One of the most powerful sensations is feeling seen and heard. There’s almost something magical that happens when we are able to share a wounded part of ourselves with someone that bears witness, holds space, and shows compassion.
Most of my clients have experienced some sort of trauma that’s carved its way into their life story. A moment when there was some disconnect between the way they expected the world to be and the way it was. A disconnect that rocked their world. Caused hurt, pain, suffering, loss, and confusion.
It’s like your life is a model train set chugging along the track and someone picked you up and set you down askew. You’re off-kilter. You can’t get in the groove. You're spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.
While sharing our stories is healing, bringing these things up, allowing our vulnerability to show is so hard.
My own life was turned upside down in 2016 and 2017 by a series of traumatic events that unfolded unexpectedly and in quick succession. As chaos surrounded me, I held onto the image of myself as a strong person that can do it all herself.
I remember going to networking events and putting on a happy face. When people asked how I was doing I would lie, "I'm great!"
Afterward, I would get in my car and cry as I drove back to my office.
It's not just that I was suffering. The disconnect between how I presented myself and how I genuinely felt enhanced the pain I experienced. I was mad at myself for feeling bad and disappointed for being insincere.
Deep down, I was scared that my suffering meant I was no longer lovable and so I hid. For a while I even hid from myself, refusing to acknowledge the gravity of my struggles. And as long as I kept them hidden away in the dark crevices, my suffering grew and became all-consuming.
Fred Rogers once said, "Anything that is human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we talk about our feelings they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone."
And here is yet another disconnect. That so many of us suffer alone and in silence because we fear rejection or humiliation for our human experiences. As though suffering is a sign of weakness and struggles are a sign of incompetence. Such loneliness exacerbates things.
I recall how my own loneliness through that time added insult to injury. Not only was I suffering, but I convinced myself that my struggles were entirely unique to me. That I was broken beyond repair. That nobody could possibly understand what I was going through.
As a result, I became more isolated and overwhelmed. And I couldn't show up as the leader, the parent, the entrepreneur, the wife, or the friend that I wanted to be. I was depleted. At some point, the disconnect between my inner reality and my outer presentation become too unbearable.
In order to mention our human experiences, especially the ones that we feel shame around, we must first be honest with ourselves. The pages of my journal offer the space for such revelations to emerge. I first admitted to myself that I was tired of not feeling like me before I could fully name what I was going through.
And then came the harder part, finding the people I could trust with this important talk. We've all experienced a time when we showed our vulnerability only to be cast aside. Those moments cause us to erect walls around our hearts that keep us from mentioning the truth of our human experiences.
How do you know when you've found a person and a space you can trust with bearing your heart?
We have a plethora of spaces where people can brag and present their "perfect life" to the world. But there's a dearth of opportunity to have conversations of the heart.
Parker Palmer calls such spaces for speaking from the heart, circles of trust, in his book A Hidden Wholeness. And the rules of those spaces are simple, no fixing, no advising and no correcting each other. It is a space to listen and hold each other in compassion.
I want you to pause a moment and reflect, when was the last time you were in a conversation where you abstained from fixing, advising, or correcting the other person?
There's a dearth of these safe spaces, not only because we as a society refuse to accept our shared human experiences - that others struggle like me. But because we have learned and ingrained in ourselves that the role of conversation is to solve problems and to be right.
We've been conditioned to enter conversations as though we're presenting evidence in the court of law. We have to re-train ourselves to engage in conversations with an open mind and heart, where the end goal is not about being right but about listening to connect.
And so, in order to find space where we are able to speak from our hearts and share our truths, we must find leaders who are modeling openness and listening to connect. These are two of the most important essentials in Conversational Intelligence because they set a tone of compassion.
Once we find such spaces, where others bear witness to our stories we are able to stitch together the disconnects that caused our spirit to fray. We are able to see we are whole and complete just as we are. That it's the stories we tell ourselves that are incomplete because they don't fully acknowledge the truth of our shared human experience.
Are you ready to find a space where you can be with others that have open hearts and listen to connect? Lori Ozzello said, "Journal Jam is good for my soul." Perhaps it could be good for yours too. Check out the next Journal Jam on December 1.