My inner world swirls like a dark storm.
Yet I have calmed & quieted myself.
I am able to calm myself because I was calmed by others first.
(my version of Psalm 131:2)
We learn or don’t learn this self-soothing skill as our youngest selves when we cry to be heard.
We cry to be seen in order to receive both physical needs and emotional needs. When the physical is met and the emotional is left unattended, it is both ineffective and confusing. We move into our adult lives with a deficit. It feels as if the world is big and we are so very small. And we are discomforted. There is a wild river raging within. We are not soothed and nurtured. We become unraveled and are left feeling alone, for we do not know how to soothe and calm ourselves. We live too often in a state of anxiety or feeling undone.
It is more than changing our thinking that is necessary to remedy our inability to self-soothe. It is more than being grateful or disciplining our thoughts. Although certainly helpful, both of these leave us wanting for more. Wanting for a comforting balm to our soul. Gratefulness and thought shaping come after comfort.
We are born with a need to be comforted. It is the natural order of growing. It is in first getting comfort and soothing from an ‘other’ that we learn it for ourselves. When we receive enough attention to our emotional needs from the outside, we take it in and it becomes a part of us. This is how we learn the skill of self-soothing. Because we have been other-soothed.
We self-soothe because we have been other-soothed.
Many of us have not experienced this as children, so we find it challenging to experience it or offer it to others as adults. Due to my own short supply in this area, I had great difficulty offering comfort to my children. I was there for them and did plenty of holding and listening and hugging…but I didn’t feel it within myself. I think it wasn’t fully felt by them either.
Well, there is hope. Hope for ourselves, and for our children who experienced a less-than-comforting parent. You might not have received comfort enough as a child, but all is not lost. If self-soothing is difficult for you, for whatever reason, you can develop it now. Our brains are malleable. They can learn new things while healing from old things. New pathways can be laid down no matter your age or your story!
When you are sad or angry or lonely, bravely lean into asking for comfort from those who comfort well. Remind yourself that it’s OK to ask for it. It’s even OK to need it in the first place. Let the comforting words and kind touch of your ’other’ soak in. As this becomes a habit, and as you receive enough of it, having received it over and over and over and over again, you will discover an increasing ability to self-soothe when the bigness of life overwhelms your inner world.
You currently might not have the internal tools for this. You might not know how to lean into it or lack the nurturing friends around you who are proficient comfort offerers. Maybe you don’t even know how to ask for it or think you shouldn’t need it so you remain feeling undone, hiding it from others. This leads straight into the ever familiar shame storm!
If this is your inner world right now and you don’t know where to start, there is still more hope. Not only are the old pathways in our brain changeable, but being part of a group coaching experience is one of the paths that can provide the structure, the people and the connections for this to develop within you to the point where it can then be a part of your other relationships as well.
I love group coaching. I feel passionate about it for YOU, because I have experienced its effectiveness for myself over the last five years. Life is still crazy. I still feel undone when the river of emotion unleashes in my inner world. But now when it does, I reach out to fellow group members and my closest friends for comfort and containment. It is in receiving their comfort that I internalize it and it becomes my own.
If you would like to hear more about the power of group coaching or my experience in it for myself, contact me! I would love to connect!