Relationships as Triggers
Relationships are resources. We, as human beings, literally need one another to survive. I’m talking logistically and also emotionally.
As babies, if we are deprived of human contact we don’t develop critical social and emotional skills to manage stress (whether good stress or traumatic). As a result, our physical health can suffer.
So we need relationships.
But no relationship is perfect. And far too many of us have also been subjected to harm in relationships.
When it comes to healing, we are often healing from harm done in relationships, or from important experiences in relationships that just never happened for us.
We are born with a longing to be witnessed and held and understood.
So when that doesn’t happen - or it doesn’t happen enough, or at the right times - relationships can actually feel like triggers.
This isn’t always obvious or explicit. Our bodies are highly intelligent and highly sensitive entities that pick up on the subtles cues; these are called implicit memories.
Implicit memories don’t require conscious recollection of our past. These are unconscious and automatic.
Implicit memories are triggered when our body picks up on facial expressions, tones of voice, or aspects of our environment that remind our body of when we felt less safe or more alone.
And here’s the kicker - implicit memories that trigger us can also be activated by positive stimuli. Based on our experiences, it can be hard for us to ascertain whether something is safe or dangerous. Our wires can get crossed, so to speak, making things confusing for us!
In our chosen relationships, implicit memories shape our experiences and behaviors in a number of ways.
We are all invited to get curious about our implicit experience. Slowing down the frame and paying attention we can ask ourselves:
What shape do I take in this relationship?
Can I rest into care here?
Can I show what I feel?
How comfortable am I asking for support?
How comfortable am I when someone else reaches out for support?
What happens in my body when my partner/friend turns away from me?
Connection is central to all of our relationships.
Many of us have parts who explicitly seek connection, making their desires more obvious. Some of these parts are self-assured, whereas others are desperate for connection.
And we can also have parts who distance and isolate as a mechanism for preserving what connection is there.
Exploring the assumptions, hopes, and fears of our parts can help us feel more capable of showing up in our relationships in the ways we really want to.
If you’re curious and want to learn more, I’ve got a great opportunity for you this month. Join my colleague Emma Walz and I for a workshop on utilizing Parts Work in your relationship.
In this workshop we’ll share strategies for recognizing activation, identifying and befriending parts, and tapping into your wise Self.
A blend of Parts Work and Somatics, these skills can help you shift your individual internal experience of your relationship, which naturally creates space for new experiences to unfold between you and your partner(s).
Photo by MART PRODUCTION