Early relational experiences are encoded in the neural circuitry of a precious little infant in the first 18 months of life, outside the reach of conscious awareness, and form the templates through which we engage the relational world. As many of us have discovered, this material has a way of surging in our close relationships, longing to be known, held, and integrated in the vastness of what we are.
But it can feel like an avalanche, a volcano of partly processed feelings, a wildfire of unintegrated emotions. Within a split second, we are hooked, activated, and triggered, urgently spinning for relief from the raw somatic sensations that were once evidence that our very survival was at risk: a text isn’t returned on time, we aren’t seen as we are, the rejection, the abandonment, the loneliness, the raging unworthiness. Before we know it … it’s just not safe to open any longer.
Our expectations in relationship – the reliability of others, our worthiness to receive love, whether it’s okay to allow another to truly matter, whether it’s safe enough to lead with our vulnerability – are structured in a fragile little nervous system that is longing for safety and connection. The neural pathways are tender, open, and responsive, as we seek attuned, right brain-to-right brain resonance with those around us. We want to feel felt, to have our subjective experience held and mirrored, and for the space in which we can explore unstructured states of being.
While this encoding is deeply embedded, it can be rewired. While it may feel relentlessly entrenched, it is not as solid as it appears. Even if your early environment was one of consistent empathic failure, developmental trauma, and insecure attachment, it is never too late. The wild realities of neuroplasticity and the courage of the human heart is unstoppable and an erupting force of creativity and reorganization.
Through new relational experiences – with a therapist, a lover, a friend, a baby. With a being of light, a divine presence, or a deity of mercy or compassion. Or with a star, a deer, the moon, or with the earth itself, we can make the human journey together, in all is messy glory, and bear witness to the power of love to reorganize. We can watch in awe as it lights up mirror neurons and the cells in your heart in a fresh moment of warmth, presence, and kindness. Each time you meet and attune to another, receive their love, return it with your presence, as you simultaneously stay close with the inner “other” within you, a new world is born.
As long as there is breath moving in and out, you can update the narrative. You can make new meaning of your life, re-author and re-enchant the story, re-dream the dream, and re-imagine new life. You can make a new commitment to the miracle of the here and now, and practice flooding your immediate experience with presence, warmth, and acceptance. Slowly, over time, you can embed your neural circuitry with the new pathway of holding awareness.
No matter what is happening in your life, you can start right now. In this moment. There is only ever this moment. The opportunity for reorganization is always here and wired within you. Don’t give up. Love will never give up on you.