I am a very active person. I normally exercise 5-7 days a week, I work every day, sometimes even on the weekends. I am a Type A person which means that everything must happen now! And in a split second, I was unable to stand on my own two feet! This meant that I could not do anything for myself, by myself; I couldn’t rush around making things happen. I had to be still. That is one huge bummer! I could easily handle the physical pain of a broken foot but the toughest challenge was going from my active lifestyle to keeping my foot elevated for several weeks after surgery, then using crutches and a wheelchair because I dare not put my booted foot down. So needless to say I have had, and continue to have, a great deal of time for reflection, time to re-evaluate who I am and how I live my life.
I discovered that there are many lessons I could learn from having an experience that literally stopped me in my tracks! I thought I would share some of these lessons with you. Perhaps you can benefit from these lessons I am learning without having to go through an unfortunate experience. In today’s article, the first of three on this topic, I share my lesson and experience with the healing power of true connection.
The healing power of true connection
Although the notion that true connection between people creates healing chemistry is something I write about and teach to others every day, it was forcefully reinforced for me in this personal experience.
Have you ever been treated like a faceless number? The orthopedic doctor I visited the day after I broke my foot, literally walked into the consulting room, did not introduce himself to me and my husband, sat down with his back to us at his computer, looked at the X-Ray and said in a flat voice, “You have broken your foot in a bad place, it is called a Jones fracture, healing of this kind of fracture is slow (and uncertain), I prefer not to do surgery, my tech will be coming to fit you with a boot and crutches and I will see you again in 2 weeks. The entire interaction lasted possibly 4 minutes! When I got over the shock I thought to myself, “It is no wonder that his patients heal slowly … if at all!”
Needless to say I went to see another orthopedic specialist who is known for being a great doctor both medically and interpersonally. What a difference! His warm handshake felt so comforting! Then he pulled up his chair in front of me, looked me in the face and asked about me and my lifestyle. He discovered that I love yoga, power walking, aerobics and weight bearing exercise and that I would so very much want to continue to do this for the rest of my life. Based on who I am he suggested that surgery would be a good option because it would allow me to do this. I almost cried with relief! And at that moment my healing began. What a joyful and validating experience – to be seen, to be discovered for who I am and to know that the treatment would enable me to continue doing what is so important to me.
Well, there is a journey of several months of healing ahead of me but I am doing well and am even now allowed to put my foot down and walk slowly in my boot. Each time I put my foot down and take a few steps I am so excited about being able to walk. Amazing how we take so much for granted until it is taken away from us!
So every time you walk on your own two feet, let yourself know and feel how grateful you are!
The Chemistry of True Connection and how it relates to Parenting
So let’s put my personal experience with human connection into the realm of neuroscience and parenting. Experience has taught me that there are three levels of person-to-person connection:
The fascinating truth is that we know whether the other person is pretending, being distracted or being real. And children, know this even more quickly than adults do. Here’s how this happens. Professor Stephen Porges of the University of Maryland, is doing remarkable work on what he calls Polyvagal theory and neuroception. The vagus nerve runs bi-directionally from the brain stem to the abdomen and abdomen to brain via various organs including the heart, esophagus and lungs and also forms part of the involuntary nervous system. This nerve plays an important role in picking up cues from others in the environment and interpreting whether this feels safe or unsafe. We may not be able to put these feelings into words (especially children) but we know it in our bodies and brains. This knowing is what Professor Stephen Porges calls neuroception.
Now Back to Parenting.
This means that your child knows whether you are pretending to connect or are connecting in a distracted way or engaging in real authentic connection with him or her. And if it is not real this can cause your child to feel emotionally unsafe because they know neuro-biologically that they are not being truly seen, or heard or recognized for being the unique and wonderful child that they are.
When a child (or adult) feels and knows deep in their being, that they are being truly seen for who they are, this has the power to strengthen and heal their spirit, body and brain.
A Potent tool for You
Here’s the most potent tool you can use as a parent: Every time you interact with your child, ask yourself, ‘Am I pretending, being distracted or truly connecting?’ Your child’s identity, esteem, physiological, emotional and spiritual health depends on your answer!
By the way…
Writing this article has reminded me of one of my favorite songs ever from the rock opera Tommy sung by The Who in 1969, called, “See Me, Feel Me” – guess I am giving my age away!