Each of us is connected to not only the web of life, but to the web of our stories.
In early life, we develop neurobiologically grounded stories based on how we are treated—with kindness and empathy or with cruelty and manipulation. These impressions form the base of our social personality before our conscious mind comes fully online. These are implicit, tacit stories our unconscious carries throughout the rest of life—in a direction toward openness or toward bracing against the world. (Narvaez, 2011; Tomkins, 1965).
Communities have a choice in what orientation—openness to or bracing against others—that they will foster in young children. Supportive communities allow parents to be responsive to and supportive of their young children. Born so immature, parental treatment shapes the functioning of our physiological systems and psychological functioning (Narvaez, 2014). We are biosocial constructions: Our biology is shaped by our social experience. The characteristics of the Evolved Nest are what helped our ancestors survive and thrive, fostering openness and wellbeing (Narvaez, Panksepp, Schore & Gleason, 2013).
The stories that rescuers in World War II tell are those of connection—’before me, there was a human being in need, how could I not help?” This was not bracing against others but openness to the other. Such an orientation appears to have been grounded in early life social support they experienced, support that builds secure attachment to parent or caregiver (Oliner & Oliner 1988).
As children grow they take up the stories the community promotes. What is the nature of our connection to the natural world, to the universe, to one another? We adults can talk to our children and the children of others about their connections. What connections, webs of relationships, do you notice? Tell the world.
We can tell our stories of connection and transformation in the natural world.
- Annie Dillard (1999) describes a startling encounter with a weasel when they locked eyes for the longest moment, feeling as if they exchanged souls for that instant. Her writings are filled with perceptive descriptions of connection within Nature and spirit.
- Albert Schweitzer (1997) tells of the church bells ringing right when he was aiming his slingshot at a songbird. That was the last time he thought of killing a bird. He later became a world renown humanitarian, living a life of medical service.
- Aldo Leopold (2016) tells of when he was young and part of the rampant wolf-killing culture, of shooting a wolf and looking the wolf in the eyes as she died. Never again.
We can tell stories from our area of expertise.
- Scientists can tell you about how you share genes with other organisms—e.g., over 60% with bananas! Dear cousins!
- Scientists can tell you about the genes in your body, which are mostly not human because of the trillions of microorganisms you carry to keep you alive: the microbiome, your personal support system!
- Physicists might tell you that at the quantum level, and beyond our understanding, everything is entangled with everything else. One of the mysteries of the universe.
Your Primal Pilgrimage
Primal wounds, from lack of community support and harsh or neglectful treatment in early life, or from trauma later, lead us to brace against the world. But in those wounds may be our salvation and our gifts. They make us sensitive to certain aspects of the world and, if we are brave, our journey to healing can make us wise in ways that help others.
Each of our lives is a pilgrimage, a journey led by our spirit, our unconscious awareness of things. We can describe this pathway as a hero’s journey. Many of us face challenges in figuring out who we are, what our gifts are, what our purpose is. But if we start to follow “our bliss” or our passionate interests, we have started on the path (Campbell, 2008).
Once you take up the journey, guides and mentors will come. You will notice stories that encourage you. Despite obstacles, if you stay focused, help will be provided. Of course, sometimes the challenge is to discern the difference between the necessary obstacles we must overcome to reach our dream and the signs telling us we are on the wrong path.
The hero’s journey myth helps frame the process of our becoming. Hollywood movies use this myth (or monomyth, according to Joseph Campbell, mythology scholar). The first film where it was most intentionally used was Star Wars.
Have you noticed a new idea or tantalizing path that keeps popping into your head or turning up in your life? Will you say yes? Will you take up the hero’s journey?
More on many of these ideas see, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom (W.W. Norton)
PRIMAL WOUND SERIES
7. Stories of Connection To Heal The Primal Wound
Photo Shutterstock/Benjavisa Ruangvaree