Last week was magical. I had the good fortune to be part of a four-day retreat focusing on the seasons of women’s lives that was incredibly powerful.
It’s remarkable what can happen when women come together with a common vision and purpose. From the vision makers who had the chutzpah to just contact the amazing @UmaDinsmoreTuli in England out of the blue and say, please come to the Midwest and work with us!, to the logistics magicians, to the women who signed up last minute because something told them they needed to be there, to my carpooling goddesses—I am so grateful to everyone who played a part.
What I experienced in this circle of women confirmed something I know as a coach at a very deep level: that while we can grow and work through stuff on our own, it is when we break our silence, share our experiences, and realize we are not alone in our struggles, that we are able to break down the walls of isolation and begin to heal.
We heal in relationship.
That should not surprise us since the pain we carry that requires healing also happened in relationship. We all want to mend our wounds, and yet, how often do we slow down enough to give ourselves space to experience it?
The retreat was such an wonderful reminder that when we are held in a strong container of love and acceptance, each of us can heal the wounds in our own ways, in our own time. Throughout our time together tears were welcome, rage was welcome, laughter was welcome, memories, grief, triumph, guilt, loneliness, pride, the sadness of the girls we once were, and of course, self-love—all were welcome in the circle. To feel it in your body, process it, and let it go—whatever was coming up in the moment—was not just tolerated, not just acceptable, but encouraged, welcomed, and absolutely normal. Imagine what it would be like to do that regularly instead of putting it off for decades!
What makes this so cathartic is being witnessed. Most of us shy away from this because it feels embarrassing or uncomfortable. I know there are times when I do. Ironically, being witnessed is what allows the embarrassment and discomfort to actually dissipate.
Brené Brown talks about having a “vulnerability hangover” when we wake up fearing that we shared too much with someone. What comes up is that old feeling of shame. Brown describes it like this: “For women, shame is a web of unattainable expectations that say, Do it all, Do it perfectly, and Never let them see you struggle.” Ouch. We all know that one. So instead of getting all messy and processing our pain and shame with someone, we may carry it with us for a long, long time.
The antidote for shame is empathy. Brown says, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” So here it is again. In order to heal, we must share our stories, be witnessed, and have another human being respond with kindness, love, and understanding. Then we get to drop the shame and embody our authenticity to come to a place of being more whole than we were before. Our vulnerability, says Brown, “becomes the most accurate measure of our courage” and it is when we expose ourselves vulnerably that “we have experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”
This is big stuff for anyone, but for those of us who have introversion, high sensitivity, and anxiety going on—this is me and the majority of my clients—this is like asking us to casually dive into a sea of circling sharks. It sets off all our alarms.
What will people think of me if I share what I’m really feeling?
Will this exhaust me so much that I’m a mess tomorrow?
I want to be sure I’m doing this right; I better check and make sure others are sharing too.
What if no one relates to what I’m saying? Will they still like me tomorrow?
I’m not sure what I’m feeling is valid.
Maybe I should forget about me and check to see if anyone else needs support...
Can you relate to these thoughts?
It can be hard to raise our comfort level high enough to share vulnerably. It’s difficult to imagine that experiencing the discomfort can allow us to move on to a place of ease and joy. Let me tell you friends, it is true. Welcoming the hurt, holding it up to examine it, telling its story—and through it all being seen with love and compassion—this is where the magic lives.
We heal in relationship.
With warmth and love~
To get tips, insights, and encouragement on living a #fullcuplife of love and acceptance, follow me on Instagram @positivepathcoaching so you don’t miss a thing! My work focuses on women, especially those who experience the grand trifecta of being an introvert and highly sensitive with anxiety.
Brené Brown quotes are from an interview by Roman Krznaric.