What We Hand Down
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
Telephone. Hot potato. Musical chairs. Remember playing these fun games as a kid?
Games are playful ways for humans to experiment with decision-making, communication and reactivity. Each of these games showcase how profoundly we affect and shape each other's behavior. Whether it's interpreting murky messages in telephone, or elbowing our way into the last open chair before the music stops, these games require us to work with somebody else's funky words or wild actions, and to make quick, creative choices in order to stay in the game. Games give us a low-risk opportunity to practice surviving and communicating in a fast-paced, complex, competitive world.
And it is a complex, fast-paced, competitive world isn't it? How we work together, how we affect each other, whether we notice each other, how we communicate, how much we care about our own impact on others…these concepts feel very present in my awareness right now, as each of our frazzled nervous systems do their very best to thrive and survive a pandemic while living in a climate ravaged world. I'm seeing a lot of acute fears and and quiet grief as we wrestle with these giant hot potatoes and try to decipher the latest garbled Covid messaging. It's harder and harder to find comfort and ease outside, with so much smoke and virus in the air.
Sometimes the only comfort and ease I can find is my own self compassion. I find that I can soften things inside myself in a way that relaxes my whole body and lets my heart open again. For me self compassion has to do with forgiving myself and relocating my own innocence. Over and over. While I may be experiencing myself as a frazzled nervous system trying to survive in a threatening world, I know that underneath all that wild energy I am an innocent living creature that wants to belong and connect. I remind myself that I'm doing my best. And something softens.
We are all the beneficiaries of each other‘s pain and healing. We perpetuate upon each other whatever it is we are holding inside of ourselves. So the more self compassion you have, the greater the likelihood you’re going to care about and understand me. And the more reactivity and anger you’re harboring, the worse it’s going to be for me when I meet you out there in the world, as you behold me through your own veil of suffering.
We are always sharing something.
Therapists think about intergenerational transmissions of trauma. A young child's nervous system absorbs and references their parents' messaging about safety and danger, love and hate, and what it is to be a human. As we mature into consciousness and agency, we have the power to choose what we will bestow upon others and hand down to the next generation. How clearly will we enunciate our message into the ear of the person sitting next to us? How long will we hold that hot potato before we lob it into someone else's lap? Do we choose to share that last seat with someone else, or hold the space just for ourselves? In every organization and system, from intimate families of origin to corporations and governments, messages are being handed down, then absorbed and carried by those who follow us.
You and I have so much power.
It’s a huge relief to no longer be a disempowered child. And it’s also a wildly massive responsibility. Sit with me for a while, and let’s talk about the burdens we've inherited. Let’s take them out, put them on the table in front of us, and sort through them. Untangle the chains, undo the knots, sort the colors, choose what you will give away and best of all, notice what you most want to keep and cherish. As the table becomes cleaner and more organized, there's new space, and we can invite other people to join us. We can use that open space now to serve up and take in something nourishing, or to just relax together and behold each other with more attention. We can unburden ourselves.
Heal it so you don’t hand it down.
Whatever is unsettled in you, take an interest in it. No one else can fix it for you. But there is so much wisdom and guidance to hold you and support you while you take an interest in yourself. That’s really what therapy is: some open space for you to examine and unburden yourself, with guidance.
Have you been thinking about trying therapy? Now is such a good time. Our world needs healing, and you are the best and the only place to start.
We have space for you here.
Written by Jessica Sorci, LMFT