Be Kind, Especially Now. But How? (a.k.a. Reading Peter Levine)

As a person who is neuroatypical, people are often surprised by what ends up having hurt me, and also by how I bounce back quickly after setbacks that others might never recover from. The problem with this is that it has had the following unexpected side effect: I can really hurt people’s feelings, and since what I have said wouldn’t have hurt me, I really struggle to realize that it hurt as bad as it did.

A friend of mine has a son who has mental illness and she told me about polyvagal theory. It is a complex theory and I really don’t have the credentials to write about it. But it got me to return to the book, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, by Peter A. Levine, PhD.. This book I had abandoned as a bunch of baloney. It didn’t resonate. But since my friend said it resonated for her, I thought I would see what made her tick and would read it.

Honestly, reading this book has rehumanized me. It has given me a model for understanding how I should act in delicate situations, and has given me compassion for people who may have been hurt by my words in the past. (I’m never physically abusive or violent, ever, and never have been.) I find myself asking people for their feedback, and also find myself asking, “What do you think?” and, for once, I am ready to take in people’s answers and pivot accordingly. I am more flexible.

Learning about how “normal” people function helped me to see how they need to be treated, and I think that I am a better person for it. I recommend reading books written about therapy for “normal” people. The techniques may not apply to how you would be helped, but they will build your compassion muscle so you can live life more fully and without causing needless harm. It is important, especially now.

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