For me, as a life coach and practitioner for trauma healing it is a basic understanding that presence is key for healing our emotional wounds. But how do we apply this to our everyday life? How much presence can we expect from our partner, family members and friends? This is a question that I have been asking myself a lot lately.
No one without shadow
We all have aspects of our self that are not fully conscious, that have been split off and moved to the subconscious during an emotionally challenging situation in order for us to be able move on beyond that experience. These aspects are frozen in time and still carry these negative emotions. They only show themselves when we get triggered and the stored emotions break through to be recognized. By allowing these supressed emotions to just be, by giving them our presence, we reconnect with the split aspects of self and a re-integration can begin.
For some emotions like isolation or abandonment however, it is in my experience crucial to go through the process of re-integration with someone else by your side. This way our split aspects learn that there are actual people there who love and care for us and who are willing to be with us no matter what. They learn that the original trauma of being left alone is not a reality anymore.
Thus, having someone holding space for us when we go through an emotionally challenging time can be an incredibly healing experience. When we have our partner, a family member or a friend being loving and fully present with us when we cry, rant or express our despair, all aspects of ourselves that hold these emotions learn that they are lovable regardless. This in and of itself may already initiate an emotional healing.
So often we do not need comforting or wise words. We simply need someone to be there with us, showing us that they see us and love us all the same when we feel this way.
What do we do however, if our partner, friend or family member is in an emotionally challenging phase as well? And what do we do if they have a similar emotional wound than we and are not capable of facing it right now by being fully present with us? When our pain triggers their shadow aspects? (And actually, considering the law of attraction, having people with similar wounds in our lives is quite likely.)
I have experienced this a few times over the course of my life with different people. For instance, a while ago I reached out to a friend of mine when I was in a painful conflict with a family member who had violated my boundaries repeatedly and did not even understand what I was talking about when I communicated this. The situation was growing acute and I felt desperate because I did not know how to solve that conflict. I really needed somebody to talk to, so I called my friend. She would usually be very compassionate and supportive. But this time she behaved differently. She seemed somehow distant and instead of taking time to talk as she would usually do, she only confirmed that this is a tricky situation, apologized for how busy she was the next days and very soon ended the call.
I did not understand what was going on and an old trauma of nobody wants to be around me when I am in a bad place got triggered. Only weeks later when we talked again she told me that she was struggling with a very similar issue by that time. She did not know how to handle it herself and had decided to cope by ignoring that issue in her life. Thus, she did not feel ready at all to deal with my issue around the same topic. Even more so, she was not conscious of her dismissive response back then. She emotionally disconnected from me just like we all usually dissociate from overwhelming emotions – unconsciously.
Of course, I do not want to trigger pain in the people I reach out for. I do not want people I care about to struggle while being there for me. But at the same time, their unavailability or emotional distancing can actually reinforce an isolation or abandonment trauma. So, how to solve that dilemma?
Awareness and communication
Situations like that hold an incredible opportunity for healing for both parties involved. But not always do we feel ready to dive into the dark spheres of our shadow aspects. And not always are we even aware of what is going on. It is rather a subconscious trigger “Ping Pong” between the two parties than a conscious play. My pain triggers the trauma in the other, they unconsciously withdraw, which then triggers an abandonment trauma in me…
Therefore, awareness is the first step for healing the situation. We need to be aware of our expectations. We need to understand why the behaviour of our friend or partner hurts us and how we would want him or her to react instead. We need to see and feel our own emotional wound that was triggered in the situation.
Once we are aware of our trigger we can engage in shadow work to resolve the underlying trauma we experienced. But I believe we should also communicate to our friend or partner how we felt in the situation and what kind of reaction we would want to have instead. For instance I told my friend that I understand if she does not always have the capacity to be fully present with me in challenging times. But that I really need to know that she still cares and loves me in order for not feeling rejected or abandoned. So I asked her to communicate this very clearly to me when similar situations occur.
Of course it would be great if the other person did engage in shadow work as well to resolve their part of the trigger Ping Pong. But not always are they ready to face the emotional trauma, nor might they even be aware of a trauma being triggered. And in the end, the only thing we can truly change, is ourselves.
How much understanding is healthy?
However, with all the understanding we might have for the other one not being able to face their emotional wounds and to be present with us in a certain situation, we should not forget to have compassion and love for ourselves, too. If we are in a relationship where there is no balance between giving and receiving presence and support we should ask ourselves if it is self loving to maintain that relationship. Even though relationships are such a great tool for our expansion, sometimes leaving a relationship might be the option for an even greater expansion.
But this article is not meant to encourage you to leave everyone behind, who is not always 100 % the support you would wish for. Let’s be honest, no matter how empathic we are, we cannot guarantee that ourselves! I wrote this to remind us that we are all human, we all have emotional wounds and sometimes relationships are just not easy with all this unconscious baggage.
Hence after communicating my needs as clearly as I can, I decided to rather be grateful for every moment that I experience true unconditional presence instead of expecting everyone in my surrounding to be fully available and present every single time I am in need. With this perspective, my cup gets filled little by little with precious moments and the unconditional love all my still unconscious aspects are longing for.