Dear Global Somatic Experiencing Community,
There are many ways this letter could be written at this time in history. This week marks the two-year anniversary of so many parts of the world shutting down because of COVID. There are assaults on LGBTQ+ children in Texas and Florida. And, of course, there is a war in Europe that has led to, at this writing, more than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees and many from Russia, as well. There is a lot of heaviness on the planet causing real pain in this moment and invoking anniversary, historical, and ancestral trauma on untold millions (billions?) of people globally.
I would be lying if I said these past few months have not taken a toll on me, as I expect they have for so many of you. In this letter, however, I want to take a lesson from Mr. Rogers, the beloved television star in the United States, who famously said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” While we all know this cannot be complete advice in these difficult times, it is still helpful as part of a larger pendulation strategy. The helpers have shown up, but I need to take a step back to explain how we got here.
When I joined the SEI board of directors in June 2018, the organization was struggling, and we felt disconnected from our international partners, including the Associação brasileira do trauma (ABT) and the European Association of Somatic Experiencing (EASE). It has taken nearly four years of thoughtful conversations and meetings to collectively rebuild and heal relationships. Over that time, SEI staff have been meeting with Kari Elise Slinning, chair of the EASE Board of Directors, and Sergio Oliviera, president of the ABT Board of Directors, on a consistent basis to share information on initiatives within each organization. Representatives from SEI have attended EASE General Assemblies in Stockholm and Lisbon, and representatives from ABT and EASE have attended SEI events, such as this January’s Global Faculty Forum. Our focus will continue to be how to involve more people from around the world.
What does improving global relationships have to do with looking for helpers in times of crisis? For the first time since I have been on the SEI Board, EASE and SEI have come together on a joint effort to support Ukrainian refugees and the helpers who will help them. It started with a few emails and WhatsApp messages; it grew into a task force. Members of this group hail from Turkey, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, United States of America, Czech Republic, Hungary, Brazil, and Poland, and the Ukrainian organizer has been in contact with everyone. And now, Zlata Koštejnová, EASE Board representative from the Czech Republic, and Defne Erdur, SEI Board representative from Turkey, are centralizing these efforts to respond where and when needed with our shared SE skillsets.
There will be more time in the future to discuss what is happening and all the ways in which you, as global SEPs, can help and support. Here, however, I want to share the global SE implications of what is happening. What has struck me over and over again is how we have come together as a community, remembering to implement SE into our own meetings (thank you, Defne, for always reminding us to do that), and collaborating with a united spirit of support.
We know that when tragedy happens, everyone’s nervous systems respond differently. We all have different ways of manifesting fight, flight, and freeze responses. We also know just how important social engagement is. I have been on a few of these task force meetings. I have seen the power of connection in these times of crisis. And this power of connection from folks who may not know each other, who speak a multitude of languages, and who are physically and emotionally at different distances from this war, has kept us all going.
Many months ago, I shared my hope with this community that, in times of crisis in one part of the world, folks in other parts of the world could help hold the community together, much like a Hoberman sphere expands to give more space for activation. I have felt this expansion so many times in the past few weeks. We all know that the helpers are often the folks least likely to take care of themselves, and that is where this global community can shine. One of our key objectives with this task force is to ensure that the folks who are doing the helping are getting support as well. SEPs for SEPs for SEPs and so on. I am both in awe and grateful for this global community of support.
The world feels very, very heavy right now. It is so easy to feel like there is little hope. My hope is that you can feel the connection through this community, know you are not alone, and know that there will be plenty of opportunity to both offer your support and to be supported. Please take care of yourselves. Please reach out to your friends. And please know that this community will be support to you and to the world in a multitude of ways.
With warmth and gratitude for all of you,