The Power of Witnessing

I often end up advocating for individual reflection and do-it-yourself coaching strategies. And what I am realizing is that, while our growth and development absolutely depends on our own self-awareness, it’s essential to be present with and share with others.

We need intimate relationship with others.  We need the support, trust and sense of belonging that friendship can offer.

This idea was illuminated for me just the other day.  I was confronted with some really uncomfortable feelings including worry, anger and sadness.  I did journal and cry and breathe on my own…  And the grief felt almost too intense to bear.

So if I clearly needed help, why is it so hard to reach out? Early on, like many of us,  I had internalized messages about how unsafe the world can be.  I interpreted this as my being unworthy and incapable of communicating in a vulnerable, intimate, and safe way.

As I begin to break free from this self-loathing and insecurity, I have begun to open up to the beauty and gift of intimate emotional connection with others.  Scary at times, yes.  Yet, something magical happens when we are in true and open  relationship to another human being.  In  witnessing and offering compassion for our  anguish and pain, healing occurs.

It was cathartic to connect with two friends about what I was experiencing.

With the first friend I actually laughed, a lot.  We joked about the ridiculousness of my particular situation, my own foolishness, and my disappointment in others’ behavior.  She was my witness.  She helped me feel not-so-crazy, not-so-unreasonable, not-so-overly-sensitive.

With the second friend I cried, a lot.  We talked about the ridiculousness of my particular situation, my own foolishness, and my disappointment in others’ behavior.  She was my witness. She helped me feel heard, understood, accepted.

Sharing my truth out loud, in real time, with a live human being on the other end was healing.  We can’t do it on our own.  No matter how enlightened, reflective, in touch, or mindful we are.  We need each other.

When was the last time you were afforded the gift of witnessing?

And if it has been a while, start calling those experiences into your life.  Once you start asking, the opportunities will emerge…


12 thoughts on “The Power of Witnessing

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I spoke last night on the topic of “We’re in this together” and what you say resonates so well with that. Everyone around you is going through something right, is on the cusp of change. Can’t we be there to support each other, to listen? YES!

  2. Love this….so true. It’s funny because I’ve always been conscious of the fact that there are different facets to my being, and how different people complement and nurture different aspects of my personality. It takes all these people to make me feel “whole”. Reading your entry, you’ve also made me realize that different people can have a different perspective on one experience or situation…that it’s essential to share with others to expose and unravel different facets…different shades of one particular experience. How one can make you laugh…and see that experience in one light, and another can make you cry and bring on completely different feelings and emotions to that very same experience. Simple…brilliant….beautiful. Thanks again for opening my eyes to that….

  3. It’s that feeling of “separateness” from others that creates and intensifies our suffering. Being able to trust another enough and be trusted enough by others to share our concerns and work them through is truly a gift. I love the old adage, “a friend in need is a friend indeed”.

  4. Elo, I love this (as I love all of your writing, just don’t always take time to post). I remember so vividly one of the very first things I heard Jason Shulman say that really stuck with me, at an Omega weekend in 1996 — “All healing happens in relationship.” You spoke so eloquently to that truth, that we need others to reflect and contain and shine light on our pain as well as share our joys. Amazing the healing that can happen with a simple phone call, that moment of knowing we’re connected and not alone; feeling the other side of the paradox that while we each can only make our way through life singularly, we also are intimately tied to the whole. xoxoxxoxo

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