful moments, and acknowledging and healing intergenerational traumas.
For the first time in two years, I have one weekly session time currently available, as well as one biweekly session. I generally work with clients seeking long-term relational healing support, who want to explore and nurture their rich inner lives to expand their outer lives, all in the context of nonviolence and social justice.
Message me today to schedule your initial session—in person in my Oakland office, or over phone or Skype—and we’ll get started on warmly welcoming you into your wholeness.
Much love and empathy,