The Season of Repair
The theme we have selected for this newsletter is repairing relational ruptures.
REFLECTING ON OUR COLLECTIVE RESPONSES
Repairing Attachment Ruptures: “I see you… I get you… and I choose you”
The impact of this prolonged pandemic on our relationships is evident in the many ruptures that have emerged both in our family systems and on a societal level. These ruptures have been fuelled by high levels of anxiety, fear and a heightened felt sense of vulnerability posed by the threat of the COVID 19 virus. Our human need for safety and felt security has been challenged by a virus that has made our world a more dangerous place. Notice the many ways in which our nervous systems have adapted to this threat with protective fight/flight, freeze and collapse survival strategies. We hear the fight energy expressed in the differences and polarization around vaccination mandates, mask wearing and social distancing protocols. How do we repair these painful ruptures in order to fight the virus and not fight with each other? Emotional attunement to each other’s survival reactions needed to manage fear and anxiety is a foundational building block to beginning to repair ruptures in our relationships during these challenging times. Intentionally creating moments of meeting with one another where we see, understand and choose to connect with one another, even in the face of significant differences, has a stabilizing effect on our nervous systems and our capacity to regulate and integrate intense emotions. We are called to become the secure base for each other and create a safe holding space where we can make meaning of our fears and anxieties and examine the impact of our survival strategies on how we show up in our relationships. Acknowledging our empathic failures with one another other and committing to repairing the relationship ruptures that our survival reactions have caused is what can earn us secure attachment and connection with one another.
Last week, we were so privileged to host a full-day workshop, presented by Dr. Cheri Marmarosh, about Attachment Theory in Group Psychotherapy: Clinical Applications. Dr. Marmarosh reinforced Bowlby (1969/1982), noting that, “when facing threats and challenges, people are naturally focused mainly on seeking their own safety and care. Only when a sense of attachment security is restored can a person perceive others as not only potential sources of support, but also as worthy and benevolent human beings who themselves need and deserve sympathy and care.”
for burning too brightly
or for collapsing
that is how galaxies are made
Tyler Kent White, from Songs with our Eyes Closed
THE VALUE OF RELATIONSHIPS AND CONNECTION
“Belonging is being part of something bigger than yourself. But it's also the courage to stand alone, and to belong to yourself above all else.”
Dr. Brené Brown.
Why Leadership Matters
In a recent webinar about belonging with Rumeet Billan, she explored what neuroscience says about belonging, and the societal costs of exclusion and social rejection. Her review of the research reinforced the notion that belonging is a ‘fundamental human motivation’, and that our social needs are managed by the same neuropathways as our physical needs. Similarly, social pain (through rejection and exclusion) matches physical pain.
Billan referenced the 2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report, which cited belonging and well-being at the top of their list. This same report noted the importance of an organization’s culture, leadership behaviours and personal relationships, in fostering a sense of community and connection.
She also referenced an article in the McKinsey Quarterly Report, September 2021, which noted the top 3 factors employees cited for leaving their employment: they didn’t feel valued by the organization, they didn’t feel valued by their managers, and they didn’t feel a sense of belonging. Remarkably, employers did not share this understanding of the importance of the relational elements in the workplace.
Her talk further addressed ways of managing for exclusion and creating moments of belonging. Two quotes she shared seem particularly relevant:
“We create belonging moments by allowing vulnerability moments.” Pat Wadors
“Diversity is a fact.
Equity is a choice.
Inclusion is an action.
Belonging is an outcome.” Arthur Chan
Billan reiterated that it is not enough to just invite people to the table/event/gathering… belonging happens when they get there. She calls belonging an experience.
All of this reinforces the importance of the leadership role in creating and maintaining safe learning/working/living spaces in order for each of us to maximize our full potential as group and community members.
You can read more about Rumeet Billan’s work here: rumeetbillan.com
David Whyte, in his exquisite book, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, writes about vulnerability:
“Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others… The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability…”
We live in an age of instant mass communication, where everyone has an equal opinion, and with limited effort it is possible to find others who share that opinion. In an age where people seek certainty, science comes up short. Many who can’t tolerate that uncertainty fill the void with anxiety, defensiveness, and anger. Others simply assert their right to dominion over their bodies and protest the intrusion of government into their lives. While Denmark has seen a return to lockdown this fall after achieving remarkably low numbers, there haven’t been the same violent responses that we have seen in some other countries. According to various sociologists, Danes tend to put a lot of trust in their government. They also tend to practice a concept known as hygge (hoo-guh), a Danish/Norse term defined as, “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Originally noted in the 16th century, it connotes self-care and a withdrawal from stress and anxiety. Etymologically it relates to the English word “hug.” It began to come to broader awareness in 2016 when Trump and Brexit were centre stage. Amid this anxiety and polarization, hygge began to be associated with candles, fireplaces, comfy sweaters, and Scandanavian design. In The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection by Louisa Thomsen Brits (Plume Press, Penguin Random House 2017), the author describes hygge as a state of mindfulness: whereby one makes essential and mundane tasks dignified, joyful, and beautiful. By paying attention to the secular and elevating it to the sacred we can let go of some of grind of everyday life.
But hygge also encompasses living a life connected with loved ones amid a sense of belonging. As a state of mind, hygge encourages us to be open to empathy and mutually connected to one another to address feelings of alienation. Thomsen Brits writes, “When we hygger, we unwrap a package of good feelings to share and offer each other, signs of encouragement and symbols of inclusion; we make arrangements that provide warmth, shelter, nourishment, and comfort - by doing something as simple as lighting a candle at the table, pulling up chairs to sit together for a shared meal, or taking cake into the office and inviting others stop for long enough to enjoy a slice with a cup of coffee.” Covid 19 in particular, and polarization in general, have made it harder for us to experience hygge but whether on one’s own or in small groups we need to remind ourselves to take the time for self-nourishment and reach for that at times elusive sense of connection. Perhaps as winter approaches, we might all take a lesson from the Danes.
ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED RESOURCES
Marmarosh, Cheri L., et al, The Psychology of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Group-Level Perspective, Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice, American Psychological Association, 2020, Vol.24 No.3, 122-138.
In this article, Dr. Marmarosh and her colleagues cite research suggesting that, “human beings are fundamentally social, and the need to gather with others is extremely important, especially during times of distress. The need to belong as well as the importance of reducing loneliness during uncertain times often encourages people to connect…” They further conclude that group treatment is effective in reducing symptoms of stress, depression, anxiety and complicated grief.
Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, 2021, Penguin Random House, New York.
Atlas of the Heart, the newest book by author Brene Brown draws on her research as well as her incredible storytelling skills to explore and map the full spectrum of our emotional experience. She maintains that accurately naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power, it gives us the power of understanding, meaning and choice hopefully leading to repair and reconnection with self and with others.
Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well, 2016, Penguin Random House, UK.
Cover: “Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things.”
Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, Copenhagen, and “has spent years studying the magic of Danish life.” He is “committed to finding out what makes people happy and has concluded that hygge is the magic ingredient that makes Danes the happiest nation in the world.” This text has been on the New York Times top 10 Best Seller List.
We thought it fitting to end this newsletter with a beautiful recording by Adele, singing her new release, Easy on Me
Aida Cabecinha, Susan Farrow, Maureen Mahan, Allan Sheps and Terry Simonik,