Neurons that Fire Together, Heal Together?
We are neurobiologically wired to heal in connection.
I recently had a desire to process a head trauma that I sustained as a child. The memory had come back to me several years ago, but it never really felt like a ‘trauma,’ just a serious bonk to the head. You know, the type of thing that is a bit par for the course for the average kid.
I learned a bit about head trauma and concussions during the “High Impact Trauma” module of Somatic Experiencing, and I could feel my own wobbliness come up, but I still wasn’t quite ready to dive in.
But recently this memory kept coming up over and over again, while I was laying my head on my pillow, or washing my hair in the shower. I could do some of my own processing during those times, which worked fine, but I never felt the heat of the situation.
Then I sat down in front of my computer screen for my regular SE session with my own provider, and, boom, immediately I was engulfed in waves of heat. The left side of my face and arm went numb, and the hearing in my left ear went wonky. I couldn’t help but laugh at the swiftness of it all.
“Of course,” my therapist said. “We’re neurobiologically wired to heal in connection.” Of course it came so strongly when I sat down with a nervous system I trusted. My system had somebody else to help hold the charge. I wasn’t responsible for creating the container and keeping an eye on the metaphorical perimeter of our territory and actually processing the trauma points.
Our nervous systems are the result of some amazing pieces of evolution. We find safety in closeness. We reach for trusted friends and family when things go awry (and for those of us who actually feel safer alone, we can thank our trauma responses 🙋🏻. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be stuck there).
Have you ever called your best friend after a break up? Or gone to your neighbor’s house during a power outage? Or gathered with a group of strangers after leaving a building with a fire alarm ringing? We are evolutionarily primed to reach for connection in times of duress.
Connecting with others can help us feel heard, give us space to unravel, give us a sense of purpose when we hold space for someone else’s unraveling, create safety in numbers, and organize our sympathetic energy into useful solutions.
Coming together isn’t just useful during difficult times; it’s an important part of healing, too.
When we’re busy constantly making sure our perimeters are secure (hello, hyper vigilance), our energy isn’t available for healing. Your animal body needs to know that someone else can take over security duty, even a little bit, so that you can feel safe enough to do your processing.
“What do you mean coming together??” I know, I know, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. We’ll come back to that on an upcoming post.