This article is for anyone who is interested or struggles with open relating at times, practitioners or people interested in stem brain therapy. It introduces a ‘bottom-up’ somatic 5 step process to help people in this process. It’s not about bypassing or creating safety, but like one of my teachers said: when trauma is healed in the body – meditation (divine love) becomes a lot easier.
I have been privileged to possess an open spirit full of overflowing love, eros and curiosity, and naturally I often ended up with 2 boyfriends simultaneously in high school not knowing why. I also almost lost my life at birth and my mother for several days after – little did I know how it would impact me later in life so deeply, especially in open relating!
From a young age I felt that certain people reflected a deep part of my own soul and not following my longing to merge or connect in some way felt like a sacrilege to me.
As a result it was not surprising that I felt drawn to move into the exploration of a heartfelt open relating when I met my partner 5 years ago. Logically we were both clear in our relationship choice, we felt deeply committed and connected and wanted to move deeper into vulnerability and a shared life together and we also wanted to continue to explore love in its many forms, intellectually we had it all worked out. However practically it was anything but easy at times, we experienced old wounds come up, numbness, anger, disassociation, although we were surrounded by friends, good books and emotional support and release techniques. Because there were also so many gifts, we continued to dive in deeply exploring from love. It was going to be a work in progress.
One reason for triggers to kick in could be, that people that have children that they care for are a lot more affected by the survival mechanisms in the brain to fire off to create, safety, security and consistency with each other, a natural protection of nature to give the children the security, love and stability they need. So if you have or desire children open relating can initially be more triggering due to the perceived danger of losing your security or family. However parenting as such needs a collective review as separations are on the rise, in my opinion a better container of love needs to be created for most even if not in open relating, so that was something that needed processing anyhow.
A second reason could be that people in the field of open relating don’t have not a lot of experience, communication skills or know their own boundaries, needs or intentions. For example, you need to ask the question why would a person want to connect intimately with a person that is not entirely available for a deeper journey together where vulnerability can take place, because they have another partner or because they are only available occasionally. Ideally, and why I love it, a person would wants this kind of connection because they are clear on their emotions and motivations. For me it could be seeking sexual experiences, learn something new, get or give a transmission, being able to go deep in the moment and return to my centre or simply to share my soul, joy and ecstatic bliss without forming attachment but rather a deep eternal connection.
But often, people realise afterwards they were not as clear in their bodies as they thought they were. And this is where the triggers come in and the messiness begins. We sense there is energies running that are in the shadows which of course it makes us feel less secure, the dark is the unknown and asks of us to fully let go. After a great connection, people might feel abandoned, try to create a relationship without considering the existing agreements or the person’s boundries on their availability or relating style, romanticise or blackmail the person they connected with or even shame them, because they are not delivering something they want. This can be rewounding for some repeating childhood drama for others, bypass and mess can be the result and excellent communication and somatic awareness is needed to make a healing process out of the distortions. Actually life is like that in reality we have no control over what happens which creates a certain vulnerability, all we can do is get to know ourselves better and live with as much awareness and compassion for others as possible.
However this is nothing we can’t counterbalance at least by leading by example, having accountability and aware, integral behaviour as much as we can, practicing good communication should be enough for us to hold point in ourselves, and create good aftercare to learn from messy situations together. Even if our desire shifts to another person this too needs to be communicated and processed in a mature way. You can see what I am aiming at is that awareness is the key stone to open relating and reduces triggers a great deal. Then life is paradise and love would be present? But it wasn’t.
There was ANOTHER REASON, a third one, much more powerful one than the two above. Could it be UNRESOLVED TRAUMA in the stem brain from early childhood that activates distress, switches off our reasoning of the neo cortex and disables reasonable emotional reaction in the limbic brain?
And this is how it happened that I found out about this. Due to my son’s learning difficulties I was recently in a German research facility who do thousands of brain scans and work with trauma. They look at trauma, depression, illnesses, anxiety it’s effect on the brain and how trauma later on in life affects the way we feel, think, learn, bond with partners etc. I was fascinated and spent significant amounts of time discussing with the scientist that did my sons scans the different areas of the brain, what activates them, damages them, what rules them and also – what heals them.
The institute had developed a therapy to repair specific parts of the brain from trauma and they had a good understanding which stimulation’s the brain responded to and what not.
After my visit I put some dots together how that applied to me and possibly others in open relationships. As much as we cognitively understand our own desires and the desires of our partners, we can still feel unsafe, lost, humiliated or nervous when managing the open explorations of our partners, or if you are single managing the fact that the person you just bonded with has already moved on for good or temporarily. The reason could be, an imprint of trauma that gets reactivated and perceives open relating as a threat, literally a life threat, as stem brain trauma is about survival as it occurred in the stem brain in a pre cognitive state in early childhood where situations for example being left alone is not something you think about whether you are safe or not, but instinctively you feel you will die in your isolation if help does not arrive soon. Sexual abuse or negative sexual role modelling can also leave a deep imprint and pattern that can lead us to a distorted experience of relating seeking out external conflict to resolve the internal trauma. Basically when trauma is imprinted in the brain stem, instead of being able to react cognitively reasonable from our neo cortex or emotionally centred from our limbic brain in a situation where we feel triggered, our survival or stem brain alarms us of danger or death faster than the other parts of the brain can react. So whilst we want to be understanding and loving we simply can’t feel that way if the fight and flight response is activated. Then all we can do is hold space for the reaction, calm down and process what happened after. But it doesn’t solve the problem over time as the trauma can get retriggered any time and even worse the pathways get wired stronger the more often we experience certain incidences!
But as the trauma gets healed, this impending threat lessens and lessens, trust is reestablished, love can flourish and the person feels safe in themselves and with the other from a place of embodiment rather than a mental construct. We can heal and even repattern the brain to some degree.
This made sense to me as the imprint of losing my mother at birth would in this case continue to get reactivated until this imprint would be healed and I would finally feel safe in myself and in the world with others. Based on this the 5 step process was developed.
Pre/post natal and early childhood trauma happens whilst we are in a pre cognitive state so no emotional releasing or cognitive therapy reaches the brain stem to heal these early traumas. Only somatic therapy, EMDR, sound therapies, bioresonanz have scientifically shown to have this effect.
Possibly shamanic and ancient sciences have more success at it but no one has done the brain scans to actually prove that, however I use ritual and shamanic practices a lot in my work and find them extremely helpful.
Additionally people with early childhood trauma have difficulty to safely attach to a person or bond long term, so often they find themselves in a couple where one partner is avoidant attached and the other partner anxious attached simply repeating their childhood pain as it feels normal to feel this way. This ads to the triggers of open relating because there is no perceived safe attachment between the pair. This is also part of the foundation that needs to be addressed for both partners and can create immense experience of love and heart opening as the attachment style is healed and becomes stable.
There are many relationship choices available to us today but more often than not people seem to be drawn to intimate connections at times wanting to go deeper. As a therapist I work with couples that want way out of the ‘polyagony’ or they come because they want ways into the ‘polyamory’, whilst others struggle already with monogamy already and with their existing projections of wounds and fears on the other. I also work with singles that want to relate but can’t for various reasons.
Whilst I offer an amazing set of communication tools, differentiation’s, paradigms for people to find their truth around relating, reoccurring pain pattern of partners would still appear in people when open relating. For these people I feel the 5 step process is ideal and brings deep healing, long term ongoing stress causes serious damage in the nervous system and can even lead to eventually illness.
I wanted to find an approach that not just manages the trauma, so many couples and singles have tools to manage the traumatic effects of their open relating but maybe over time the pain and numbness has compounded so much that the relationship breaks apart as a result. Instead of being able to bond long term, which is also the foundation to form and nurture a family.
So I developed an approach that I believe can overtime HEAL the cause of pain. It is SLOW – RELIABLE – BUILT ON TRUST – LOVE & COMPASSION. I call it the ‘5 Step Process to Heartfelt Open Relating’
Over time it can gently rewire the brain through lots of loving, positive, reaffirming experiences.
It’s foundation is based on healing dysfunction in the existing relationship looking at safe attachment. Reestablishing trust into the person that we experience love from, the trust we lost to our primary career in the past. It also uses techniques as an antidote to trauma, trauma being defined as an experience of loss of control – instead for a period of time, we invite in consent to regain a sense of control over our situation producing inner stability, strength and wholeness. Then we move to the next step. It’s not about always feeling safe or long term loosing our freedom or souls journey, but it’s about choosing how far we can go into our fears, to heal them gradually instead of reexperience them and therefor solidifying them.
People will receive a trauma/trigger map and will be able to recognise where in the process they stand. Because life is not a static process but an organic one we also invite pendulation awareness into our lives. Certain events for example the death of a parent can retrigger old traumas in the brain and reactivate old neuropathways. In those moments we may need to go back to the previous phase as it is very likely we will feel a lot more sensitive at such a time to abandonment. But ultimately the idea is to be able to feel held and safe and experience our life from the frontal lobes, the part of the brain that can experience higher love, empathy and bliss. A partner can be the pathway to experience this within ourselves again, versus forming codepedancy, we use love for mutual understanding and healing.
This process can take shorter or longer, it can never be rushed each step needs to be authentic, similar to somatic processing it’s an embodied approach, and the body will show the signs of the success of each process in each phase.
This process is mostly for couples and needs committed partners that are seeking more bliss and improvement, willing to open their hearts, because as we know two people never come together without a good reason … both people will have a deep process. We know today, wounds that are created by people we love are most effectively healed by people we love or at least trust deeply. It can be done by singles as well it just works slightly different.
While some people use other approaches that are lead by more sovereignty, no agreement fields but following the radiant flow or the deep end approach, jump and see what happens, it can or cannot work if the person has enough supportive therapy to heal the actual core of the issue, should ongoing unease be there deep inside. To take not of our ‘animal’ and the body is something we can’t avoid as we are spirit incarnated into the flesh for a reason I believe, and working both with free spirit and the body holds tremendous gifts. Janine would call this the upper and lower heart as far as I understand. I find this approach has a great rapport with people with a sensitive nervous system that need gentleness instead.
Ultimately it all is meant to lead us to the same goal: To be free – to be love – to be home.
If you have any interest to find out more about the ‘5 Steo Process to Heartfelt Open Relating’ please feel free to contact me or book a session via Skype or in person with or without your partner. This article mainly serves the purpose of pointing out how certain trauma affects us and how open relating can remain painful on an ongoing basis for some people – until certain imprints in the brain are healed.
The nervous system and rewiring the brain remains my deepest passion.
I believe life can be experienced as a long, joyful and heart opening journey. Open relating that arises deep from the heart can be the most beautiful gift of honouring the one in the many. It takes a person of depth and courage to take on that journey of self knowledge and love deeply and with integrity, having compassion for the as much important body and its human nature. No matter what, no one should ever live in ongoing trauma and never open their heart – life is too short for that.
With all my heart – Marion Ellyard