I have shared before that my mother was fractured by trauma. Her reflections of me shifted every time she blinked. I had the luck in college to receive four consecutive letters from her, each about the same subject: what she thought about me and friendship. In the first, she wrote, “Sarah, you have no friends.” In the second, she wrote, “You have so many friends.” In the third, “You are a person who only has one friend at a time.” And in the fourth, “I don’t understand how you can have so many close friends at once.”
Strange though it may seem, this particular series of letters was a relief to receive. After a lifetime of being unable to locate a central self within me, I had proof in black and white of the wildly fluctuating language that was used to describe me to myself. It was no wonder I was bewildered by my own character, personality, likes and dislikes, even by my own existence. These letters were a part of the trail of clues I followed to begin to understand my own fractured sense of being.
We are formed, moment by moment, by all the tiny interactions that we have with people. The more significant the person is that we are in relationship with, the more we are formed by what action we take, what happens next, what is said, what is done, and how we are responded to.
When the people in our world can’t really see us, and the tiny interactions that surround us don’t have much to do with who we are, we often find other ways to have relationships that let us exist. We have relationships with land, with trees, with animals, and with some sense of the divine. (These alternatives to people can hold us very sweetly, but rarely do we have a sense that they are reflecting our experience with words.)
And words shape and form our brains. So without them, finding ourselves, and having a rounded, solid experience of existing, an experience of being known and predictable to our own selves, can be a bit tricky.
My experience of being seen with fractured eyes and memory may seem rare, but when we expand our understanding of the different ways that not being seen can happen, the experience becomes more common. The lack of reflection can happen in a number of ways: it can be chaotic and kaleidoscopic, so that the words we receive about ourselves present something unrecognizable; it can be the echoing and bewildering emptiness of neglect; it can be the disruptive loss of existence and memory that occurs in physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse; or it can be the seeming presence of people who are focused only on what happens externally, people who take no joy in inner exploration and have very little autobiographical memory for self or other.
Whatever our experience has been, this month’s teleseminar is an exploration of the part of the brain that is at least a partial contributor to the sense of self: the precuneus. As so often is true of these monthly teleseminars, there will be a wealth of research combined with practical exploration of how NVC-based reflection and empathy can lead to brain integration and personal resilience and well-being.