Reflections on Being Human
Winnicott once said, “It is a joy to be hidden but a disaster not to be found.” As a sensitive young girl, my outer world felt like too much for me to handle. I learned to hide. I instinctively retreated to my inner world and I closed the door. It took many years for me to learn that my sensitivity is a gift and that vulnerability is strength—a key to resilience.
“I’ve spent much of my adult life coming out of hiding. Initially, only allowing myself to be fully seen in the presence of a chosen few; those with eyes that see with acceptance and compassion. Over time, I opened more and more of myself to the world. This journey of stepping out is not only worthwhile, it is profoundly liberating.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Hide and Seek
Nonetheless, there are still days when being visible is simply too vulnerable. For to live in the world with an open heart is like living from the innocent child’s heart—sensitive and tender.
This open heart is capable of seeing everything without judgment and approaches life with nothing to hide; no tricks or games. The converse of the open heart is being closed, shielded, and hidden. These are the days that I welcome the opportunity to retreat—to go inward for as long as it takes to find my open heart again. So, that once again the love in my heart can extend out into the world.
The past few weeks have been a time of retreat. I didn’t go off to a meditation retreat; rather, this was a drawing inward in the midst of living daily life kind of retreat. As is always the case when journeying into the dark, I found a glimmer of light.
I suppose we are all playing “hide and seek” in this journey of being human.
Belonging and Becoming
It is an almost universal experience to have wounds around feeling like we do not belong. Many of us have experienced times when we were excluded or felt exiled. This might have occurred within your family or at some point socially, with a group of friends.
Some of us have literally become exiles; especially if you have lost your country or feel that your country has betrayed you.
Traumatic losses and injuries can also put in question your sense of meaning or purpose—especially since you now know that painful, unfair, or terrifying events can happen.
It is important to remember that most of our wounds do not happen in a vacuum—they occur in interpersonal and environmental contexts. Therefore, our hurts need to be repaired interpersonally as well.
Coming out of retreat involves re-emerging into community. A deep lesson in recognizing that vulnerability is strength.
Vulnerability is Strength
In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown wisely states, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
Such courage goes beyond personal accountability. I believe it is essential to our very survival that each and every one of us feels rooted in a connection to other people—whether this is one-on-one, being a member of a group, or having a sense of your tribe. We need to know that we are not alone in this the imperfect journey of being human.
Our very sense of self is both is a personal and interpersonal experience. First, we discover our own identity. Our story, defined in our own carefully chosen words. When we share that story with another person it helps to us to realize our sense of self at a deeper level. It helps make it real. It helps make you real.
Of course, it is important that the people with whom you share your story feel safe to you and have the capacity to listen…really listen.
Poet and philosopher, Mark Nepo writes, “My own time on earth has led me to believe in two powerful instruments that turn experience into love: holding and listening. For every time I have held or been held, every time I have listened or been listened to, experience burns like wood in that eternal fire and I find myself in the presence of love.”
As any one of us is heard and welcomed by another, we have the opportunity to reclaim a sense of belonging. This foundation of being seen and understood helps each one of us become more of who we are meant to be. Through this process of belonging and becoming we take one important step closer toward reclaiming our wholeness.
–In gratitude to all of you with eyes to see and to all of you who allow me to see you in return,
Dr. Arielle Schwartz
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About Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Dr. Arielle Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist, wife, and mother in Boulder, CO. She offers trainings for therapists, maintains a private practice, and has passions for the outdoors, yoga, and writing. Dr. Schwartz is the author of The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole (Althea press, 2016) and co-author of EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology: Interventions to Enhance Embodiment in Trauma Treatment (Norton, 2018). She is the developer of Resilience-Informed Therapy which applies research on trauma recovery to form a strength-based, trauma treatment model that includes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic (body-centered) psychology and time-tested relational psychotherapy. Like Dr. Arielle Schwartz on Facebook, follow her on Linkedin and sign up for email updates to stay up to date with all her posts.