Quote of the day – On social support and healing

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“(…) safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives. (…) Social support is the most powerful protection against becoming overwhelmed by stress and trauma.

Social support is not the same as merely being in the presence of others. The critical issue is reciprocity: being truly heard and seen by the people around us, feeling that we are held in someone else’s mind and heart. For our physiology to calm down, heal, and grow we need a visceral feeling of safety. No doctor can write a prescription for friendship and love (…).

Isolating oneself into a narrowly defined victim group promotes a view of others as irrelevant at best and dangerous at worst, which eventually only leads to further alienation. Gangs, extremist political parties, and religious cults may provide solace, but they rarely foster the mental flexibility needed to be fully open to what life has to offer and as such cannot liberate their members from their traumas. Well-functioning people are able to accept individual differences and acknowledge the humanity of others.

Bessel van der Kolk – The Body Keeps The Score – Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma (Penguin Books, 2015)

Do we suffer from too little reciprocity? From too much selfishness? Is the hyper-individualistic lifestyle of autonomy at all cost, isolation, and “every man for himself” making us miserable and sick?

How many of us feel truly seen, heard and understood? How many feel forsaken? Trapped between anger and absence? How many of us self-medicate (or are medicated!) just to cover basic human needs like safety, forgiveness, acceptance and connection?

How many live a life without rapture, life as rupture, as opposed to the healing powers of love, kindness, joint experiences, of breathing, movement and touch… What does it take to feel agency, to overcome duress?

This book has been a revelation and I cannot recommend it warmly enough. You’ll understand your body and brain like never before.

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