The net that David Rich discusses in this section is a net built within our psyche that will serve to catch us when we fall, or, in other words, enter the void or encounter a difficult moment. The net is something that is woven early on in childhood by good enough parenting where our mother or father was able to accurately mirror our internal experiences. We each carry wisdom inside about how to healthfully develop, just like a flower knows how to come from a seed, push through the earth, sprout and bloom. No one tells it to do that. When our caregivers are able to validate and mirror the feelings, experiences and drives that come from inside, they send us the message, that, “yes, you are on the right track”. “You can trust yourself and what comes from inside you”. This gives us the confidence and knowing in later life that we can trust the processes that unfold, even if they seem difficult or dark. We can trust ourselves that we will make it and be OK. Of course, this is not necessarily a conscious trust. It is just a knowing that gets built and stays as we move through our human life.
And, just to address an obvious question, this does not mean that a parent enables a willful child or gives a child everything he wants. It means that the parent allows feelings to happen and contains the child within safe limits (“no, you can’t walk on the top of that 6 foot fence because you are 5, but it is OK that you are upset you can’t” or “no, you are not going to eat all that chocolate before dinner, but I understand you are mad because I’m not letting you). As an adult, a parent lends containing guidance and wisdom and is aware of the development that a human being needs to encounter so that they can support it rather than prevent it or shame a child for what he knows needs to happen.
Now, what if you didn’t get the parenting you needed? Maybe someone wasn’t there to mirror or they did something besides mirroring. It’s OK. This doesn’t mean that your parent(s) were horrible people. I promise you they did the best they could with their knowledge and resources at the time. No person wakes up in the morning and says I’m going to be a crap parent today, OK. All that you need to know is whether you got what you needed. If you didn’t, it’s OK. You can get that net now. David Richo says “you can still weave it now by grieving the losses of childhood, working through things in therapy and Twelve-Step programs, and by being loved unconditionally in healthy relationships” (p. 96). I would add that friendships, creating art that explores/expresses your interior world, journaling, spiritual practices such as meditation or any other self-discovery process can help you create this net. The net is what helps us stay with the void or the difficult moment to get to the other side and reap the benefits of living through it: growth, self-esteem (knowing that you can make it through difficult things, which means that fear of hard things is unnecessary), finding a resolution to the problem, seeing the meaning of a difficult event in your life. David Richo says having this net is “accepting that I am alone in this work and noticing that there are visitors that sometimes come to my gate to offer an embrace” (p. 96).
Finally, David Richo makes two really important points. First is that a healthy person will weave the net before it is necessary. He says that weaving the net after a crisis is recovery. Second, he says the net “does not break the fall, it just lets it happen safely” (p. 97). I think those points speak for themselves.
Know the strength you have if you have a net, know that it is there to help you through the necessary falls that happen in your development. Thank your parent for weaving this early in your life. If you realize that you need to strengthen your net or start on it, do that. Do it before you need it. You are choosing a much more peaceful process that way. And, if you are a parent, work on creating that net for your child. It is much more powerful than trying to prevent bad things from happening in your child’s life or trying to shield them from difficult moments.
*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".