As social creatures, we are by design meant to live with others and interact with each other. It is never a coincidence who our colleagues, neighbors and spouses turn out to be. It is often in these relationships that we see our own reflection and can find a pathway inward. It is also not by chance that we find so many people looking for guidance and needing help once they are married and become parents. That’s where the rubber hits the road, and everything we learned about life starts to come alive. It’s where the uncomfortable feeling of bumping into ourselves more often starts to happen, and looking in the mirror can become overwhelming.
Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, (internationally acclaimed professor and researcher on trauma, and author of The Body Keeps the Score) often speaks about the importance of developing an “inner observer” for healing trauma. He calls it the “inner watch tower.” The ability for one to observe the comings and goings of one’s own mind, body and reactions is what mindfulness is all about, and it’s how we can access our adult selves when we are feeling activated.
Noticing that we are getting triggered by someone is the first step. That alone allows us to live in choice instead of automatic reaction. Once we see that, we are already separating from that part of us that is feeling threatened. It’s like untangling a ball of knots and setting apart the threads that were tangled up. With distance, we can see what’s going on in our inner world. We become the one in the watchtower instead of the racing planes flying in and out. Instead of BEING angry, and BEING afraid, we FEEL anger and we FEEL fear. Once we activate our inner watch tower, we become silent observers of our own “classrooms” and get acquainted with our inner world. That’s where relationship with the self begins. We can then form a more intimate relationship with the different aspects of ourselves.
If someone experienced relational trauma growing up, it’s likely they will have a hard time feeling self-love. Understandably, one who doesn’t have self-love can’t give it to others. With relational trauma, we need relational healing, otherwise the concept of love remains theoretical. That is precisely why Pia Mellody discovered the inner child work the way she did. She saw in her personal experience and with the clients she was working with that the self-love just wasn’t happening with affirmations and self-talk. Pia developed the model of “The five core issues of codependence—developmental immaturity” and discovered that when you create a real relationship with your inner child (children) based on who you really were back then, while keeping the process real and alive, you develop the framework and capacity to selflove. It is precisely how we were hurt in our childhoods that we now go back and heal. And it is precisely where we are hurting now, in our current lives and relationships, that we go inward and heal.
“That which we don’t heal in childhood, we replay in adulthood.» –Cara Weed
Using “relationship mirrors” will not only guide us precisely where we need to go, it is also a magnificent gift that we are given such clear directions, if we’re willing to look and follow the maze ahead.
The message of relational recovery and Purim seem very apropos. A day where the main commandments are between man and his fellow is also a day where we put complete emphasis on our pure essence, revealing our innermost precious selves. While the two may superficially seem like a contradiction, we know the truth to be the exact opposite. When we unveil the layers within ourselves, we reveal our authentic selves to others, creating unity within and around us, giving us reason to truly rejoice together.