“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”
This difficult, wild, unprecedented experience we are having as a world is bringing out the very best and the very worst in us, in the world at large and in the microcosms of our individual homes. When people are frightened, we feel threatened and we get protective. Our brains are designed to do either connection or protection, but not both. Being in protection-mode means we are less able to have empathy, generosity or curiosity. Being in connection-mode means being open-hearted; there is room to care for others, to be interested in the experience they are having, and to wish that others not suffer.
This is a time when connection would serve us well. Connection heals us.
How can we be open-hearted in a time of fear? How can we connect when we can’t be physically together?
Here are some simple guidelines that will move you toward open-heartedness:
Look at the sky. It’s big and open and endless. So are you. Remind yourself of the majesty of the natural earth that continues to hold you.
Remember feelings are not dangerous and feelings are fleeting. This (scared or angry or sad) feeling will pass. You are safe now.
Refrain. Don’t lash out. There is a better way to do this. Take a break. Walk away. Come back in an hour. This isn't abandoning the conversation - it’s a way of caring for each other so you can come back to open-heartedness. Make sure you communicate clearly that this is what you need to do in this moment (and that you aren’t just walking away).
Assume the other person is scared or hurt. It’s pretty much always true.
Be kind. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to try. Apologize when you screw up.
Be curious. Inquire. Ask the other person: “How are you doing? How is this crazy time for you? What’s going on in your life?” And then just listen. Don’t start talking. Let them take up space. Wait until they finish completely. We rarely give others a chance to really be heard. This is a beautiful gift you can give whenever you wish. It will pay off.
Open-heartedness feels like NOT defending yourself. An open heart is a confident, calm heart that has room to take things in. An open heart means other people can feel you and know you, can touch you and be touched by you. Being open-hearted requires that you feel at least a little bit safe. Open-heartedness allows good feelings to expand and healing to blossom. It is contagious, like a virus.
I will share my open heart with you now: I hope you and your loved ones are safe tonight and that each of you feels the love that is your birthright. And I'm a little bit scared.
Written by: Jessica Sorci, LMFT