Having a relational home as Robert Stolorow puts it in his book Trauma and Human Existence, is necessary for you to feel safe enough to connect with your hurts. If the relationship, whether it be with a therapist, friend or family member is not safe, it will be difficult if not impossible to heal your hurts. Trusting comes from feeling safe and even when you can't trust yourself, you will know when it is safe to put your trust in someone else, trust that knowing however small it seems to you. It is a doorway for you to enter a safe place where you can finally be heard, mirrored, validated and empathised with.
Peter Levine talks about going for a walk and suddenly being flat on the ground, hurt and frightened after a car had hit him in his book In an Unspoken Voice. It was only when a woman, who was gentle, calm and kind came and held his hand and was 'just with him', that he felt safe. He says that maybe he might not have recovered so fast and might even have developed PTSD had this woman not provided this safe place for him to feel cocooned. As a result he was able to begin discharging some of the frightening sensations and emotions characteristic of immobilisation/freeze that were coursing through his body at the time.
Harville Hendrix talks about three steps to establish contact, connection and communion in Receiving Love: Transform Your Relationship by Letting Yourself be Loved which can be applied to any relationship. They are:
- I am listening so carefully that I can mirror back to you what you've just said.To mirror, I exercise my capacities for separate knowing and receiving.
- I affirm you and your right to have these feelings and hold these opinions.To validate, I exercise my capacities for connected knowing and giving.
- I can enter into your world and feel what you are feeling.To empathise, I exercise my capacities for connected knowing and giving.
We can mirror, validate and empathise through dialogue but as Peter Levine's example shows, sometimes words aren't necessary. We can transmit the same messages non verbally with just our presence, that's how powerful relationship can be for healing.
When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen ~ Ernest Hemingway