Reconnect and Fall in Love With Yourself, a women’s healing trauma retreat.
What happens at a retreat like this? 7 women arrived Friday late afternoon and settled in at a classic old farmhouse. People are nervous before something like this. Second guessing themselves. Feeling dread. What have I signed up for?!
Sunday afternoon the 7 women who left the retreat to make their way back to the city were changed. Different. We got to know ourselves in a new way and experienced connection and trust in a way and level unfamiliar to us. The process was simple. We met as a group. We did relaxation practices together. We learned some basics of trauma and how we develop core deficiency beliefs. We learned some effective, elegant tools. We shared meals. We walked together in the woods and stood together around a 400 year old maple tree. We got to know each other and as we did, we got to know ourselves. We saw our lives and beliefs through a different lens.
We spoke our truth. We were listened to. We were believed. We experienced the trust that grows from a foundation of kindness and respect. There was only ever invitation to share. No pressure. We saw that when we were triggered, we might have the reflex to go off and be by ourselves. We are not used to turning towards other people for help and support. How could we when our experience to date has been at best emotional neglect and a lack of connection. All too common as children when we reached out we were met with ridicule, being denigrated or shut down. You’re too sensitive! You’re too much! Go away. We are no stranger to this as adults too.
Attuned empathy is when we are seen and valued. We did practices of attending to ourselves with kindness and compassion, like we would naturally with a dear friend or child. We develop beliefs based on our experiences. As children when we’re turned away, we believe we are unlovable, unworthy, disgusting, and somehow inherently bad.
Our experience over the weekend was different. I hear you. I believe you. It was not your fault. I admire your courage. I love that your heart didn’t harden through the abuse and neglect. You are strong and resilient. For the first time, I trust a group of women. We see this reflected in each others eyes.
We open up space and a possibility to reconnect with ourselves. To love ourselves. Yet the old beliefs are strong. Can we let go of shaming and discounting ourselves? What would that look like? What would that take to let go and love and support ourselves in this way?
Before lunch Sunday, we went around the circle and each woman in turn received what seven women saw as her strengths. People were specific. I love how you looked into my eyes as I was telling you my story. I love the way your laugh bursts out. I honor your wisdom. Your tenacity and persistence. Your courage. I feel seen by you. You are a safe presence. You have a kind heart. You stuck up for people being hurt even though you weren’t believed. Your face is full of joy and delight. You matter to me.
In this way we bring fresh eyes to ourselves and our experiences. Our nervous system responds to our actual experience. In childhood, our brains didn’t have the right conditions to develop neural pathways for love and connection. Yes there were many tears. As we spoke of deep hurt. The relief of saying it. Out loud. Being heard and validated. Happy tears as it sinks in. We are not bad. We are traumatized. We have been hurt by our experiences and we are now healing. We have new direct experience – I can survive feeling this. Telling it. Having other people know this. Reconnect with myself and each other.
Through this work, I have resolved trauma from earlier in my life. I love myself unconditionally. I am safe for myself and for others.
This weekend retreat is complete. Each person leaves with the fresh knowing. One woman spoke of taking this into her work. Another of her healing affecting how she is present with her young daughter. Another giving herself permission to deeply rest. Blessings flow and space opens up in life. I wish that for all of us. Healing is truly possible.