I’ll never try to keep you
But I’ll try to be
The kind of place
That makes you
Always want to stay.
~J. Warren Welch
Just let it be,
If it’s meant to be,
It will happen.
Never chase what doesn’t want to be caught. People leave and we want them back but what we really need, is to love ourselves more than they every could. You are worth more than a love that didn’t stay.
When we live with unprocessed complex trauma, we have a very low tolerance for the unknown, for liminal space, for chaos (and we view chaos as anything unknown or unforseen). We like to have plans. We like to know what is coming. We like to have the future all mapped out.
We struggle with last minute changes. We are challenged when letting things unfold in their own time.
We have a need for our lives to go a certain way, for our plans to work out exactly as we planned them. We have our futures fully mapped out and deviations from that cause us overwhelming stress and anxiety.
We feel uncomfortable in the present, in the here and now. We are constantly doing-doing-doing, looking for the next thing, planning the next event, the next project, the next stage of a relationship, next promotion, next, next, next.
This discomfort in the here and now can be overwhelming. With our sympathetic nervous system activated and constantly on high alert our “normal” way of being in the world is looking for escape from the present. It has us looking to the future to try to avoid harm.
We struggle with staying present in the now because our systems don’t feel safe. They don’t feel safe in the now, they don’t feel safe in the future, because they weren’t actually safe in the past.
Learning to teach our activated sympathetic nervous system that we are actually safe in the moment, this moment now, is the only way we can move away from always being in the future and come back to the here and now.
Self regulation and co-regulation are important parts of learning how to feel a sense of safeness in the present. Helping our nervous systems slow down, to not always be on high alert is a skill that most of us weren’t taught or modeled in our childhood or adolescence. These skills don’t come naturally for us, and so as we begin to learn them, they may feel strange, uncomfortable, even wrong.
The reason they feel so strange is that we are doing something new and different. We are beginning to grow new neural pathways, which can be a slow process. Learning new ways of being can be awkward, and there will be times we just don’t want to do it. Being present can simply feel too much, too overwhelming, the work too hard. There will be those days.
Being able to be present, be in the now, can be an amazing experience. To not have the pressure of needing something to turn out a certain way, to not have an endgame, to allow things to be as they are, to unfold as they will, can be freeing.
Once we move through the discomfort of the new and different, once we have taken the time to grow the new neural pathways and practiced new ways of being, our sense of safeness in the present moment allows us to enjoy the now, as it is, without needing to escape into the future. It allows us to let situations unfold, in their own time, without needing to micromanage them or try to dictate every moment or the final outcome.
It allows us to feel good in our own skin. In this now. As it is. To enjoy our life, and yes to feel the depths of the sad moments too – the difference being we are feeling it all in the moment, instead of stuffing things down to leak out at a later time.
Being present, allowing the now to be Enough, is tricky business. It asks us to face our demons, to process our trauma, to be accountable for our own actions, to do the work of learning to self-regulate in helpful ways, to connect to and re-integrate the lost or hidden parts of our Self. This is intense work, it is hard work.
And it is work that I believe is so very worth it.
This essay was originally written for my weekly-ish newsletter on August 8, 2020. It has been edited for publication here. To receive my most recent essays you can subscribe here.
We will be exploring these ideas, and how to change the ways we are in our relationships with others and with ourselves in my new six month group Trauma Informed Embodiment™ for Relationship. You can learn more about it here.