Dr Gabor Maté speaks about the effect of traumatic experiences as being disconnecting. Nurturing authentic connection with ourselves is thrilling, painful and raw. It is the aliveness we long for and it is a bold move.
What does disconnection look like in our ordinary everyday life? Our past experience leads us to predict that the present moment is likely to be painful and overwhelming. We respond to potential threats with our survival responses of fight/ flight/ freeze/ fawn.
Have you ever been introduced to someone and literally ten seconds later you don’t remember their name? I have. Sometimes it’s a one-off because we’re nervous or distracted. When it is more pervasive, we can see we have a habit of disconnection. Past trauma has led to a semi-permanent state of being checked out and not really paying attention.
Disconnection can also be a result of hypervigilance, where we’re too busy scanning the room for danger to really be present to other people as a potential source of enjoyment and connection. Many people have been more hurt by other people than loved and nourished. Our walls make sense.
When we’re not really here in the present moment, we don’t remember our life. Our brain literally doesn’t develop the neural networks to take in our experiences. We might later look at a picture of a happy event and feel the sadness of knowing we weren’t really there.
We can be held hostage by catastrophic, what-if thinking that dominates our mind. We might also be cringing from being lashed with the harshness of an inner critic. Who wouldn’t want to escape from that?
Life can be difficult and sometimes we are head down, getting through. We feel we can’t afford to stop and breathe, take a step back, and look at our situation from a broader lens. This can be helpful in the sense that it gets us through an emergency. Unfortunately we can be in difficult situations for years or decades, with the stress building up to toxic levels.
Racism, sexism, economic exploitation, discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, gendered violence and other “isms” are inherently dehumanizing and disconnecting. We develop core deficiency beliefs of unworthiness. We disconnect from ourselves and from each other as human beings.
Denial, confusion, or murky thinking is another form of disconnection. This can be a result of gaslighting leading to a deep mistrust of our own perception of experience.
Feeling powerless and a lack of agency can put us in a corner where we can’t afford to see what is really happening. Once we see clearly, we would have to make a change to come back into alignment. If we feel hopeless to do that, we find a way to soften the blow. We escape, distract, and comfort ourselves through food, alcohol, other drugs or behaviors like shopping, screens or gambling.
Disconnection makes sense! It seems counter intuitive to tune in to our own experience in this moment. Yet millions of people are turning inward. We are looking at the flow of events and experiences that led us to this moment.
We are developing a lens of kind, compassionate acceptance and welcoming. We are inspired to know our truth. We discover we are worth knowing. We come to life.