Adverse Childhood Experiences and the path towards healing. You are not alone.
I share my trials, my victories, and my stories with you in hopes that if any of you were ever touched by childhood abuse or neglect, as I was, you will see yourselves in my experiences and feel strengthened to voice what you had not been able to before. I hope we can learn together why we respond to life through a particular lens, and that there are ways to climb out of this prison of pain, silence, and shame.
My name is Bess Hilpert

Holding Space

Trapped by Old Emotions and Old Stories…

Last Sunday while reading Maria Shriver’s weekly newsletter I was struck by her prayer. 

“Dear God, please help me feel the full weight of my emotions and not be afraid of them. Allow me to embrace the good, the bad, the highs and the lows that life presents and appreciate the lessons learned along the way. Amen.”

I needed that prayer last week while I was under the full weight of my emotions. Caught in the web of living a past reality in the present. Trapped by old emotions and old stories.

It was the power of having someone hold space for me that broke the stronghold of the emotional trigger. The transformative effect of being seen, heard, and loved with great compassion quieted my nervous system and brought me back on line. 

Clinical Psychologist, Chris Germer, PhD in a joint podcast with Self-Compassion expert Kristin Neff, PhD asked his listeners ” What do I need to hear to make a change?” I found that some moments it was the sound of breath as I was being held. Some moments it was the silence enveloping me while my hand was being gently caressed that was music to my spirit. And sometimes it was simple words like “I am here.” “You are safe.” You are loved.” “It is okay.” These simple words of assurance without judgement released the cage I was locked in by the past.

I found that in the intimacy of holding space for someone you love or being held, one can find a common humanity, a common pain, and sometimes our common dreams if we can get ourselves out of the way and be present to the moment.

If anyone has had an experience like this, please do share it with us. It would be helpful. 😊

I admit, I know how hard it is to live in the present moment. I am constantly tempted to look to the next moment to be more perfect, the next place, and then the next moment or place. When this moment or this place is as perfect as it can be. It is in this moment and in this place that we find happiness. A happiness that frees us from our past adversity.

I shared last week that adversity lives with me. It moved in and took root. However, even when it precedes me entering the room or the moment, it does not have to define me. The things that happened to me hurt the casing that is Bess, but the soul of me is who can love and forgive and fight for the healing path. Healing for me and healing for you.

Learning to live in what Franciscan priest, Father Richard Rohr defines as the “naked now,” is described by Jean Pierre de Caussade as “the sacrament of the present moment.” What a beautiful goal. Learning to live fearlessly in the “naked now“ is something I have packed away in my toolkit. I can get there through my breath, through my walk around the trouble tree, through the silence of my swimming lap after lap, and by truly holding space for someone I love or; when needed, being held. How can you get there?

The adversity that is deeply rooted in me wants to control all things around me. It wants to rescue and fix and protect. But holding space honestly for someone or being held requires that I get out of the way and just be. There can be no other moment but this moment. There can be no other thought or wish or desire to escape. That is the preciousness of looking into someone’s eyes and seeing their soul. Or being seen. Being there for them. Or being held. Holding them. Feeling connection.

It can be as simple as heart-to-heart hugging. Or walking while holding hands or touching finger tips. It can be “chat time” at five o’clock in the evening or driving in the car listening to a podcast together. It is the simple precious moments we are given.

There may also be times when we need to hold space for ourselves. When there is no one around to breathe with you or walk with you or sit in your discomfort with you.

I had an interesting experience recently when this showed up for me. My husband and I had a short get away to South Texas recently to fish. Fishing had been on my husband’s bucket list; and, low and behold, I fell in love with the practice and patience of it, as well. Lying in bed the night after a day of successful fishing, I found myself staring into the blackness of the night with my eyes wide open. At three o’clock in the morning, the revelry was deafening. There was party of discontent and judgement dancing though my head. The voices of guilt and shame for not swimming, for eating all that candy, for not showing up for my grandchildren, for canceling a swim lesson and missing appointments. Ahh the list went on. I tried talking my self down off the ledge to no avail. Just more restless tossing and turning and judgement ensued.

And then the most unusual thing occurred. Out of depths of my being, another voice surfaced asking if that is how I would like to be talked to? Asking if I would say things like that to my husband? Would I say any of that negative self-talk to my best friend or child or grandchild?

The voice went on to encourage me to talk to my self in a compassionate way/ a loving way. It asked me what I would say to myself if I truly loved the being inside. The voice was so gentle. It was so kind. It was filled with love and made me feel safe. Could I just hold hands with the self-degrading thoughts without saying anything. Just be there. Just breathe and love creating a sense of inner holding.

I do not think I have ever stopped, stepped back, and lovingly talked to that Inner Critic. I do not think I have ever held inner space for myself. The amazing thing is that gentle internal shift regulated my nervous system and, low and behold, I fell into a restful sleep. What a gift. A victory.

Chris Germer, PhD calls us to “Be kind to yourself when you suffer. Self-kindness opens a new path to healing. Warmth creates space. Self-compassion invites us to ask, “What do I need right now.” And, once again, “What do I need to hear to change?” What do I need to hear or what does the one you are holding need to hear?

Pack these questions and thoughts in your toolbox and let us explore it more next time.

I want to leave with this lovely thought from Chris Germer, PhD: “Being truly compassionate is a spontaneous outpouring of the heart. The heart just melts. ”

Until next time, friends.

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