My good friend, Lianne, just had a baby. She had an uneventful (but very fast!) home water birth. One of the most beautiful things for me was hearing the story of how she paused after her son was born and just listened to him express the experience he had just gone through. She listened and watched him and how he moved his body to show his experience. They both rested before they did any of the other newborn checks or even trying to get him on the breast.
A couple of days later, they had to drive to the pediatrician for his newborn check-up and they had some difficult moments with the carseat. At just a couple of days old, she was back at the realization that we, as parents, can’t protect our kids from challenges. BUT we can be there for them to listen, just like she did after he was born.
Lianne’s story reminded me of the importance of being there for our kids. It’s how repair happens. It takes listening and pausing long enough to really be present to someone else. That’s the space where healing happens. Not in ignoring it or brushing someone’s feelings aside, but in actually putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
We all need that space. It’s super hard to do it for someone else if we feel like we haven’t been heard. And most of us are carrying a lot of experiences and patterns around those times when we feel we haven’t been heard. This is when we, as parents, will try to convince our kids, partner, or random strangers that they’re wrong or that their feelings aren’t valid, or that they have it easy (insert comparison to when we were growing up and had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to get to school…).
In 2013, I started experimenting with creating a space for parents to feel safe with one another. I had some willing parents who came to online and in-person groups to try out the ideas, and started refining the process so that we left the circles feeling good. I wanted parents to feel seen, heard, and felt, and I wanted them to feel empowered to find their own answers. Where else do we have a space like that? Seriously. I combined what I know about the brain and my Brain Stoplight, along with the social nervous system, dysregulation and regulation, and reflective listening to create what I call Healing Story Circles. I also apply these concepts to the work that I do with families one-on-one to help them find their own way to rewrite the stories in their lives and it’s part of the work I do with couples, as well.
You can try it in your own life if you have a willing partner or friend. These are the basic ideas:
- Slow down. We move too fast and we don’t process anything when we are speeding from place to place.
- Connect with your own body. Breathe. Feel your feet. Pay attention to the textures touching your body and how your body feels in this moment right here, right now.
- Connect with the space you’re in. Where are you? Look around where you’re physically at right now. What do you see? Is there something in your space that brings you joy? Can you touch it? Can you use your senses (sight, touch, smell, hearing) to really be with it? What does it feel like in your body? Turn your head from side to side slowly, looking around the room. Look at the sky if you can. Imagine the earth beneath you if you cannot touch it where you are right now. Find yourself in time and space.
- Connect with the person who is there with you. Look them in the eyes and express gratitude for them being with you just with your eyes.
- Share something and ask the listener to reflect back what they hear you saying and what they observe about how you’re feeling. Start with something that isn’t emotionally charged. Share some gratitude or tell a simple story. It isn’t about the listener repeating word for word, but rather what they can see, hear, and feel as you’re talking. Start with a sentence or two at a time to avoid saying more than the other person can remember. It’s also important to be clear that it isn’t the listener’s job to tell you how to fix the problem or to tell you what they think about what you just said, but instead to give you the space to hear your own voice.
- Encourage the listener to reflect your strengths back to you. What do they see in you that would be empowering for you to know? Is it your persistence? Is it how much you love your kids and that you’re working on becoming a better parent? We need to hear those good things!!
- Make room for feelings. If feelings bubble up, allow them. No need to try to fix them or suppress them. Just let them move through you and out.
- Make space for your own answers to emerge. The best answers and guidance for yourself and your own situation is going to come from inside you. I’ve seen this over and over again when we’re given the space to find our own answers. The clarity comes from being in that space, being listened to, respected, seen, heard, and felt. And it’s empowering. Healing is empowering. Healing happens when we have the space to heal and to connect with our own strengths, not because someone else fixes it for us.
These are also the basic concepts we use for our Healing Story Circles. They’re part of each course and our membership, which only opens every 6 months- in February and July. Having 6 months together allows everyone to get to know one another and the process without new people being added all the time. Membership is open now until February 28.If you’d like to experience Healing Story Circles with some really amazing and practiced listeners, I’d invite you to check it out! See information below for registration.
If you try to create a Healing Story for yourself with your partner or a friend, let me know what happens! I’d love to hear!
P.S. You can use the same ideas with older kids and teens, though you’ll be the listener instead of the sharer, at least until they have enough space to really hear you. It’s a GREAT tool for family life!
All Relationships Can Heal Course starting February 28, 2019!
Registration is now open! Click here for more information and to sign up!