from Chapter 1 of 7 Keys to Connection:
Roots of Addiction and Pain—
Cultural and Personal Trauma
The Great Disconnect
On an individual level, the Great Disconnect means feeling disconnected from our deeper selves, our emotions, and intuitions—our subtle senses. And with this, a lack of inner peace or sense of purpose. It’s also feeling disconnected from nature and what’s harmonious to the soul. It’s a loss of relationship with the heavens above and the earth below—missing a sense of the order of things, even feeling all alone in the world, floating, not linked to anything real.
What prevails is a lack of confidence or inability to trust that your core self is valued, worthy, or loved and that your simple beingness is enough. This creates difficulty in creating harmonious and authentic relations to others, be they family, friends or primary relationships. Overall, there’s little or no deep sense of safety, intimacy or true belonging.
In my opinion, this Great Disconnect is at the root of the addictive and discontent culture in which we live.
One effect of this mass cultural trauma—being disconnected from the rhythms of earth, life, and community—is the personal trauma that occurs between mother and child or between family/caretakers and child. Out of the overall disconnect from the natural world comes a lack of ability for mothers to deeply connect with their newborn infants in ways that children would come to know fully of their magical essence, their value as human beings on this earth and to truly establish their presence here on earth. Where, as they grow up, they don’t have to prove their value through accomplishment or adherence to family values. Where the essence of who they are is so valued, they have the freedom and psychological stability from which to stride forth being true to who they are, regardless if they fit into any norm or expectation.
Hence, with so many feeling out of connection, much has come to light through Affect Regulation and Attachment Theories, which helps explain the personal roots of emotional pain and addictive behaviors. This speaks to the lost ability for a mother to calmly look into the eyes of her child consistently enough to let that little being feel welcome and safe. It is also about the caregiver being unable to “be with” and respond to that child’s emotions in ways that helps the child not be overwhelmed by them but rather to contain, accept, and integrate them. When caregivers can do these “regulated” things, this creates a healthy core connection. When they can’t, “dysregulation”—disruption of the nervous system occurs called hyper arousal or sympathetic dominance, and usually continues for the remainder of a life. It is this ongoing state of hyper arousal that leads to so many emotional and physical health problems later in life, including addictions that attempt to mask the discomfort.
All of this lack of attunement, in childhood and in particular infancy, along with neglect, stressful relationships between parents and more obvious physical forms of ongoing abuse or trauma are now being referred to as Developmental Trauma.
The following descriptions come from blog posts of psychotherapist Sebern Fisher:
“Folks with difficult parents often grow up with a “fear-driven brain” as I did—and it’s a huge relief to find out we’re not freaks — we’re a chunk of the mainstream. In fact, maybe 50% of Americans have some degree of this “attachment disorder” due to parents who were too scary to attach to. Of course it’s not their fault either; odds are, our grandparents were too scary for our parents to attach to, and so on back, inter-generationally.1
Developmental trauma starts in utero when we don’t have much more than a brain stem and goes on during the pre-conscious years. It can continue until 24 or 36 months depending on when the thinking brain (frontal cortex) comes on line. That’s up to 45 months living in general anxiety to non-stop terror — before age 3. A very long time to an infant. (and continues on after that)
Developmental Trauma occurs as a continual process, not discrete incidents, while a baby has not developed a thinking brain able to recall incidents. Frequently it occurs before there are any discrete incidents.” 2
When the mother does not take the time or have the patience to “attune” to the infant, or is not able to be with and respond to the infant’s emotions in relatively short order, the results can end up being part of Developmental Trauma. (See the Still Face Experiment by Edward Tronick.)3
To learn a lot more about the neuroscience of developmental trauma, affect regulation and attachment theories, I highly recommend looking up the works of the forerunners in these fields: Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Allan Schore, and Dr. Daniel Siegel, and John Bowlby.4
With this lack of secure and loving attachment, a deep level of shame occurs. Not so much the left brain cognitive type, as in “I feel badly I did something wrong”, which is actually the experience of guilt. But rather a core shame reflecting a visceral feeling, usually unconscious, that says, “I am bad, defective, dirty, or unlovable.” And this often starts at infancy (and even in the womb) and goes on through childhood. The parents of these children often have no concept that their inability or unwillingness to take the time to connect and that many of their behaviors are shaming to their children. These parents are simply “dysregulated” themselves and hence unable to provide this all-important core sense of Self. (See article on Healing Shame or read 7 Keys to Connection for more on shame.)
When family stresses show up consistently—mixed with emotional and/or physical unavailability of one or both parents—this acts on young beings as a trauma, as does physical and/or sexual abuse. Watching one parent abuse the other physically or emotionally can form a trauma, also. So too, direct verbal degradation or when a child has to assume a parentified role. Although most never think of their “normal” childhoods creating trauma, it now has an official name in the psychology world—Developmental Trauma—while more obvious strong events are called Shock Trauma.
- Sebern F. Fisher, MA http://attachmentdisorderhealing. (top quote)
- https://youtu.be/apzXGEbZht0 – still face experiment.
- Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a psychiatrist noted for his research in the area of post-traumatic stress since the 1970s. His work focuses on the interaction of attachment, neurobiology, and developmental aspects of trauma’s effects on people. He identified and named Developmental Trauma. His book The Body Keeps the score, is a must read; Dr. Allan Schore, psychologist and researcher in the field of neuropsychology whose contributions have greatly affected trauma and attachment among other areas. He wrote many books on Affect regulation; Dr. Daniel Siegel, psychiatrist who wrote a number of important books on the developmental brain including The com/neurofeedback
Some form of trauma is at the root of all manner of long-term physical conditions as well. (The Book 7 Keys to Connection explains how and why this is a lot more.) In essence this occurs from Sympathetic Dominance over long periods of time.
Our body’s autonomic nervous system that governs unconscious activities of the body functions in two different ways: The Sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for intense physical activity and is referred to as the fight-or-flight response. The Parasympathetic nervous system has almost the exact opposite effect; it relaxes the body and inhibits or slows many high-energy functions. When in a state of stress, the body lives in what is called a Sympathetic State of Arousal—that is, increased tension throughout the musculature and hyperactivity of many of the body’s core functions. Being in this state of hyper function for extended periods stresses the body and the psyche. Over time, living like this causes wear and tear on many organs and systems through altered functions. It can ultimately lead to all manner of physical illness including a lowered immune system or organ malfunction. These long term effects happen to our bodies and psyches after even subtle levels of ongoing trauma.
The 7 Keys provides a way back to our human roots, our essential humanity. It’s how we find a true connection with ourselves, our Soul or Sacred Self—and a connection to Spirit. It supports us in more harmonious and fulfilling relationships with others. It
also provides a way to our purpose, our give back to people, to community, to life.
The 7 Keys work seeks to heal and transform our traumas and with that, the core disconnect.
Adopting the 7 Keys of Connection in our lives will ultimately bring harmony to the system, both within ourselves and as reflected in outer living. It will also bring balance by counter balancing our linear, yang-oriented culture. How? By teaching us how to embrace and integrate feminine values into our everyday lives. Having left the original earth-based and yin-like values in the dust, we can now integrate the old with the new.
Once inner and outer shifts have occurred through regular practice of the 7 Keys, the desire for addictive or other negative behaviors tend to fall away of their own accord. At the very least, you’ll move beyond the sense of emptiness, disconnection, psychological pain, and lack of meaning that drives addictions. As if by magic, this leaves us available for new choices, feelings, and ways to live life fully through new connections. We can finally experience real joy, vitality, and blessed freedom from the bondage of addiction and emotional suffering.
You’re not bound to a life of your addictive behaviors or negative feelings, as many will imply you are. It is possible to free oneself. But just as water spirals in a whirlpool from the downward pull of gravity, so will your energies be pulled down if there’s only inertia and nothing to counter its effect. That’s why you must apply yourself with intention, particularly in the beginning, as you send a downward-spinning spiral upward!
Some even feel joyful or fun while creating yet more uplifting energy. In time, you’ll find you’ll no longer be in a deep fight against your addictions or patterns of behavior. Rather, you’re being organically lifted out of them.
At some point in the 7 Keys process, you will have pulled out the roots of the weeds of old emotions, beliefs, and burdens. You have successfully transformed the parts of your inner being that held them. Perhaps you will have called back and re-integrated lost or frozen parts of Self. At that point, the seeds of new, healthy, soul-building practices will take hold. Allowing strong plants and beautiful flowers to bloom in the field that is your life.