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If I am busy within myself trying to apply a protocol, assess a person, formulate a treatment plan, or select which evidencebased practice to employ, I am not present with the person who comes into my room.
When Richard asked me for some thoughts about important directions, about what comes next, I began thinking with the sense of how much relational neuroscience has offered us in the last few decades. Shortly after that, I began to wonder what we humans, our societies, and our planet need most right now. No day passes without a sense that our time as a viable species on this gorgeous, but suffering, planet may be quite short. How did we become so neglectful of our home, of the body of the Earth? And what would relational neuroscience offer as wisdom to guide us toward more sustainable living?
We might begin by recognizing that almost every new discovery deepens our awareness of how thoroughly interwoven we are with each other and with all other living systems. Stephen Porges tells us that “connection is a biological imperative.” We could sit with the meaning of that for a long time, allowing it to shape how we see our place in this world, with each other and with the natural world. It also helps us become sensitive to how much of our nervous system is devoted to this biological imperative. James Coan says, “…it is possible to think of the entire human brain as a neural attachment system.” Pointing toward the depth of neurobiological entanglement with each other, Marco Iacoboni says that “we live within each other.” If we are able to feel into this, we might begin to sense that in every meaningful relationship, including the way we experience our connection with this earth, there is a third entity created. It is the joining of two (or more) into one system that is neither one nor the other, and certainly not the sum of the two, but its own third thing. My friend, and GAINS board member, Jim Finley tries to reflect this state of unity that preserves individuality this way: “Not-one, yet not-two.” Dan Siegel tries to touch it with “mwe.” It is a paradox that we can experience but not fully define. When we are in this state (but not when we are thinking about it), there is a flow of respect, of dignity, of tenderness and cooperation, and of co-suffering as well. This leads to acts of support and kindness, and willingness to make sacrifices for each other. We cease being and seeing objects, and instead inhabit a world of living relationships.[Content protected for subscribers only]