It is a new year. A time for opening up to new possibilities.
A time to aspire and look forward to enhancing and evolving our way of being in the world. We ended 2017 taking time to explore our abilities to self-regulate through “going in” when we are out of balance, dysregulated, and in need of care. As part of our process of new year intention setting, let us now not only open ourselves to new possibilities for what we can provide for ourselves but also open further to relating to others and experiencing the complementary and integral resource of “going out.”
We are social beings. From the time we are born, our need for others is present.
The first cry out that we all experience is an expression of the initial helplessness we come into the world with and the yearning for responsiveness and care from someone who is willing to receive us. As we grow, the need for others becomes more conscious, and our requests for support and love take more refined and explicit forms through enhanced awareness and the development of common language. When we are struggling as children, we have ideally received enough explicit and implicit messages from our environment that let us know that it is not only valid to reach out to others and ask for what we need, but that there is a high probability that our need will be met when requested.
However, for many, the resource of “going out” gradually becomes compromised due to too many experiences of being let down by those from whom we seek comfort.
Whether it be due to overt abuse or other more subtle communications, our still growing minds take in the message “You can’t count on others…just take care of yourself.” Many are then led to live lives as adults that include a rejection of need for others, as the musculature needed for “going out” atrophies. The hands that would reach out are left stuffed in pockets. Additionally, for too long, self-sufficiency was promoted as the way of the healthy adult in society. Truly needing others for our emotional health was seen as childish or unhealthy dependence.
Healthy dependence exists and is the hallmark of the practice of “going out.”
Research has shown that secure attachments to those who depend on us, and on whom we can depend, is not a romantic idea but integral to our well-being. Having significant others, family, and greater community with whom we can bond provides us with a knowing that we are not alone in the world. Our being valued by others and valuing them in return leads us to value our own needs, and therefore have the capacity to meet those needs. With this, we are provided with a base of security that, when called upon, can soothe arousal in our nervous systems, and literally improve the functioning of our immune systems and overall satisfaction with our lives.
As a psychotherapist, it has become clear to me that healing and increased resilience is not solely dependent on one’s ability to provide self-care. We need to be able to “go out” of ourselves and receive from others when we are in pain.
Attuned and responsive relationships in our lives allow us to experience what it means to be social beings, to be wholly human.
May the new year bring our capacities to “go in” by caring for ourselves and “go out” by reaching for and receiving connection and support into greater balance. This can be a year of renewal and enhancement of any preexisting resources we have developed for maintaining our well-being. It can also be a ground for new growth of previously unactualized resources that teach how our suffering that we face is temporary. Having ourselves and others to depend on, we will be able to provide and receive the support needed to heal, evolve, and turn whatever adversity we face into the fuel for greater wisdom and compassion to share with the world.