Yesterday my 2 year old granddaughter created a game. She ran at top speed down the hall, turned and waved. I waved back. She then ran at top speed to me. We hugged. She repeated these same actions 8 or 10 times. At first it seemed like random play, but as she continued, I saw in her play important work. She was learning consistency and trust. Would I stay in the game with her? Would I wave this time, too? Would I hug, this time, too?
As children, we learn self-regulation skills based on our caregivers’ response to us. In the best situations, we learn to predict what will happen next and that it will feel good. That doesn’t always happen. Our game could have gone differently. The pasta might have boiled over on the stove distracting me and I would not have shown up for her in the same way. That’s how it is for all of us in childhood and beyond.
Life continues like this for all of us. Most of the time we live with consistency and predictability. The sun rises in the morning, we live the best we know how to, and fall asleep at night. Yet it doesn’t take much to throw us off. The little things, a perceived slight from a friend or colleague and the big things, major illness, loss, and big change, can derail our expectations so that we question ourselves, our relationships, and even our understanding of our place in the universe.
This is where connection with others is so important. Whether that connection be in the counseling relationship or in friendships, it is through our connections that we get support and understanding. And that support and understanding helps brings us back to ourselves.
Next time you notice you are distracted and not showing up for yourself, see if down at the far end of the hall you see that little part of you smiling, waving, and calling, “Here I am.” And see how easy it is to relax, smile, and wave back!
Wishing you the stamina to show up for you, over and over again,
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