Witness versus with-ness

By Dave Henning / June 12, 2023

“Suffering with someone while being attuned to them is powerful; it conveys a sacred solidarity. . . .  This is the key difference between the idea of a ‘witness’ and ‘with-ness.’  A witness can observe what has happened — which certainly matters.  But ‘with-ness’ implies that the person has resolved to be in it with us, right down to the dirt and mire of whatever we’re going through.”- Aundi Kolber

In Chapter 4 (“Strength with Connection”) of Strong Like Water, Aundi Kolber describes an embodied experience.  It’s when you feel safe enough in your body to actually be present in and to it — moment by moment.  As a result, you possess the capacity to be in your God-given body, wholly and fully.

Above all, Aundi stresses, being present in your body makes a pretty big difference.  However, a problem occurs when we treat ourselves and others as static objects.  As machines that rely solely on rational thought.  In that case, we lack the capacity to truly connect with what’s happening in and through us.  And in that default mode we learn to disconnect from our bodies.

Instead, we need to treat ourselves as image bearers with actual bodies and emotions.  Thus, when you do the sacred work of healing you experience increasing moments of true embodiment.  And it begins to change you.

Also, it’s important that someone offer you the gift of presence.  Something Aundi refers to as:

“Compassionate with-ness, a posture through which others convey that they are attuned to us — that they resonate with, understand, and share our feelings — and that we can attune to them and others. . . .  This with-ness also speaks to the way our nervous systems and bodies are created to sync with each other as we experience co-regulation.”

Finally, the author stresses, such moments of deep safety and co-regulation begin to shift your internal narratives, sensations, and experiences.  In ways you could never have believed!

Today’s question: Do you prefer to witness or offer with-ness?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Primary attachment style”

About the author

Dave Henning

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