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Blog Post: Chapter 6, “TOV Churches Nurture Empathy ”

Chapter six was a surprise to read. The title of the chapter was very encouraging; seeing the world from anothers’ eyes generally provides increased understanding and empathy for those we do not always understand. I was anticipating expanding on the Ventral Vagal part of our autonomic nervous system and how wonderful it would be to be part of a church where Ventral Vagal would be evident.

What a surprise! As I continued to read, I was reminded of times in my life that I observed and encountered the reactions to women that the authors refer to. And I found myself in Sympathetic! No longer was I reading this chapter to write a blog; I identified with the “wounded and the marginalized (p. 103).” I do not normally think of myself with these adjectives and am very thankful for Kingsfield-Zurich Mennonite church where I serve as an elder, even though I am a woman and divorced.

When I had finished reading the chapter, I paid close attention to my internal responses: I noticed a ‘tenseness’ inside. I felt somewhat alarmed, anxious and hypervigilant and ready to defend or protect myself. I surprised myself.

Here I am! A living example of what I have been writing about in the first five chapters of A Church Called TOV. I asked myself: “What do I focus on now in this blog?” I am reminded that the authors are referencing women as representing all the marginalized and wounded and decide to focus on imagining what it would be like to be raised and attend a church that was obviously ‘male-centric,’ to use the author’s term, with the understanding that these reactions also refer to any marginalized and wounded people.

It would be difficult to spend much time in Ventral Vagal – to be able to ‘stand up straight’ and feel capable and competent. There would not be the permission nor the space to talk about the distress of conflicting thoughts and feelings, or options. It would be difficult to self-regulate or co-regulate because honesty would not be invited; the need to protect one’s self and the church’s theological interpretations and values would be the top value.

The majority of the nervous systems of those who are wounded and marginalized would be primarily in Sympathetic or Dorsal – or – bouncing back and forth between Sympathetic and Dorsal states – needing to give up one’s own thoughts and feelings in order to be accepted in the church.

Blog Post from Dianne Loerchner, Registered Psychotherapist and Elder at Kingsfield Zurich Mennonite Church

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