The Empathetic Witness

I’ve always loved to read. When I was younger, you would find me reading Nancy Drew Mystery books. I love a good mystery! Oh, how I miss the summer days of my youth, where I could read all day if I wanted to.  

The last 23 years of my life, I’ve been reading books to help me with my anxiety. I fondly call them, “Helping Laurie Stay Sane Collection.” Let’s just say that I have a huge collection! Those books have given me the tools I’ve needed to help me navigate through my issues with anxiety.  There is a quote, that I would like to share with you, that popped up more than once in my book collection. “Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.” Gabor Maté

When I read that quote, a light went off in my brain. I actually cried because I didn’t fully understand I had an empathetic witness to all my pain, anxiety, depression, anger and everything else that was bottled up inside me. Even though I had Jesus in my life, I didn’t understand He could handle me and my trauma. Frankly, I didn’t think anyone could. 

Jesus is able to be our witness because of what He endured while He lived on earth. He went through deep trauma and deep pain. He was misunderstood. He was tempted and left all alone. He experienced so much anguish that He sweat drops of blood. He knows how we feel people!! He is the only One in this world that really knows.

We can have amazing friends. We can have a loving family. We can be involved in church and Bible studies. We can be in small groups. We can have wonderful counselors. I am blessed to say that I’ve had all of that. But, nothing compares to sitting down with Jesus and asking Him to be my empathetic witness. He is the only One who can be what I need. 

This is exciting news!!! It took me a long time to realize what I had right in front of me. Let me share another quote with you. “Your experience of lacking protection, places you in the center of Christ’s story. Our experience of defenselessness can become part of the story of courage overcoming the world.” K.J. Ramsey 

If you are like me, and you haven’t been protected in the past, I want to share with you why you might be a nervous wreck. Our trauma rewires our nervous systems. I have learned a lot about the nervous system in the last 23 years. The information I am going to share with you has helped me tremendously understand myself better and hopefully this information will help you too. 

Our brain’s first job is to keep us alive. Our nervous system is constantly searching within us and outside of us to make sure we are safe. It works like a surveillance system. People who have experienced a lot of trauma, have extremely sensitive surveillance systems. We have an alarm system that gets tripped a lot more often and easier than others. That’s why I have always envied people who are much calmer than me. I don’t know what “calm” or “relaxed” feels like very often. 

I know that’s why I have been told that I am “too sensitive.” I used to get so mad when people would say that about me. Now, I know there is a reason I am that way. My eyes have been constantly on the look out for danger and for safety most of my life. That’s why my nervous system has been severely affected. A situation you might think is harmless, might make my heart race. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve been in a movie theater and experienced severe anxiety over what I am watching. Nothing is directly happening to me, but I am getting triggered by what is happening on the screen. 

I’ve felt like I am the biggest “weirdo” because of the way I’ve reacted to things in my life. I’ve also felt extremely alone with my feelings. I didn’t feel safe expressing my feelings because I was afraid of the reaction I would get. I would beat myself up mentally all the time. I’d ask myself, “Why do I react this way? Why can’t I be normal like everyone else? Why can’t I calm down? Why or why can’t I find anybody that reacts the way I do? Why do I have to be like this?”

I felt that way for so many years, until I finally realized I had Jesus. And that was a game changer for me. We need an empathetic witness in our lives. Our trauma; our bodies; our minds; our souls and our emotions need Him. Our nervous systems need to connect to a relationship that shifts us into regulation. 

“Our past experience of our stress being ignored, shamed, or silenced can build us into people who expect to be alone with our pain.” Ramsey  If you are a highly sensitive person, I suspect you have felt alone like I have. Our pain has to have a place to go if we are going to be healthy emotionally. That’s why I journal. I get it all out on paper. I talk to Jesus when I write. Journaling has been the tool that has helped me connect to Him.

It took a long time for me to really feel close to Him; to trust Him and to get my feelings out. It took years to be honest, open, transparent and ask questions. It takes time for any relationship to develop. You have to be patient with yourself. Intimacy takes time to develop.

You might be thinking you don’t know how to connect with Jesus. I would like share what I’ve done. You have to do what is comfortable for you. Remember, I’ve been at this for 23 years. I am sharing what has worked for me. 

I always have my notebook and a pen with me. I go to a place in my mind where I feel happy and at ease. My place is usually a garden, but it has also been the mountains and the beach. All those places make me happy. Then, I open myself up and talk to Jesus. I share how I am feeling. I ask for His help with whatever is bothering me. I speak to Him through the words I am writing on the page. It’s very similar to writing a letter to someone. I tell Him things I’m learning and I ask for His input. 

We have conversations. Not audibly, but inwardly. He teaches me. He guides me. He shows me the way to go. He speaks to me through the words I write. It is the most beautiful thing to experience. He heals with His words. He loves with His presence. I can see Him sitting down and talking to me. I love being with Him. There isn’t anything that compares to being with Jesus. 

You might be thinking you don’t know if you can do what I have done. That’s ok. You have to do what feels right for you. The important thing to know is the fact that you have an empathetic witness who wants to be with you. He wants to hear from you. He wants to help you through your pain and your trauma.

I have been in counseling off and on for 23 years. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for their help. I have tried EMDR therapy. I have tried tapping. I have done breathing exercises. I take medication. All those things are wonderful, but I am here to tell you, nothing compares to connecting with my Savior. NOTHING!!!!!

Before I end this post, I don’t want to imply that we don’t need friends. We do need friends. I have the best friends in the world. I am saying that we have to realize they don’t have the ability to truly understand what we have been through. Sometimes we can put too much pressure on people to be what we need them to be. That’s an easy trap to fall into. People don’t always react the way you need them to because they simply don’t know how to react. They don’t have counseling degrees. The sooner we realize that, the better off everyone we will be.

I hope this post has been helpful. I pray God will use it to help you connect to Him. Life with Jesus is the great adventure!

Until next time dear friends. This is my journey to joy!!!

One thought on “The Empathetic Witness

  1. Your story describes me. But no amount of Bible studies, counselors, or psychologists helped me, they only made me painfully aware of how dysfunctional and hopeless I was. Then God mercifully led me to understand how He wanted to heal my painful memories to heal my soul wounds, which lead to breaking many mental strongholds that controlled my behavior. I wrote my story in a book called “Breaking Mental Strongholds,” which expands on my original healing prayer guide called “Hope for Complete Healing,” which can be found on my website called, Thank you for sharing.


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