Today is International Women’s Day! This year’s international theme is ‘Embrace Equity‘ and the Dutch theme is ‘Unlimited livability‘ – a call to work together to ensure that as much as possible, we can move through our living world, our life world, without social, cultural, financial and emotional limitations. For this, resilience is important. Resilience is sometimes described as the ability to deal flexibly with life’s challenges, among other things by truly really welcoming all your emotions. To achieve that and raise resilience, it is helpful if feminine energy has the upper hand, in both women and men.
The first 1000 days of a human life have a major impact on the rest of one’s existence. No longer is there any doubt about that now; this has been demonstrated in all kinds of ways and has been substantiated both empirically and scientifically. So the first 1000 days, from conception to about the second birthday, are essential. What happens during pregnancy and around birth really matters. In that phase the foundation is laid for the life that follows. When there is a lot of stress in those early years, it usually becomes more difficult for a child to handle things smoothly and to stay healthy on all fronts. Even when social and health problems do not appear until later in life, upon careful examination they often turn out to have their roots in childhood. With that knowledge in our pocket, the conclusion is obvious that we would all do well to cherish that period, so that life after birth can be lived in an unlimitedly livable way and can continue to be. And then it gets exciting… do we accept that challenge? How can we embrace equity in a practical sense? I do have some ideas. Let’s raise resilience! Let us take good care of our pregnant women, see the interests of children as equal to those of adults, and let us give vulnerability a more prominent place in our society.
In the context of vulnerability, this morning I thought of an amazing woman who has said beautiful things about it, namely Brené Brown. One of her most famous quotes is: “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
Vulnerability as courage – choosing not to be armed to the teeth, but to allow yourself to be wounded and to be open to your own feelings and those of others, even if it hurts. That can feel very scary. In a society where individualism is almost an ideology, co-reliance is a difficult concept. Do we simply dare to acknowledge that we need each other, that it is difficult not to feel connected to loved ones? That is quite normal, namely, because people are ‘wired for connection’: their entire neurophysiological system is set up for meaningful connection with others. When that connection is missing, sometimes already very early in life, it produces feelings of deep pain and loneliness. This can lead to the belief that you are ‘not good enough’, that you are not worthy of being loved, that you don’t belong and that you have to survive on your own. And then… what if that threatens to overwhelm you…?
A few years ago I saw the movie ‘The House I Live In’, in which addiction expert Gabor Maté says: “When people are in pain, they want to soothe that pain. So the question is not ‘why the addiction?’, but ‘why the pain?’ ” I was perplexed. That illness is usually an expression of a (especially emotionally) disturbed balance – that was a conviction I had already lived with for a quarter of a century. The layer that Gabor Maté added with this statement, however, felt like an inevitable paradigm shift. I felt like I had been given some kind of key that unlocked everything. To me, this seemed to be the essence, a vision that urgently deserves to be followed everywhere in society.
That is the idea from which ACE Aware NL was born: creating awareness about ACEs, adverse childhood experiences, and recognising that many behaviours and habits that are labelled as ‘difficult’ or ‘unhealthy’ are in fact survival strategies and self-medication for the pain of loneliness and exclusion. That is why I started ACE Aware NL, together with Victor Bodiut. And speaking of courage and vulnerability: without him I would not have dared to. Together we have laid a wonderful foundation, on which we now continue to build. The so-called ‘feminine’ energy has a prominent place in this: soft receptivity, intuition, room for ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’, attention to the emotional life, from the inside out, as inspiration for the more masculine energy.
Everywhere in nature, growth always takes place from the soft spots. This is very clear in babies and young children. For healthy growth, it is therefore important to ensure that this softness is protected and that no (physical and emotional) hardening occurs. Love, closeness, compassionate attention… those are the things the young child thrives on and with that you can raise the child’s resilience. How can you shape that? And what are the consequences of the lack of such care?
In order to discuss this extensively with experience experts and professionals, ACE Aware NL now also has a podcast entitled ‘Raising Resilience!’, together with Petra Bouma, who has been making the beautiful visuals for the blogs for some time now and who also put together artwork for the podcast, I have now set up the infrastructure for it and the first four episodes are online! You can listen to Nikk Conneman, Eefke Postma, Marie-liz de Jongh and Hilde Bolt. In the near future a lot of interviews will take place again and we will meet many more beautiful people. They will talk about their work, but also about their own experiences, which often contain a lot of touching wisdom as a result of grief.
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of shame and judgment around the subject of ‘trauma’. Those are not helpful, because they cause many people to experience a barrier to telling their story. People keep suppressing everything, eventually often resulting in illness. Opening up about the pain and grief of your life history… that takes a lot of courage. There is often so much wisdom in what people have to say about what was difficult for them and how they overcame those difficulties. I really have deep respect for that, because I also know how complicated it can be not to let the loneliness of the past fully influence your life in the present.
The tune of the podcast is entitled ‘Here Forever’. While preparing the launch, this fragment seemed to present itself to me. Here forever – forever here. To know that there are people you can always count on and perhaps to be such a person yourself for others… that is what creates a deep sense of security, the feeling that you are welcome with everything that belongs to you, just like you are. For many people, that appears to raise hope and confidence and resilience. The Raising Resilience podcast is therefore also a powerful plea to be alert together to what the youngest in our society need to grow up joyful and happy, on the way to an unlimitedly liveable future. We hope that you will enjoy the specia stories and insights with us and who knows, we may welcome you as a guest in due course!